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Tuesday, Sep 21, 2021

Cambridge to end teacher training if government enacts overhaul

Cambridge to end teacher training if government enacts overhaul

Exclusive: university hits out at planned changes in England, which have been called a ‘wrecking ball’
The University of Cambridge says it will cease teacher training courses if the government persists with damaging proposals to change how primary and secondary school teachers are trained in England.

Cambridge’s decision, which has been backed by its vice-chancellor, Prof Stephen Toope, is likely to be followed by Oxford and other universities that train thousands of new teachers each year, in a potentially huge blow to the teaching profession’s prestige and recruitment.

Prof Susan Robertson, the head of Cambridge’s education faculty, said the government’s proposals would make it impossible for the university to continue its postgraduate courses, which train up to 350 students each year.

“If these reforms were implemented, we would find that delivering high-quality [education] would be deeply compromised, and we would have no recourse other than to not offer the initial training postgraduate certificate in education,” Robertson said.

“We have an outstanding PGCE programme, for primary and secondary teachers, and what we are looking at with this highly prescribed curriculum and model of mentoring doesn’t at all look like what we do. We would have to exit.”

The changes, which school leaders have likened to a “wrecking ball”, would require Cambridge and all other providers to be reaccredited, and follow a standardised format. Critics say it would destroy existing relationships between training courses and schools, replaced by large group placements and an untested mentoring programme on the basis of little evidence.

In its submission to the government’s review of initial teacher training, Cambridge said it wanted the outcome to be “paused” to allow the government to reassess its evidence base and consider the criticism of the proposals from across the sector.

Oxford and University College London’s Institute of Education have also joined the attacks, with Oxford telling the Department for Education (DfE) it was “deeply concerned about the academic integrity” of the proposals and “the potential reputational risk” for the university.

In its response, UCL said the government’s review “presents teaching as general, easily replicated sequences of activities, based in a limited and set evidence base”. It concluded: “In their current form, the proposals risk extensive and damaging disruption … putting the quality and supply of provision at risk and eroding capacity for improvement.”

Robertson said while there were issues with teaching quality in the sector, the government failed to consult with leading providers and insisted on a rapid consultation taking place over the summer holidays, ending on 22 August.

“Quite frankly, we don’t have confidence in this report, we don’t have confidence at the moment that the government is listening to us. It’s as if they want to drive through this review,” said Robertson.

“Is it worth risking outstanding providers leaving? We absolutely want to stay in teacher education, that goes right to the top. Our vice-chancellor and pro vice-chancellor see it as a really important contribution to schools, to young learners, and to our region.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “Supporting our teachers with the highest-quality training and development is the best way we can improve pupil outcomes, and we want all teachers to have a world-class start to their career.

“We continue to engage with the sector on proposed changes to initial teacher training and we will respond to the review’s recommendations later this year.”
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