Children and Young People Education

Teaching Tomorrow’s Teachers – a critical turning point

22 June 2015

Article by Sian Hughes, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

this is a picture of a mathematical formula in chalk on a blackboard
Image from Pixabay. Licensed under the Creative Commons.

Tomorrow (23 June 2015), the Minister for Education and Skills will announce his response to Professor John Furlong’s report, Teaching Tomorrow’s Teachers [PDF 502KB] (March 2015).

Professor Furlong was appointed following the publication of Professor Ralph Tabberer’s Review of Initial Teacher Training in Wales [PDF 0.608MB] (July 2013). The Tabberer Review recommended that the Welsh Government appoint a senior adviser with specific responsibility for Initial Teacher Training (ITT), who would play a key part in providing leadership in policy advice and in raising standards with all providers.

In his report, Professor Furlong sets out why changes in teacher education in Wales are needed, describing it as being at a ‘critical turning point’. He highlights concerns by Professor Tabberer, Estyn [PDF 5.21MB] and the OECD [PDF 3.75MB] about the quality of ITT. Alongside the concerns, the recommendations from the Donaldson Review [PDF 1.7MB] (if accepted fully) have vast implications for the teaching workforce. Professor Furlong says that a more ‘expansive’ form of teacher training is needed to deliver on the Donaldson agenda.

Professor Furlong compares Wales’ current provision against international research [PDF 1.97MB] and suggests that there are weaknesses at the national, institutional and programme level. He says that changes need to be made at all three levels.

He makes nine recommendations. The two most significant recommendations are to provide new Qualified Teacher Status Standards (QTS Standards) and new accreditation procedures for ITT providers.

The QTS Standards are outcome statements which set out what trainee teachers must know, understand and be able to do at the end of their initial teacher training. Professor Furlong says that these are ‘narrowly competence based’ and are ‘not conceptualised as part of lifelong professional development’.

The Standards also have a vital role in the shaping of ITT provision. The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) accredit all providers of initial teacher education in Wales. The criteria cover a range of issues but in relation to the content of the education programme, providers must design their training to enable trainee teachers to be able to demonstrate that they meet the Standards.

Professor Furlong suggests four options for revising the accreditation process, including systems similar to those currently operating in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. In Ireland, the Teaching Council broadly outlines content for courses and includes minimum standards for staff providing ITT (for example that they must be research active or hold a certain level of qualifications). His favoured option is accreditation, similar to that in Ireland, but with schools having a leading role in key parts of programmes and working in close collaboration with university partners.

Professor Furlong recommends that there is a new body to accredit ITT providers. He considers various options (HEFCW, the current body responsible, the Welsh Government, a new independent body, or a Teacher Education Accreditation Board within the Education Workforce Council), the latter being the preferred option. He argues this should include representation form the teaching profession itself; be well placed to provide leadership and co-ordination; and be at arms-length from the Government.

Professor Furlong also recommends that the future role of Estyn in ITT should be reviewed once a revised accreditation process is in place. Currently they have a role in inspecting ITT provision, and Professor Furlong argues that if the accreditation is sufficiently robust this may not be necessary and may even undermine the authority of the professional body. He also recommends that Estyn’s inspection guidance for schools should be revised to include specific recognition of the contribution of a school to initial teacher education.

Other recommendations in the report are:

  • That the three year primary BEd should be phased out and be replaced by a four year degree (in line with those who achieve QTS through obtaining a degree followed by a one year PGCE) and 50 per cent of a student’s time to be spent in main subject departments.
  • That the Welsh Government monitors the impact of financial ITT incentives on recruitment as, in some instances, incentives offered in England may be more generous than in Wales;
  • Developing and sustaining research capacity within the teacher education system by extending the WISERD Education Programme to include a pedagogical dimension linked to a network of five centres of pedagogical excellence across Wales (WISERD Education is a networked initiative led by Cardiff University with WISERD Education staff working with education colleagues across Wales);
  • The Welsh Government should resolve future provision of ITT through a process of competitive tendering with the Teacher Education Accreditation Board making the final decision as to how many universities should become accredited providers.

On the publication of the report, the Minister for Education and Skills said that the report presented a compelling case for change and that there was nothing in the recommendations that he did not agree with in principle. However, options for reform, and how they are implemented would need to be considered in greater detail.

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