Government ‘withdraws English universities from teacher training’ over left-wing politics | Teacher training
Higher education leaders said this week they believed the government was trying to exclude universities from teacher training for political reasons because ministers believed their education departments were “hotbeds of ‘leftist intellectualism’ and full of ‘Marxists’.
Under changes announced last summer, all initial teacher education providers in England must be reaccredited by the Department for Education to continue training teachers from 2024. However, two-thirds of providers, including including some of the top universities, were told this month that they had failed the first round of the new accreditation process. The DfE said last week that only 80 suppliers, out of 216 who would have applied, had been successful.
Those currently out in the cold include some from the prestigious Russell Group. The University of Nottingham, a member of the elite group, said it was ‘very disappointed and puzzled’ to fail just two months after Ofsted branded it outstanding, with inspectors praising the ‘exceptional program taught by experts”.
The University of Birmingham, which the DfE chose as one of the specialist partners for its new National Institute for School-Based Education, also failed in the first round of accreditation.
The principal of a failed university, who asked not to be nominated for fear of deterring candidates, said: ‘Our staff involved in teacher training, who are excellent, have been devastated that they did not pass . They find it hard to believe because of our background.
The DfE has said providers can reapply, but experts say some major universities are so outraged they could drop teacher training altogether, heightening fears of teacher shortages in many subjects. The University of Cambridge did not seek accreditation for fear that its program could be compromised.
Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: ‘It was the brainchild of [former schools minister] Nick Gibb, who was obsessed with the idea that university teacher training departments were hotbeds of left-wing intellectualism. I told him that I didn’t know how to express my frustration that he was going out with that garbage.
Professor David Spendlove, Associate Dean of the University of Manchester’s Faculty of Humanities and former Head of Initial Teacher Education, said: ‘As Education Secretary, Michael Gove spoke of fighting ‘the blob”. [the education establishment]. He and Nick Gibb had this idea that universities and teacher training departments were all Marxist. Their influence has not disappeared.
Manchester has passed accreditation, but Professor Spendlove believes the new process is ‘damaging to the very foundation’ of university teacher education and it is now ‘harder to stay there than to leave’.
“People who have been doing this for a very long time are being told that they are not fit for their purpose, despite all the positive inspections they have had. It’s a joke,” he said.
Professor David Green, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Worcester, which has a strong focus on teacher education, said: “Gibb had a clear agenda to take universities out of teacher education. Some officials may have stuck with his outdated perspective.
He said: “This new DfE system risks destroying much of the high quality teacher education that exists. It would be a disaster for children who will recover from the educational devastation caused by the pandemic for years. »
Professor Spendlove said no university should celebrate first-round success, saying the next stage of the accreditation process, which focuses on curriculum, means losing autonomy over what is taught. “It involves an in-depth review of course content and a review of teaching materials, which is quite bizarre,” he said. “The DfE hopes people will be so desperate to succeed that they will turn around and accept it.”
This idea worries many universities. Cambridge, which has had more than 250 teaching participants this year and is considered exceptional by Ofsted, said its decision not to apply was due to concerns about the government’s ‘highly prescribed curriculum’ and its model of mentorship, which he both said “is not like what we do”.
Bousted said: ‘Universities are right to fear that the DfE is trying to control their teaching curriculum. This is what is happening.
Teachers’ unions have been warning for many months that forcing providers through new bureaucratic steps risks hurting the supply of teachers. Teacher training requests are down 24% from last year after a brief Covid boom, with recruitment falling below pre-pandemic levels.
A report by the National Foundation for Educational Research in March said that a wide range of secondary subjects would not meet teacher recruitment targets in 2022. These include subjects in short supply such as physics, mathematics, chemistry and computer science, but also those which generally recruit well such as English, biology and geography.
Professor Chris Husbands, Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, whose initial teacher education has passed the first cycle of accreditation, said: ‘I think it is indeed aimed at driving certain providers out of the market. But the risk the government runs is of driving out some of the people it should be aiming to keep.
He said universities were committed to training teachers “but not at any price”. “Great organizations always have choices,” he said. “I don’t really understand why the government chooses this fight. Evidence from Ofsted inspections shows the sector is in fairly good shape. It makes no sense to me.
Nottingham was the first university to publicly confirm that it had not passed the first round of accreditation. The news was met with anger in the sector.
Green described the decision as “simply ridiculous”, coming so soon after Ofsted called all aspects of Nottingham’s teacher education remarkable.
John Dexter, who was Director of Education at Nottingham City Council until February and has spent more than 30 years in teaching and school management in the city, tweeted that he was “baffled, upset and frustrated” with the result.
He said, “It’s amazing. Get Outstanding from Ofsted on ITT [initial teacher training] is quite impressive. He said the Nottingham course was good at helping students understand the environment in which they would be teaching. “I really don’t understand why the DfE is doing this.”
The government announced on Thursday, after a year-long contract dispute that is believed to have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, that its National Institute of Education will open in September 2023, led by a consortium of four school trusts called School Led Development Trust.
The DfE has been approached for comment.