Teacher training is going through a period of transition

The Northern Echo: Steven Haswell, School Direct manager at Sunderland University pictured on the Wearside campus. Steven Haswell, School Direct manager at Sunderland University pictured on the Wearside campus.

Teaching training is going through some big changes. Steven Haswell, School Direct manager at Sunderland University, explains how the new system works.

Way back in 1908, when Sunderland was one of the most important shipbuilding towns in the world, teacher training started in what is now the city’s university.

Throughout the intervening years there have been many different paths into teacher training and over 100 years later this is still the case.

Last year the Government closed the book on the Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) and replaced it with the new teacher training initiative School Direct.

It would not be correct to say that School Direct is a rebranding of GTP; it goes much further than that and has the potential to really challenge the very existence of many institutions which currently offer teacher training courses.

We at Sunderland University will continue to offer our three year BA(Hons) course in primary education and our secondary BA/BSc courses in chemistry, English, maths and ICT, but School Direct has the long-term potential to replace core allocations for Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) which has been the traditional route for many trainees over the years.

Encouraging schools to form clusters, the Government is looking for School Direct to become a demand driven model. Schools will work together to decide initially on which teacher training provider they wish to work with, along with their likely demand for Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) and then request that number of training places through the National College of Teaching and Leadership (formerly the Teaching Agency).

However, school clusters will have to decide before they request training places, what type of training place they want to offer.

For schools the choice is quite simple, there is either the salaried route or the tuition fee route into the School Direct programme.

The salaried route is the equivalent replacement for GTP and offers trainee teachers the opportunity to be employed as an unqualified teacher for the length of the School Direct programme. The tuition fee route is where trainee teachers will fund their training through tuition fee loans and bursaries or scholarships if they qualify; which is where you might see an overlap with the PGCE programme.

Once training places have been allocated to clusters, a nominated lead school from that cluster will advertise the vacancy and select trainees, as they would for a job, only this time it will be for a training place. The Government has been clear there should be an intention that school clusters will look to appoint their School Direct trained teacher at the end of the programme, but this is not a necessity and any job vacancy must still be an open and honest process.

The Government’s vision is that School Direct will be the route through which the majority of teachers will be trained. Encouraging schools to ‘grow their own’ is a very tantalising headline for schools and the benefits of training a teacher who fits in with the ethos of a group of schools is a very persuasive argument.

However, there are drawbacks to School Direct, with schools taking increasing responsibility for recruitment and selection of trainees onto the School Direct programme, with some School Direct lead schools appointing individuals whose role is to solely deal with all aspects of the School Direct programme. The other choice a cluster of schools needs to make is which training provider to work alongside, and this brings me back to partnerships.

The partnership that will exist between a school and a teacher training provider will become increasingly stronger under the School Direct model. The relationship will fundamentally change, schools will no longer be asked to take trainees, instead training providers will be asked by schools to work with them to train the teachers of tomorrow.

It is something we’ve been working very hard here at Sunderland University, to define what makes our partnership different from the other partnerships that exist out there and when we asked our partner schools what was special about trainee teachers from Sunderland they came up with the phrase: “a Sunderland partnership trainee is reflective, proactive and professional” and this is something we will continue to strive for in all our teacher training programmes.

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