A MAJOR investigation into the standard of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) in Wales has uncovered huge insufficiencies in its provision.
Professor John Furlong carried out the report having been commissioned in 2014. The report starts by stating that: ‘Initial teacher training in Wales needs to change and for two quite different reasons. Firstly, it needs to change because despite some strengths in current provision there is a widespread consensus that overall, it is not of sufficient high quality to serve the needs of Wales either now or in the future. But there is a second and perhaps even more important reason that reform is needed and that is to do with the changing nature of schooling in the 21st century’.
The report goes on to point out that ITT is not as strong as it should be, and that current requirements in key aspects fall well short of what the international evidence suggests is best practice. Professor Furlong added: “As a consequence, newly qualified teachers are not conceptualised nor is there a requirement that they are prepared to be active professionals, with their own judgements to make and with their own responsibilities as leaders of children’s learning.”
He goes on to criticise the link between the university teaching and what is required in the classroom, saying: “Given that there is no reference whatsoever in the Standards to research or the need to develop student teachers as critical consumers of or participants in research, there is little requirement on the part of universities to help their staff develop as research active university lecturers. Again, in other jurisdictions, standards set out a very different vision for the contribution of universities.”
He continued by saying: “At present it seems that most schools have only a small role in professional education, often with very small numbers of students. Teacher education is undertaken primarily on a voluntary basis – an ‘add on’ to schools’ normal work. Internationally however, there is strong evidence that in the most effective systems, universities work with much smaller numbers of schools which take larger numbers of students. Moreover, schools themselves are encouraged to take leading responsibility in key aspects of the training programme. One particular difficulty in encouraging schools to work in closer partnership with universities on a regular basis is that it is indeed voluntary. As a result, it is widely reported that few schools are willing to make long term commitments, often withdrawing, sometimes at the last minute, particularly if they are facing an Estyn inspection.”
Criticising university provision he also stated: “The fact that teacher education remains very much a university led process in Wales does not necessarily mean that the sector has been well served by contemporary universities. On a number of key indices, teacher educators themselves seem less well supported than their colleagues in other disciplines and in other parts of the UK.”
The report made 7 key recommendations:
That the Welsh Government, as a matter of priority, revises the standards for Newly Qualified Teachers
That the Welsh Government establishes a revised accreditation process for providers of initial teacher education.
That the Welsh Government establishes a teacher education accreditation board
That the role of Estyn within initial teacher education be reviewed once a revised accreditation process is fully in place.
That Estyn’s ‘Guidance for Inspection’ for schools be revised to include specific recognition of the contribution of a school to initial teacher education.
That the Primary BA (Hons) QTS, in its current form, be phased out and replaced by a four year degree with 50% of students’ time spent in main subject departments.
That the Welsh Government monitors closely the impact of financial incentives on recruitment, particularly taking into account different funding levels in comparison with those available in England.
Responding to the report and its contents, Education Minister, Huw Lewis said: “I very much welcome this report and its recommendations and would like to thank Professor Furlong for his commitment, impartiality and professionalism. The case for change is compelling. It is clear that if we want to raise standards, we must produce newly qualified, reflective practitioners with the appropriate qualifications, skills and resilience to support the sort of curriculum change recommended by Professor Donaldson in his recent report. In principle, I would disagree with nothing contained in Professor Furlong’s report. We must now move to consider the reform options and implementation methods in greater detail and this is something that will require full engagement with the teacher training sector. We will also work to ensure the sector remains viable while we make what needs to be a smooth transition to a new model of teacher training.”
Angela Burns, AM and Shadow Minister for Education, said: “There is a consensus that teacher training in Wales is not sufficiently robust to drive up standards and enable young people to compete in the global race. How can we possibly expect teachers to nurture the potential of their class and stretch every child to realise their talents if we don’t do the same for teachers? Learning is a rewarding lifelong activity, which everyone, regardless of their profession, can find enriching, but it is especially important that teachers who instil a thirst for learning, should be able to take advantage of it themselves. Labour Ministers must consider these recommendations and act to improve initial teacher training, invest in continuous professional development and cut out bureaucracy to free up teachers to spend more time learning.”
From a leading teaching union, Owen Hathway, NUT Wales Policy Officer, said: “We will obviously have to examine the full recommendations in detail, however, we do welcome the general thrust of some of the content. It is important that any changes to teachers training programmes fit with the vision for the future of the profession articulated in the Donaldson Review of the Curriculum – teachers will need to be confident, creative designers of learning and curriculum that is built on developing the whole child to be a flexible, confident learner, rather than being merely deliverers of subject knowledge or curricula devised elsewhere. It is important that current inconsistencies in initial teacher training provisions, reported by ESTYN and highlighted by Tabberer in his review, are addressed so that regardless of where in Wales teachers train they can benefit from high quality academic and pedagogical experiences. Moving forward we will be discussing the implications of the review with the Welsh Government and working closely with them to ensure the best system possible for our teaching profession and the pupils they support.”
The University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) sent The Herald a detailed response to the report, stating: ‘We welcome Professor John Furlong’s recommendations on the future of initial teacher education in Wales in his Teaching Tomorrow’s Teachers report. The partnership between the university and schools, as part of the South West Wales Centre of Teacher Education, means that we are in a strong position to work collaboratively to implement the changes required to the current system, to attract the best candidates to the profession and to ensure the continued professional learning and development of teachers throughout their careers. UWTSD is committed to and highly values its role in the initial education of those entering the teaching profession as well as its role in supporting members of the education workforce in their career-long professional learning. The South West Wales Centre of Teacher Education, located within UWTSD, has been working hard to build on the strengths noted in the most recent monitoring report from Estyn (July 2014) and is well placed to work collaboratively within the education sector to support the processes of change and improvement on the horizon. UWTSD is working pro-actively to build and develop the research capacity of staff involved in both initial and continuing professional teacher education, many of whom have a strong track record of leadership within the school education sector. The value of applied and policy-focused research is one of the University’s underpinning values and is well evidenced through the work of the Wales Centre of Equity in Education, established as a partnership between University of Wales and UWTSD in 2013, under the directorship of Professor David Egan, who is himself an adviser to the Welsh Government on education policy. The opportunity to further develop pedagogically-focused research with our partners is welcomed’.