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UK universities’ withdrawal from teacher training would be a disaster

When the UK government unveiled its Initial Teacher Training (ITT) consultation in July, it probably wasn’t expecting the strength of opposition from some of our most prestigious universities. However, this is exactly what has happened, with the University of Cambridge even making the extraordinary threat to withdraw from teaching training altogether if existing plans went ahead.

As someone with more than two decades of experience delivering teacher training and ongoing teacher professional development in mathematics – a subject already struggling to recruit and retain sufficient teachers – I’m deeply concerned by the review’s proposals. Put simply, they threaten not only the supply of well-trained classroom professionals but also the world-class educational research conducted by our leading universities.

It is particularly unfortunate because some aspects of the ITT review are to be welcomed, especially the call for improved support systems for teacher mentors and their mentees. But it is hard to examine these in detail when the consultation – which ended on 22 August, before the end of the summer holidays – seems to have been deliberately timed to prevent useful consultation with teachers or schools.

When the consultation began in early July, teachers were already battling severe staff shortages caused by the “pingdemic” of positive Covid tests, which followed months of balancing virtual and in-person learning due to Covid-induced school closures. With GCSE and A-level results season thrown into the mix, they had little or no capacity to effectively contribute to a key government review whose outcomes could have a deep impact on their profession.

Source: timeshighereducation