Until not that long ago I didn’t really have a clue how to run an ITT partnership. So I did what I usually do when stuck and turned to others, namely leaders from within the trust. We locked ourselves in a room for days on end, determined that we wouldn’t come out until we cracked it. We did and we created Central England Teacher Training.
Unlike School Direct, when you are reliant on partnering with a university (who award QTS), school-centred initial teacher training (or SCITT) is provider-led and entirely independent. As an accredited provider in our own right, we design the programme, deliver the programme and decide who passes. It is us who confer the award of QTS. This gives us control of the system. (As well as getting to organise a lovely graduation ceremony in summer.)
We are now in the second year of operation. Last year we sent twenty or so bright, talented teachers out into the world and this year we are doing the same. Being in year two means that as a new provider we get inspected in the summer term. In my previous blog last week I wrote about our first sponsored academy getting the call. I hadn’t anticipated when I wrote it that our SCITT would get the call barely a week later.
Having never experienced an ITT inspection before, I didn’t really know what to expect (not much difference then to a section 5 or 8). But it went very well indeed; better than expected if truth be told as we were convinced they’d see through us and we’d be sent packing.
ITT is inspected in two stages. Stage one for us was a three-day visit focussing on the quality of training (whilst on attachment). The second stage arrives in autumn when inspectors look at the quality of teaching and see how good the trainees really are as NQTs, wherever they may be. It’s only then that inspectors can make the judgements such as outcomes, training, leadership and of course overall effectiveness. The stakes are high: Mess it up and you get one more go. Mess it up again, and bang – you’re gone: Closed down, never to be seen again.
So for those of you who’ve never dabbled with initial teacher training, here’s a really simple guide by numbers:
#9250: The fee we charge trainees to complete the course. Equivalent to less than fifty quid a day, for this they get a year-long school-based training programme, including taught sessions, tutorials, workshops, placements in four different schools, a trip to Parliament, full access to the University of Birmingham faculty of education and if they do well, QTS and a PGCE at the end.
#3000: The number of words per written research assignment. Trainees need to submit three of these throughout the year to receive 60 credits towards a Masters degree at the University of Birmingham. The papers are marked by myself and an Executive Headteacher within the partnership. Assignments include the Simple View of Reading, Management of Behaviour and Mathematical Pedagogy. As a marker, I get to learn loads.
#191: The number of days in the course. Covering the full academic year, trainees spend about two-thirds of it out in schools learning on the job. The rest are taught sessions (designed by us) or personal study. This is well above the recommended 140 so for me, that makes for great value for money.
#65: The percentage of trainees already offered jobs just within the partnership. This is excellent news for us (we get to ‘grow our own’) and even better news for them (they get to work in great schools as NQTs). It’s a win-win. A number of others have jobs elsewhere in schools equally as good across the region. We are on track to match our 100% employment rate from last year.
#32: The number of pages in the SED (self-evaluation document). This is the not-so-good bit about ITT. Unlike in schools, the SED is compulsory and it has to be long. At 14,000 words, it’s by far the longest SEF I’ve ever written. In particular, it needs to analyse in detail the attainment of trainees and how well they teach against each of the Teachers’ Standards. Alongside this sits our 15-point improvement plan which at 6,000 words is also a very lengthy and detailed document.
#30: The number of mentors and trainers. All are selected from within the partnership (bar one) and are practising teachers. It’s great CPD for those that do it and with a head of mentoring and head of tutoring to ensure consistency, it’s no surprise that this is a strength of the partnership.
#19: Number of schools in the partnership. These include sponsored academies (recently in measures), outstanding schools, large schools, small schools, rural schools, urban schools. Some are academies and some aren’t. We have one special school and one secondary. Schools come from across four local authorities so trainees get to experience a number of different systems and ways of working. This is a good thing.
#17: The number of trainees in our current cohort. All of them have been recruited by us and are either career-changers or post-graduates with a degree of a 2:2 or above. Much-praised by the inspectors, they are well-placed to meet the needs of local schools and those further afield. As well as being Twitter-savvy they also have their own WhatsApp group (beyond me) and have formed a really strong and binding relationship. As NQTs their ready-made support network will serve them well.
#5: The number of us that run the thing. Rather than have one single Director solely in charge, our distributive leadership model means that between us we cover all the bases. All of us are senior leaders (mainly heads) and take the lead on certain aspects such as programme design, compliance, tutoring, mentoring, recruitment and QA. It works well and the inspectors seemed to like it.
#3: The number of external review visits we get for free from the National College. As a new provider, we are entitled to three separate day-long reviews from an experienced ITT expert. In our case, it was from an ex-HMI and without her advice, support, candour and expertise, we wouldn’t be where we are today (we’d be shut down for being non-compliant, that’s where).
#1: The final grade that we now aspire to achieving. If you’d offered this to me 12 months ago I’d have bitten your hand off (even a 3 would have been tempting). We are punching above our weight, but we’ve come an awful long way in such a short space of time. We’ve failed loads, messed up, listened to feedback, got better at it, regrouped, reviewed, refined and recrafted. And now, the final end game is in sight.
In autumn I’ll let you know how it went (assuming we are still operating)…