Schools Week, on 27th January 2016, ran a story by Freddie Whittaker, about Government plans outlined by Jonathan Slater, the DfE Permanent Secretary, to introduce a post graduate scheme, to be called an apprenticeship route into teaching. This is being designed to run in line with the apprenticeship levy, soon to be introduced into schools, top-slicing funds to then be claimed back if apprentice teachers are developed. There is some discussion whether this will replace the current School Direct route.
Post-grad routes into teaching cost money, whether PGCE or School Direct, with the latter occasionally offering a few candidates a salaried route. The majority pay the £9k university fee and fund their living. It will be interesting to discover whether the apprenticeship is a salaried route and whether university fees are paid by the school, the Government or the trainee.
Trainees currently have to pass an English and Maths test before starting training, are required to have at least ten days in-school experience before their compulsory interview.
Current routes provide periods of training, interspersed with in-school experience, with clear guidance on what should be experienced within these periods. The training has to be at graduate level, whether in a university setting or a school-based approach. Trainees, on both routes, have assignments set by universities which are marked by university staff.
Both routes have systems of Quality Control, with external staff monitoring the quality of experience being offered. This is in addition to in-school quality controls, where trainees are supported by mentors and senior school staff.
There is a current need for teachers undertaking training for teaching, that experience must be had across two key stages. This can mean, in Primary, key stage one and two separate experiences, in two different settings. One is the substantial setting, the other is a minimum of six weeks experience.
But, there is always going to be variability in a human system.
· Selection of trainees, will depend on the quality of the people available.
· Will potential new trainees be subject to interview and have to pass the skills tests, as now?
· The training sessions will vary with the person leading the session.
· Mentoring can vary widely, from limited to extensive. Mentors can vary from untrained to Masters level training.
· Schools as a whole range in preparation. By taking a trainee, they become a de facto training school, with every member of staff taking a training role in developing the trainee.
· The variability of school settings can be the cause of concern with the second, shorter experience, where the trainee has to demonstrate quality skills rapidly.
This then raises questions.
· Who will select the potential apprentices as trainees?
· If individual schools, how will quality selection be assured?
· Will they be subject to interviews and the skills tests as now?
· Who will provide the training sessions, at the appropriate level?
· Is the school prepared as a whole staff to undertake training of an apprentice?
· Will there be a nominated senior training member of staff, with status and time to oversee and coordinate the process, including regular developmental and quality control observations?
· Who will sign off on achievement?
· Will there then be the NQT year as now?
If an apprenticeship route into teaching is to be successful, therefore, it will need several new layers of bureaucracy, in the same way as should exist for all other routes into teaching. This would need to be at national and regional level, linked to the available universities. There would need to be a coordinated training army of teacher mentors, for subject specific and pedagogic training, together with secretarial backup to ensure that training spaces were available to need. There would need to be management training, as quality control and to have specific staff designated as coordinators. Mentors would have to have time off-timetable, to be able to undertake training and also to create quality development time to work with the trainees.
If future teachers are to be trained in-school, starting as apprentices, then the current situation of every school creating their own systems across all aspects of pedagogy would also need to be questioned. At a recent meeting with SD mentors, I asked each to describe their current approach to assessment. Within nine mentors there were seven systems, including four variations on the local County scheme. This, in itself, causes trainees difficulty in their second experience, as they have to get to grips with significant system change, as well as new children and current expectations of them. They are far less nuanced in their decisions on the second experience.
Mind you, the same could be said of many teachers changing schools in the current climate. It’s not surprising that there is so much talk of burn-out and workload issues. Ever changing systems add to the day job considerably.
As I wrote in an earlier blog, everyone has to start somewhere. It’s a truism, but, if a new generation is to take on the mantle of becoming teachers, the systems that lead to them doing so have to be clear and understandable, on order for them to be enacted successfully. It cannot be left to chance. There is too much at stake; someone’s livelihood and children’s life experiences.
Related blogs on mentoring…