Teacher training: DfE to scrap school direct fee-funded route

The government has published guidance on how to form initial teacher training partnerships following its controversial re-accreditation process that will cut the number of teacher trainers by a quarter.

Ministers are hoping that trainers that failed to get accreditation will join partnerships and continue to operate under other accredited providers.

Today’s guidance is meant to help these partnerships to form, but also provides an update on the direction of travel with some key routes into teacher training.

Here’s what we learned.

1. School direct fee-funded route scrapped…

School direct is a school-led route into teacher training run by partnerships between lead schools, other schools and an accredited ITT provider.

There are currently two types of school direct training – salaried, where schools foot the training bill, and fee-funded, where training is paid-for with tuition fees.

In the guidance, the DfE said accredited teacher trainers should “cease marketing a ‘school direct’ fee-funded route to candidates for courses starting from September 2024”.

Schools Week understands that while this has been discussed behind closed doors, this is the first time the DfE has confirmed the route will be scrapped.

This year, 25 per cent of teacher training recruits entered via the school direct fee-funded route.

Other tuition-fee funded routes – through universities and school-centred initial teacher training – will continue to be available to trainees.

2. …and salaried route could be rolled into apprenticeship

The school direct salaried route accounts for around 3 per cent of recruits a year.

The DfE said salaried teacher training “will remain an important part of the ITT offer”, but said it was “considering how best to streamline salaried routes into teaching, whilst ensuring they remain viable and attractive for both providers and trainees”.

As part of this, “the DfE is considering how to consolidate the school direct salaried route and postgraduate teacher apprenticeship into a single employment-based route under the apprenticeships banner”.

Schools Week revealed in 2017 that ministers were considering this option. The DfE has been under pressure to encourage greater take-up of apprenticeships in education.

No timeframe is given, with further guidance promised “in due course”. However, the DfE said “any changes regarding the future of school direct salaried will be announced to the sector with due regard for implementation timelines”.

3. Trainers can let their accreditation go ‘dormant’

Some accredited teacher trainers “may prefer to collaborate to deliver ITT at greater scale under one partnership”, the DfE said.

For those that do so under another accredited provider, the DfE will “allow a two-year accreditation dormancy period to support them in determining their future partnership plans”.

This means teacher trainers that have been accredited from September 2024 may request that their accreditation status be kept on-ice for up to two years, “as long as they are delivering ITT as a lead partner with another accredited provider during this period”.

Without this protection, accredited providers that don’t head up their own provision would risk losing their accreditation.

Formal requests for dormancy must be made by April 28 next year.

4. Readiness checks must be completed by spring 2024

As part of the next stage of the ITT review, accredited teacher trainers will face readiness checks.

This will allow the DfE to “check the progress that accredited providers have made in preparing to deliver ITT and where required, will provide improvement support to ensure that all ITT programmes are of high quality”.

Checks, carried out by the DfE’s “ITT market quality associates”, will include reviewing a selection of providers’ trainee curriculum materials.

The timetable for the readiness to deliver checks “will vary slightly across providers, but the process must conclude by Spring 2024”.

5. Three ‘key responsibilities’ in each partnership

The DfE said it would “not prescribe the structure of partnerships or the number of organisations involved”, but said partnerships must cover three key responsibilities.

The accredited provider will have “full and final accountability for all aspects of training design, delivery and quality across the partnership”.

Lead partners will have an “operational or strategic role with responsibilities such as trainee recruitment, involvement in curriculum design, supplying lead mentors or running intensive training and practice”.

And placement schools will provide placements and general mentors.

6. Providers can delegate and roles can overlap

All partnerships must be led by a single accredited provider, but the DfE said “other roles may overlap”.

“For instance, an accredited provider may have lead partner responsibilities and some schools that are placement schools may also have a role as a lead partner.”

Accredited providers also have the flexibility to “delegate responsibilities to their lead partners, as long as the accredited provider has sufficient oversight”.

All organisations in a partnership “may have some involvement in the development of the ITT programme and, in some cases, the accredited provider may wish to delegate aspects of their course design to lead partners”.

7. Partnership make-up will inform inspection schedule

Ofsted is due to move to a three-year ITT inspection cycle from September 2024, with newly-accredited providers having their first inspection in their second year of delivering ITT.

However, where a partnership has been formed between an accredited provider and one that is not accredited, the DfE will “liaise with Ofsted who will determine the appropriate timing of the first inspection”.

The DfE will recommend to Ofsted that consideration should be given for newly formed partnerships where an accredited university is involved, or where there are “multiple unaccredited partners and there have been demonstrable changes in governance, leadership and quality assurance”.

Ofsted will “use this information as well as the process outlined in their published risk assessment methodology to determine the timing of an ITT inspection”.

8. Partnerships need formal agreements

The DfE said partnerships can take various forms, from collaborations between two or three organisations to larger networks.

But they should be “based on a formal agreement”.

This should be a “clear, working document that can be used to guide and inform the contributions of each partner and help to support coherent arrangements across the various contexts in which the training takes place”.

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