Should we be placing unqualified teachers in Inadequate schools?

One of my fears about Schools Direct – the government programme allowing schools to ‘train their own’ teachers – was the apparent lack of checks on school-based support and the situations participants might be placed in. I’ve constantly been told not to worry as only schools with training capacity will use the School Direct system. But the evidence suggests otherwise.

Eleven years ago, when TeachFirst began placing trainee teachers in ‘challenging’ schools, it quickly became obvious that putting trainees in ‘Special Measures’ schools was a terrible idea (and that those whose school go into the status during their traineeship need a lot of extra help). Schools that are barely functioning well enough to teach their children are rarely able to give trainees the mentorship needed. This problem led the government to require schools as part of their Special Measures conditions to stop hiring any newly qualified teachers – i.e. even teachers taking their first job after university-based teacher training. It was rightly felt that new teachers needed to be in a more supportive environment while they were still learning to teach, and that students in schools which may have been struggling for several years needed more experienced teachers.

However, the introduction of Schools Direct now means that schools rated as ‘inadequate’ can recruit, and apparently train, completely unqualified teachers. 

When I mentioned that this might happen, the common cry was: “Yeah, but they won’t”. Except, they are.

The Academies Enterprise Trust are currently recruiting physics teachers via Schools Direct.

Job at Winton Comm

One of the schools they wish to place a teacher in is Winton Community Academy.  Winton Community Academy is currently rated as Inadequate.

Winton Community Academy

In fact, Winton Community Academy was rated last December as being inadequate in every category, including teaching & learning, and leadership & management.

Even though the school now has a new Principal and much effort going in to turnaround, if TeachFirst quickly learned that trainees struggled in those circumstances even given significant external support from TF, how can Winton expect to provide an adequate training ground for a participant whose programme will depend on a team whose main focus will be (& should be) making up for serious decline in the educational provision of its students?

If schools are to be given responsibility for training, they need to use that power responsibly. For everyone’s sake involved I hope they learn the lessons of TeachFirst and decide that an Inadequately rated school is not the place to put a brand new trainee teacher.



Categories: Teacher Quality, UK Education Policy

6 replies

  1. Launch School Direct with no oversight to save money.
    Wait for Enemies of Promise to provide free oversight by pointing out the inadequate schools using it.
    Clamp down and claim moral high ground on the basis that you are listening to “all sides of the political spectrum”.

  2. Agree with the concern. However, it is the quality of the dept that is more impt than the quality of the school for training, although both are impt. There are also problems with schools that are good or even outstanding but have weak/inadequate depts where trainees are placed. This has always been the case and university ITE providers have always had to deal with this when assuring the quality of placements.

  3. I agree with you that this is a problem, Laura, but it’s part of a much bigger problem with hugely variable quality within the SD route. Some SD provision is excellent; some is unacceptable. The worst are putting SD teachers on 80% timetables after just 1 day training (honestly). Most SD places are allocated to Teaching Alliances so, in theory, the HEI should be ensuring quality but everyone in HEI is worried about their job and it’s the Teaching School that holds the purse strings for SD so it’s very hard for HEIs to go beyond suggestions and advice. SCITTs don’t even have this oversight. This urgently needs rebalancing. The obvious, if brutal, option is for Ofsted to be doing specific SD inspections of Teaching Schools (or more logically, inspections of Teaching Schools focused on all the Teaching School priorities including ITE) and putting the boot into Alliances and SCITTs that are providing rubbish training. I don’t really see how a Teaching School can maintain its designation if its SD provision is below the standard considered acceptable for an HEI but there are definitely some of them out there. A more grown-up solution would be expanding UCET, or creating a new organisation, that would provide some kind of ‘kite mark’ to ITE providers (HEIs, Alliances, and SCITTs). This wouldn’t need to be compulsory if it was clearly explained and endorsed on DfE / NCTL / UCAS information about ITE (because it would affect applicant quality) and if providers thought Ofsted might be paying attention.

  4. You are incorrect about the role of the SCITT. As a SCITT provider partnered with a large number of schools for the delivery of SD, we retain a high level quality assurance, underpinned with a partnership agreement. We don’t need another level of ‘kitemarking’ – that is what Ofsted does.I think the problem with SD is that National College can’t make up its mind – the guidance changes so frequently and often in direct contradiction of what one was previously told that it’s very difficult to ensure compliancy. In addition, trying to set schools up to be their own ITT providers without giving them adequate support to do is surely to set them up to fail?

  5. It states on the Ofsted report for schools in special measures that they should NOT appoint newly qualified teachers! Whilst a trainee is presumably not an appointment, it would be interesting to know how Ofsted view their placements.

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