Since the idea of the Chartered College of Teaching was first proposed, the aim of raising the status of the teaching profession has been at its core. The Chartered College is committed to developing, supporting and recognising high-quality teaching, including through the introduction of effective new approaches to teacher recruitment and certification that will help to attract appropriately skilled, knowledgeable and qualified individuals into the profession. It is vitally important, however, that any new approach – whatever it might be – does not deskill teachers, threaten the quality of provision for children and young people, or adversely affect the status of teaching as a profession, so appropriate checks and balances must be in place.
The Government’s intention to introduce a new degree-level apprenticeship route to QTS, reported in the media yesterday, raises a set of questions that need answering, and understandably received challenge from the teaching profession in regard to these. Having requested further details of the proposal from the Department for Education, it is clear that details of the programme are still under development, but an important area of clarification was what ‘degree-level’ actually means: a degree will still be required in order to achieve QTS through this route, although training will be able to commence earlier. We strongly believe that teaching should remain entirely a graduate profession, so this is positive news.
However, whilst we recognise the challenges in teacher recruitment that the potential introduction of this degree-level teacher apprenticeship aims to address, as well as the merits of such an approach, we believe there are five critical questions that must be answered before it can considered in any depth. We look forward to having these answered.
1: What does a ‘degree-level’ apprenticeship route mean?
Whilst we have received clarification that QTS will not be awarded without a degree, it is still important to understand whether the degree will be awarded as part of the programme, or alongside it, and whether this will be a generalist approach or with specialist routes. In either case, a critical factor in the quality of the route will be who is responsible for setting standards and assessing or accrediting the programme.
In terms of the apprenticeship approach more widely, the expectations around pay and conditions of employment will clearly be important and will no doubt be of interest to the Unions. Beyond the widening of routes into teaching, the proposal also clearly relates to a wider move to raise the status and recognition of apprenticeships, something we fully support. However, we are clear that this must not damage the status and quality of the teaching profession, nor exacerbate recruitment and retention challenges.
2: How would such a programme enable teacher apprentices to develop specialist knowledge and skills for their role?
Last week, the Chartered College of Teaching published its initial set of Professional Principles. These outline the knowledge, practice and behaviours that were identified through consultation and research as epitomising excellence in teaching, and form the basis for the pilot of our new Chartered Teacher programme. We believe the areas they cover must be embedded within teachers’ development across all stages of their career, and should be at the heart of all routes into teaching. These include a requirement for excellent subject knowledge, alongside understanding of how children and young people develop and learn, as well as the principles of effective pedagogy and assessment both within their own subject area and more generally. It needs to be clear how a degree-level apprenticeship route into teaching would address the subject-specific requirements in particular, as well as the broader requirements.
3: How would appropriate support and training for teacher apprentices be provided?
To ensure both the development of the teacher apprentice’s skills and practices and the quality of provision for children and young people, the support and training provided would need to be well-developed, substantial and high-quality. A degree-level apprenticeship route potentially offers a useful way for new and different entrants to the profession to gain valuable classroom experience from the very start of their training. However, the support and supervision they are given will be vital and for the programme to be effective, we would expect that apprentices would be supernumerary, at least for the first years of the apprenticeship. As with the question of who would provide assessment, the question of who would provide the training would also be a critical factor in the programme.
4: What would be the impact of this programme on teacher recruitment?
We support the aspiration to make teaching a profession that appeals to a broad range of people and are keen to see the development of a range of effective routes into teaching. This should include approaches to ensure that teaching is an appealing and realistic career option for school-leavers, graduates and career-changers. However, in order to support the introduction of a new degree-level teacher apprenticeship we would expect to see evidence that it would be likely to have a positive impact on teacher recruitment overall, bearing in mind the full range of other school and HEI-based routes already available. This would need to take into account the extent to which the lack of a degree-level apprenticeship option is actually a barrier to people joining the profession; comparison with similar programmes internationally; and a careful consideration of potential negative impact on other recruitment routes.
The numbers involved, expected completion and retention levels, and the impact on children and young people and other staff will also need to be clear, as well as how success will be measured, to establish whether the approach represents value for money for the profession as a whole, as well as for schools and teachers. This should not be introduced as a ‘quick and easy’ fix to a much wider recruitment and retention issue, and challenges around teacher pay, professional development, recognition and workload should take priority.
5: How will this tie in with a strengthened QTS and provision of career-long professional learning routes?
In an already complex sector, it will be important to establish how the proposed introduction of a degree-level teacher apprenticeship will relate to other recent proposals and developments. These include strengthened QTS, initially announced by Justine Greening at our inaugural conference (to an impromptu ovation) and the establishment of career-long professional learning and accreditation routes such as Chartered Teacher Status. The widening of routes into teaching make it increasingly important that QTS is maintained as a gold standard for teaching certification, and it is essential that all teachers are given the time and access to high quality professional development throughout their careers, not simply during initial training.
Our new Chartered Teacher Status consists of a wide-ranging, challenging 14-month programme built around a number of rigorous assessments and development activities, and we would expect teachers to be able to aspire to this programme or to leadership pathways through National Professional Qualifications regardless of how they came into teaching. A high-quality, rigorous and effective teacher training route is the critical first step in a career-long learning pathway.