Initial Teacher Education
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Number of partnerships 2023
No. of learners enrolled 2021-22
No. of learners enrolled 2020-21
No. of core inspections: 2
No. of case studies: 0
During 2022-2023, many students made good progress towards meeting the standards for qualified teacher status (QTS), although this was uneven across the partnerships and, in a few instances, this progress was more limited due to weaknesses in teaching and mentoring on the programme. The most effective aspects of the new partnership model are the school-based training days. Students benefited from these opportunities to work in groups in a lead school recognised for its effective practice. However, overall, the component parts of ITE programmes were not balanced well enough or did not link as successfully as they might. Overall, there was clear commitment from individual partners to support initial teacher education although the transition from university-led provision to partnership-led provision remained a developing area in all partnerships. Processes for quality assurance and self-evaluation require improvement. In some instances, leaders did not respond quickly enough to issues raised by students or to remedy flaws in provision. A particular shortcoming was the weakness in the quality assurance of teaching and mentoring, leading to too much variability in practice and effectiveness.
Learning and well-being
Most students showed a strong motivation to teach and were developing strong professional attitudes and behaviours. Overall, many made good progress towards meeting the standards for qualified teacher status (QTS), although this was uneven across the partnerships and in a few instances, this progress was more limited due to weaknesses in teaching and mentoring on the programme.
In their school experiences, most students planned diligently, and a minority explored creative learning experiences for their pupils. However, a common shortcoming in students’ lesson planning was an inability to identify the intended learning specifically enough. Too often, students’ learning objectives for their pupils were written in vague terms, or simply described what they wanted pupils to do. This hindered students’ ability to choose the most effective teaching approaches and meant that they were not able to evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching in terms of pupils’ progress well enough. A few students struggled to maintain pupils’ engagement in the classroom because they were not clear enough about their learning objectives. In addition, in too many instances, students planned too closely in line with the school’s schemes of work. This meant that their understanding of planning in the mid- and long-term was inhibited. Generally, students’ understanding of curriculum requirements was sound. However, their understanding of how Curriculum for Wales works in practice was too often limited to what they observed in their placement schools.
Many students were developing a wide range of useful skills that helped them in their practice. A majority employed a useful variety of classroom management approaches. Students demonstrated good communication skills and were learning to use a range of questioning techniques and approaches to support assessment appropriately. However, a minority of students did not develop their specific phase or subject pedagogies well enough.
Many students had suitable literacy, numeracy and digital skills. However, a majority did not plan well enough for the progressive development of pupils’ skills. Many made sound progress in developing their Welsh language skills from their starting points, although students training to teach in English-medium contexts did not use their Welsh often enough in school. Read more about how ITE partnerships support students to develop their Welsh language skills, including teaching through the medium of Welsh in our thematic review.
Generally, students made good progress in their academic studies. Many understood the role that research plays in developing their practice. However, only a minority of student teachers made secure links between theory and practice and used what they had learned from reading and research to inform and shape their day-to-day classroom practice, or to reflect on the progress their pupils had made.
Although tutors and mentors generally encouraged students to maintain a healthy work-life balance, a minority of students found it difficult to balance the competing demands of planning and evaluating lessons, completing academic assignments and uploading evidence to their Professional Learning Passport (PLP). Students did not always see the value of the tasks they were required to undertake and found the large number of processes and tasks that the partnership required them to complete onerous and confusing.
Teaching and learning experiences
Some of the most effective aspects of the new partnership model are the school-based training days. Students benefited from these opportunities to work in groups in a lead school recognised for its effective practice. The most successful learning experiences were designed so that students explored and debated theory in practice and included opportunities for students to observe and interact with school staff and pupils.
However, in too many instances, the component parts of ITE programmes were not balanced well enough or did not link as successfully as they might. The design of the programmes did not pay good enough attention to the way that beginning teachers develop their skills, knowledge and understanding over time. Programmes do not consistently enable students to develop their subject and phase pedagogies well enough. In addition, the timing and content of tasks and assignments were not considered carefully enough and this had a negative impact on students’ well-being. For example, students were required to gather evidence of pupils’ learning for an assignment when they had already completed their school experience, or assignments deadlines fell at a time when they were heavily engaged in planning and preparing lessons.
Many mentors, including senior mentors, were not sufficiently aware of the taught elements of the programme, which meant that they were not able to support students effectively in their development. Furthermore, although aspects of ITE programmes were helping to support students to link theory and practice, tutors and mentors did not routinely teach students how to think critically or help students to consider their developing practice in the light of their reading and research.
In general, partnerships tended to expect that students would learn about Curriculum for Wales in schools and did not recognise the role that they play in supporting the development of the curriculum, for example in addressing misconceptions or by contributing their expertise to the professional learning provided by the consortia.
In a few instances, teaching in university was outstanding. In these sessions, tutors were not only experts in their field, but had an excellent understanding of the pedagogies of ITE. They used imaginative resources and intuitive questioning to inspire students, and to skilfully nurture their critical and creative thinking. A minority of mentors were also proficient in understanding the developmental needs of their students. In the best examples, mentors were adept at guiding students to become competent teachers. They engaged students in ‘learning conversations’, helping them to reflect on their practice and improve their skills. They encouraged pertinent connections to educational theory and helped students find their own solutions to problems. However, overall, there was too much variability in both teaching and mentoring across partnerships. This had a negative impact on students’ progress.
Although there is laudable commitment from individual partners, the transition from university-led provision to partnership-led provision remained a developing area in all partnerships. School partners were beginning to develop their role in strategic leadership and were starting to take on more extensive responsibilities in the leadership of key aspects such as quality assurance and self-evaluation processes. However, despite strong joint working in the initial establishment of the partnerships, this had waned more recently. Overall, school partners tended to play a supportive role, rather than a strategic one.
In a minority of partnerships, leadership structures were not robust enough in practice. There was an insufficient flow of information between the leadership groups to ensure that the leadership of the partnership was focused on the development of key aspects that had the most impact on student outcomes and, in a few instances, lines of accountability were unclear.
Overall, processes for quality assurance and self-evaluation were not rigorous or robust enough. In some instances, leaders did not respond quickly enough to issues raised by students or to remedy flaws in provision. A particular shortcoming was the weakness in the quality assurance of teaching and mentoring, leading to too much variability in practice and effectiveness.
Although, partnerships regularly gathered student feedback and provided numerous opportunities for staff to discuss the development of the partnership, self-evaluation and planning for improvement remained a longstanding area for improvement. Common shortcomings included weaknesses in leadership structures, a lack of processes for gathering of first-hand evidence, and perceived barriers to progress, such as difficulties in aligning self-evaluation to university procedures for quality assurance. Tracking student progress was undertaken to support individuals and overall processes to support students who were in danger of not meeting the standards were secure. However, student progress tended to be tracked using component aspects of the Standards for QTS. This did not enable partnerships to identify strengths and areas for improvement in provision and practice well enough. As a result of this approach to tracking and a lack of drawing together first-hand evidence about teaching, mentoring and programme design, planning for improvement was not sharp enough. It tended to be based on priorities that were too broad and included weak monitoring and evaluation processes.
During inspections undertaken in 2022-2023, the development of a research culture across partnerships was an emerging strength. This had particular impact where the benefits of the partnership were exploited. Positive examples included school partners making the most of the professional learning opportunities offered by the university and collaborative research based in partnership schools. However, research into ITE provision and practice was at an early stage of development. Generally, mentor development was a developing area and remained a challenge, even post-pandemic. Professional learning for university tutors was not based well enough on developing effective practice in ITE.
Welsh Government (2018) Criteria for the accreditation of initial teacher education programmes in Wales. Cardiff: Welsh Government. [Online]. Available from: https://www.gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2018-09/criteria-for-the-accreditation-of-initial-teacher-education-programmes-in-wales.pdf [Accessed 16 November 2023]
Welsh Government (2023) Criteria for the accreditation of initial teacher education programmes in Wales. Cardiff: Welsh Government. [Online]. Available from: https://www.gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2023-05/for-ite-programmes-accredited-to-commence-from-1st-september-2024.pdf [Accessed 16 November 2023]