The publication of the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) Core Content Framework on November 1 was a surprise to many. Perhaps not in terms of what it says, but because the Department for Education was planning a Spring 2020 release. However, as a member of the Expert Advisory Group which supported the development of the framework, in consultation with a wide range of school leaders, teachers, academics and experts, my considered view is that the early publication is only a good thing for the sector.
The obvious advantage is it gives ITT providers and their partner schools more time to adjust their programmes to meet the new requirements from September 2020. This additional three months allows greater opportunity for providers to be engaged in and to fully understand the framework, and think about its implementation.
Understand your responsibilities
We have seen through our own discussions about the Early Career Framework (ECF), which the ITT Core Content Framework is designed to allow a smooth transition into, that while providers are familiar with it, many in the school sector remain unaware or vaguely aware of it. The ITT framework places a duty on ITT providers and partner schools to ensure all trainees receive their full entitlement to support, so there is an onus on school partnerships to understand their responsibilities within the new guidelines, and the early launch can only help.
The framework itself is designed to support trainee development in five core areas: behaviour management, pedagogy, curriculum, assessment and professional behaviours. It is presented in eight sections, so that it works alongside with the eight teachers’ standards, and is intended to give trainee teachers an entitlement to intellectually robust teacher training that is flexible enough to be adapted to particular contexts.
Focus on mentoring
I am particularly pleased about the focus on mentoring, although we recognise that successful implementation of the aims for mentors is going to be a longer process – what is presented by the framework has long been considered the ‘Holy Grail’ for ITT. In short, mentoring matters and is proven to impact on the workforce. For too long mentoring has been an add-on to existing roles in schools and, if this is handled correctly, it is an opportunity to raise the profile of the mentor role. There will be a cultural shift required in schools, though, and in response our own Teacher Educator Zone will highlight the latest research and professional development around mentoring.
Another key aspect is subject knowledge in the curriculum. This approach needed to be refreshed for the Education Inspection Framework as well as the ECF and ITT Core Content Framework, but also in the context of key themes such as metacognition and cognitive load, terms which trainers may not currently be talking about but will need to do so going forward. We are now rolling out a series of workshops to explore these themes in more depth – our job is not to tell providers the ‘correct’ way to implement the framework, but to share insight and examples amongst our communities of practice.
Invest in mentor training
My only remaining concern is that there is no new funding attached to the ITT Core Content Framework. The ECF funding will not be available for another year, yet ITT providers are expected to implement the ITT changes by September.
Schools with limited budgets should invest in mentor training. If mentors are given time and space to develop, and they feel valued, then this is where a sustainable approach to recruitment and retention can come from. Invest in, value and look after your mentors – they could be key to transforming education.
Emma Hollis is Executive Director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT)