EDUCATION MINISTER, Huw Lewis has announced he is to reorganise the whole system of initial teacher education training in Wales.
The Minister’s announcement follows publication of a critical Estyn report on the North and Mid Wales Centre for Teacher Education which the Minister has described as “very disappointing”.
Estyn’s report concludes that both the North and Mid Wales Centre’s performance and its prospects for improvement are unsatisfactory. It also identifies aspects where the centre is failing to comply with statutory requirement for initial education teacher training.
The Minister said: “The North and Mid Wales Centre for Teacher Education has had some two years since shortcomings were identified to develop and improve its provision. However this report shows the necessary improvement has not been made. Frankly, this is not good enough.
“This latest report leaves me in no doubt that more needs to be done to accelerate the process of improvement in ITET provision across the whole of Wales.
“We need an ITET sector that can act as a key driver in building workforce capacity, particularly as we prepare for the new Curriculum for Wales. This is something that the school sector, local authorities, Consortia and the public are all, quite rightly, calling for.
“I am meeting Vice Chancellors in November, including those leading on current ITET and will be clear that I am calling time on the current system of initial teacher education training in Wales and moving to a focussed improvement plan, designed and delivered across the education system.
“Going forward, participation in genuine collaboration will be a requirement for any institution who wishes to play a part in the initial training of teachers.
“We know it is possible to deliver radical change in a short time frame – the recent news about the progress of the South East Wales Centre for Teacher Education and Training proves that.
“But improvements cannot stop there. We simply must deliver systematic improvements, with more effective collaboration between ITET centres in Wales, more partnership with Consortia, local authorities and schools, more learning from the best from elsewhere and more challenge.”
In 2009, following a report by Professor John Furlong, the Welsh Government reorganised Initial Teacher Training in Wales into three centres: one based in North Wales, one serving South-East Wales and the other Mid and West Wales.
At the time the Welsh Government claimed that concentrating teacher training and education into fewer centres would drive up standards of training and produce consistency of results.
Critical reports have, however, followed into both South East Wales’ provision and that of North Wales.
While a recent report from Estyn demonstrated some improvement in South East Wales’ centre, the same report concluded that ‘the centre was “not able to show the impact of the systems on trainees’ outcomes’
Huw Lewis has suggested that further radical reform is required to change the system again: “The landscape of ITET in Wales will be different. For those ITET centres that genuinely want to work with us to improve and provide genuinely sector leading practice then the door is open but – if you are not prepared to raise your game then you will not be part of our future vision for Wales.”
The Minister announced that he and Professor John Furlong would be holding two summits in December and January to engage the ITET sector in challenging reform.
This complements the task and finish group that Professor John Furlong is already leading to revise current ITET statutory criteria for accreditation and to implement change so the ITET system is more robust and fit for purpose.
The reform of ITET in Wales, the effective delivery of the New Deal and the implementation of a new curriculum for Wales are key parts of the Welsh Government’s ongoing programme for Education reform.
The Minister’s announcement has received short-shrift from opposition AMs, who have pointed out that the Welsh Government appears only now to be seeking to remedy flaws in the system of teacher training to which its own 2009 reorganisation of the sector has contributed.
Focusing on the challenges of equipping teachers to deliver a new curriculum, Aled Roberts AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister said: “There is a widespread consensus that the Labour Government in Wales has failed to address the fact that teacher training has not been of a high enough standard to serve the needs of Wales either now or in the future.
“The Estyn report into the North and Mid Wales centres at Bangor and Aberystwyth is extremely disappointing and is the most recent example of reports raising concerns with regard to the quality of training provision in Wales.
“There are major curriculum reforms on the horizon in Wales and we need a profession that is properly equipped for such change and which is in receipt of ongoing support through continuing professional development following qualification.
“The Welsh Liberal Democrats believe in empowering teachers to be able to take a lead so they have more responsibility in innovation and are able to work collaboratively with other teachers in the development of their practice. We would also look to attract and increase the quality of new entrants to the teaching profession.”
Making concrete proposals for the future of teacher training, Mid and West AM Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Education, Skills and the Welsh Language Simon Thomas, a Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire candidate said: “We have had Labour Education Ministers since 1997 responsible for the education of our children. This unsatisfactory report into the North and Mid Wales Centre for Teacher Education is another example of a culture of complacency in Cardiff Bay.
“A Plaid Cymru Welsh Government would give our teachers and classroom assistants the time to teach so that they can focus on ensuring the development of core skills in schools.
“By working with teaching unions and staff, Plaid Cymru will reduce red tape and bureaucracy so that head-teachers can lead their schools and more time is spent teaching children, rather than completing paperwork. The best way to spread good teaching practice is between schools, peer to peer.
“We will consider for all teachers to be educated at a Masters Level with a focus on classroom techniques. We will look to establish one professional-led body to deal with Continuous Professional Development to take politics out of education as happened in Scotland.”
“We need the powers over pay, terms and conditions to facilitate the best allocation of resources – it is only a Plaid Cymru Welsh Government that can deliver this.”
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Education, Angela Burns AM, told us: “We’ve long said teacher training in Labour-run Wales needs urgent improvement.
“It’s clear significant failings persist and I am extremely unhappy to read of another poor Estyn report on the North and Mid Wales Centre.
“Changes are not happening quickly enough and it’s our pupils and hard-working staff who are taking the brunt of it.
“While Labour’s minister is taking some steps to address the clear problems, it’s simply not fast enough.
“16 years of Labour rule have left our education system in tatters. That requires fresh thinking and a new approach.”