By Waseem Mohamed
Durham University is set to lose its official accreditation status for its Initial Teacher Training (ITT) courses, after the Department of Education (DfE) set out new standards for ITT providers across England as part of their response to a review of the ITT market.
As part of the DfE’s policy, all current providers of ITT courses were made to reapply for accreditation, but Durham was one of several providers who failed to have their ITT courses accredited under the new standards.
It means that from September 2024, Durham will no longer be an accredited ITT provider which could impact future students wanting to gain teaching qualifications at the University, although a University spokesperson said that Durham would aim to work with another provider to continue teacher training. The decision does not impact current students whose courses finish before that point.
In total, just 179 out of the 240 ITT courses currently operating in England were accredited under the new DfE standards. This is despite many of the rejected providers having their ITT provision rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted, including that of Durham University. Other providers who lost out on accreditation status included the Universities of Sussex, Cumbria and West of England Bristol.
One student who is enrolled at Durham’s Primary Education course said the decision affected their confidence in the course. They said: “I feel like as students, we put a lot of trust in our course being provided to a good standard, especially somewhere like Durham which has a good reputation”.
The student noted that Durham’s education courses have some of the highest entry requirements compared to other universities, so it was “frustrating” to learn that although they would not be impacted, its loss of accreditation for future cohorts made them “lose a sense of trust”.
Durham was among the providers who took the opportunity to appeal against the accreditation decision, but the DfE rejected all the appeals that were made by providers in a move which could spark future legal action.
James Noble-Rodgers of Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) said the appeals process was “deeply flawed” and “unduly restrictive”, and expressed disappointment that many high-quality ITT providers “will be forced out of the market as a result”.
Emma Hollis of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT) was critical of the 500 word-limit imposed on appeal applications, saying that this “did not allow room for extenuating circumstances, and there should have been an offer of an additional word count for providers appealing the decision on more than one question”.
In a statement, a Durham University spokesperson said that the University “remains committed to teacher education of the highest quality”. They said Durham was “disappointed at the outcome of our appeal”, but they “fully anticipate continuing teacher training in 2024 and onwards, by working with an accredited Teacher Training provider”.
The spokesperson also wanted “to make clear that current students and those considering applying to Durham for 2023 entry are not affected by the current national accreditation process. They can still progress towards Qualified Teacher Status with us”.
Industry experts have warned that the decisions made by the DfE could result in a reduction in the number of people who can earn a place at an accredited ITT course, at a time where the government is struggling to recruit trainees into the teaching profession. Only 29,000 were on teacher training courses in England last year, which is down 20% from the previous year.
Analysis from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) found that over 4,400 training places were at risk with no fewer than 68 providers losing out on their accreditation status. Durham alone has 203 places across its ITT courses this year, while the North East of England has been identified as a region that will be disproportionately impacted by the changes.
The EPI noted that just under 30% of training places in the North East were at institutions which will not be accredited from 2024, compared to just 7% in the East Midlands. The EPI said this “is a particular concern in the North East”, as the region has lower GCSE outcomes and heavier learning losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The EPI added that “a substantial loss of ITT places may exacerbate existing problems” in the North East.
A spokesperson for the DfE reiterated that education was a top priority for the government with an extra £2bn being invested into schools over the next two years. They added: “Historically, the number of initial teacher training providers has not impacted the number of teachers recruited into our schools and our investment will enable school leaders to continue to invest in high quality teaching and tutoring for those who need it most”.
Image: Durham University