Universities who offer teacher training have reacted angrily to the Government’s "Initial teacher training (ITT) market review report", published on 5 July. The review consolidates and intensifies the regressive direction of travel in teacher training that the Tories have pursued since 2010.
Under the proposals, institutions offering teacher training would have to be reaccredited. There is to be a stronger focus for trainees on curriculum knowledge and assessment. There is an increase on in-school placements, with a new requirement for "intensive practical placements" where the trainee would be in class teaching for a minimum of 25 hours a week, for four weeks during a one-year PGCE course and for six weeks a year in a three-year undergraduate course.
The aim of the proposals is to escalate and accelerate the Tories' agenda to re-locate teacher training in schools and to shape teaching as an instrumentalist activity of filling students with knowledge and then measuring how full of the knowledge they are by testing them. There will be more "hands on" time in classrooms, but less time to reflect on and consider the experiences. The focus on classroom time and training in schools is likely to ingrain and pass on existing bad practices, unless there is opportunity for reflection and comparison, the very aspects the Tories want to diminish.
All this sits within the "Gove" focus on curriculum knowledge and testing. The National Education Union (NEU), the largest school workers' union, is explaining well what is wrong with this approach. Recently it has made the case for GCSEs to be abolished - something that Workers’ Liberty supporters have fought for within the union.
Still lacking is a strategy to move from explanation to forcing a change of direction. This September will see baseline testing of all four-year olds in Primary schools for the first time. With phonics screening in Year 1, SATs in Years 2 and 6 and the multiplication tables test in Year 4, this means that primary school pupils will face statutory testing every year except Y3 and Y5.
The NEU should organise and ballot its members in primary schools to boycott these tests and the preparation for them. A real campaign to do this would be a significant step towards changing the damaging direction that education has gone in over the last 11 years.