What the resource is:
This resource is a paper delivered at the Annual Meeting of the Association of Teacher Education in Europe, University of Wolverhampton 2007 prepared by staff at Sheffield Hallam University which explores, through research, the role of the initial teacher training co-ordinator (ITTC - that member of staff in a secondary school who co-ordinates the training activities for trainee teachers placed within their school) in secondary schools within the Sheffield Hallam University Partnership. It follows on from the paper presented the Association of Teacher Education Europe conference in Slovenia 2006, "The role of the initial teacher training coordinator in the school based element of partnership. To what extent does the co-ordinator undertake supervision of aspects of quality assurance?" From this we can draw some interesting lessons for initial teacher training partnerships in a range of contexts, not only relating to the role of the training co-ordinator, but for the management and quality assurance of initial teacher training within all partnerships.
The aims of the resource:
The article sets out to explore the work of the ITTCs, but perhaps more importantly, also sets out to discover the head teachers' perceptions of the ITTC's role in their school. Through this we are able to gain an insight into the value placed upon initial teacher training, its links with CPD in schools, the strategic importance placed upon the work in which the ITTCs are engaged and the extent to which head teachers, and by extension, the senior leadership team
's see initial teacher training as a priority within their establishments. Following on from the previous paper, issues of quality assurance and time allocation are covered in this paper raising significant concerns.
Key findings or focus:
The key findings of this research are clearly identified in the paper. Most importantly, the fact that it was found that head teachers significantly underestimate the complexity of the work and the workload of the ITTCs in respect of the development of professional values and practice, and quality assurance of mentors. The extent of the need to champion the positive benefits of whole school engagement with ITT has serious implications for the development of initial teacher training partnerships with HEIs, particularly with the new initiatives such as the MTL coming online, where HEIs will rely more heavily on the involvement of that partnership.
Interestingly, the issues of quality assurance, emphasised in the 2006 paper, remained a concern. Some schools reported that there was no mechanism for quality assurance of mentoring within their school. This seemed to be all too often left to the lead HEI. This is no different from the earlier findings. The lack of time allocation seemed to be a key factor here. Whilst in a minority of schools, often those labelled as 'Training Schools' or some other similar designation, there were established mechanisms for quality assurance, in many it was rather haphazard at best: "QA was reliant on the familiarity of the ITTC with the mentors with whom they worked". Obviously, there are significant implications for all teacher training providers here, especially with the advent of the new self evaluation document (SED); perhaps even more so for the employment-based route providers who rely even more heavily on the training delivered within the schools and therefore expect and require quality assurance within that environment.
The writers of the paper referred to a recent review of research into the impact of trainee teachers on the achievement of pupils (Hurd, 2007), which concluded that 'training active' schools achieve higher national test scores at ages 11 and 14, but that there is no significant difference in test scores at 16 or 18. The findings of the research are reflected in the attitudes of some of the head teachers, who saw the importance of accepting trainee teachers into the school and thus the implications for the role of the ITTC. A limited number of schools had reviewed the post accordingly. However, it is important to notice that there was found to be a wide variety of definitions of the role across the ten schools sampled. In some, the ITTC was part of the senior leadership team and had responsibility for ITT, CPD, NQTs etc.; in others these positions were separated out amongst a number of staff of the school. There was also found to be a variation in the perceptions of the ITTC's position by the head teachers. Some saw it as largely an administrative position, some as a managerial position and some as a teaching and learning position. Whilst we would expect some variation from school to school, this too has implications for the management of partnerships in ITT.
The quality, authority and credibility of the resource from your subject perspective in relation to ITE:
The paper is based on sound research within a relatively small sample and related to a specific set of schools working under the Sheffield Hallam University's Partnership Agreement. As such, it obviously has its limitations. The sample of a "wide variety" of schools (10) seems to be based on size of school including age range. What is not included is an indication of how ITT-active each of these schools is, although some of this information is implied in the later analysis.
The authors acknowledge that each head teacher will have their own agenda and that they will wish to show their school in the best light. However, it might have been helpful if some of the initial questions to the head teachers had focussed more on what they see as the strategic importance of ITT in school (although some of them did touch upon this) and how much they value the work of both the ITTCs and the mentors.
This said, the paper will constitute essential reading for anyone managing a secondary teacher training partnership, and has significant implications for those working in primary initial teacher education and in employment-based route provision. The quality of the work is good and can easily be used as a platform for partnership development and future research into the area of collaborative teacher training in all its forms.
The implications for ITE tutors/mentors - when and how it could have best impact:
The wide variety of perceptions and practices is worthy of extra note here. All schools are different, a fact that is celebrated and valued. However, the implications of such a wide variety of differences in perception and practice in relation not only to the roles of the ITTCs but of quality assurance mechanisms, time and resource allocations have far reaching implications for the ITT community in relation to OFSTED inspections and SEDs, if we are to "foster a culture of rigorous self-evaluation among providers, leading to continuous improvement or maintenance of very high-quality training" (OFSTED 2008). The roles and responsibilities of the various key people in our partnerships are well documented in partnership agreements etc., but do the perceptions of those roles always match the practice?
The relevance to ITE students - how and why it has importance:
The relevance of this resource to ITE students may not be immediately obvious. However, transparency can enable all involved in ITE to know who has responsibility for what in the students' training. Students do need to know the responsibilities of those with whom they work as much as they need to know their own responsibilities as they develop as professionals who work with children (Q5,Q6).