Adrian Lyons considers what is now expected of business and economics departments training or mentoring trainees.

If you are involved in any way in the training or mentoring of business and or economics teachers, you may have picked up that the world of teacher training is in a state of uncertainty. Indeed, it is summed up to some extent by what may appear a simple or even insignificant question of whether it is Initial Teacher Training (ITT) or Initial Teacher Education (ITE). Teacher training providers are faced with the regular problem that when unemployment is low then so too are applications for teacher training. This is particularly true for business and economics. Currently there are two additional and to some extent linked challenges. One, and the one that has the most direct and immediate implication for schools is the new Ofsted framework for the inspection of initial teacher education, (teacher education is the terminology used on the cover of the inspection handbook). The second challenge is the ‘market review.’

The Department for Education’s market review claimed to have three aims:

  • all trainees receive high-quality training
  • the ITT market maintains the capacity to deliver enough trainees and is accessible to candidates
  • the ITT system benefits all schools

Many providers of teacher training, whether university based or schools-based regard the requirement in the review to apply for re-accreditation as being a way of thinning out the number of training providers to a much-reduced group that can be controlled more easily by the DfE. They fear that the accreditation will go to a few approved providers that are closely aligned with favoured MATs. Universities are particularly concerned about a loss of academic freedom. As the ‘Universities Council for the Education of Teachers’ (UCET) commented, ‘It is very likely that many expert and highly successful providers of ITE will decide not to participate in this disruptive process. It is hard to tell whether this is an intended or unintended consequence of the proposals, but it is a real prospect.’

From a school curriculum/ subject leader’s point of view the key recommendations of the market review involve trainees having a minimum of two hours a week allocated to mentor meetings and providing the capacity for groups of trainees to engage in a minimum of 4 weeks of ‘intensive training and practice’ for postgraduate trainees and 6 weeks for undergraduate trainees. This is in addition to the current 120 days (24 weeks) for postgraduate and 24 or 32 weeks for undergraduate school placements. In many schools the current expectation of one hour a week scheduled for mentor meetings is proving a challenge.

The new Ofsted framework for ITE is now in its second year of operation. It is common knowledge that several providers inspected in the summer term 2021 had their grades reduced from previous inspections. Under the previous framework, all ITE providers were judged to be ‘good’ or ‘outstanding.’ However, UCET has reported, ‘Of the 20 reports based on the new Ofsted framework that have so far been released, nine (45 per cent) found some provision to be “inadequate” or “requires improvement”. ‘

The key change is that judgements in the previous framework were heavily dependent on outcomes. The providers assessed these outcomes themselves using their own criteria. Under the current framework Ofsted has moved from a focus on outcomes to a focus on curriculum, mirroring the schools inspection framework. In ITE, (note DfE use ITT while Ofsted sticks with ITE), Ofsted regards the training programme as the curriculum. Therefore, the curriculum is the trainee’s experience at the centre and in the school. The ‘teacher’s standards’ must not be seen as a curriculum to be ticked off, but rather as the floor for the final summative assessment. Formative assessment should be regular and to quote the criteria for ‘good,’ focus on ‘whether trainees are gaining, applying and refining the knowledge and skills set out in the ITE curriculum, paying particular attention to subject-specific dimensions.’

What is Ofsted looking for in an effective teacher training programme/ curriculum?

In many ways, what Ofsted is looking for in ITE is remarkably like what it is looking for in school inspections. It is looking for a curriculum that is well sequenced and that builds in the principles of retrieval practice. The evidence gathering also reflects the approach found in schools inspection. So, the inspection would start with asking the partnership’s leadership about their top-level view of curriculum intention. The rest of the inspection is looking at how this intention is implemented and its impact. This includes some school visits, but also using on-line communication to speak to as many trainees and school-based trainers and early career teachers as can be arranged.

Inspectors are looking for a training programme that trainees perceive to be joined up. It is expected that central training sessions are followed up in school and in mentor discussions. Inspectors will be checking that trainees have well-used mentor time in schools as this is central to the training. The expectation is that mentors will be able to hold professional conversations with their mentees by themselves being familiar with ‘up-to-date’ research. Inspectors may question how school-based trainers such as mentors or subject leaders are appointed. Inspectors will want to know how mentors keep up to date with subject specific research. Business and Economics education have limited resources in this area. Membership of the EBEA and being able to show inspectors the latest journal is highly recommended. ‘Teaching Business, Economics and Enterprise 14-191’ by Helena Knapton and Jamila Gurjee is a vital tool to indicate up to date subject knowledge.

Often, when asking subject leaders in schools who are preparing for either ITE inspections or school inspections how they keep up to date with their subject, the response is ‘social media’. It is good to engage in debates with the wider profession through social media platforms. Indeed, since leaving Ofsted, the freedom to say voice my opinions on Twitter has been the source of great joy. However, what I say is my opinion. I would like to think that it is well-informed opinion, but it is not academic research. So, while social media can be part of a response, it should not be the whole response.

Inspectors will also be likely to enquire as to how school-based trainers (mentors) link generic training such as cognitive science to their subject specific context in business and/ or economics. Here the journal (Teaching Business & Economics) is helpful. For example, in the Autumn 2021 edition, Yousuf Hamid’s article ‘Fruit Salad Economics’ gave tips on ‘retrieval’ and ‘interleaving’ as ways to help pupils ‘remember more’ in economics. In the same edition, Jake Goodman wrote about ‘Deliberate Practice and Variation Theory’. In the Summer 2020 edition EBEA chair – Dr Jo Bentham presented a very clear outline of how Rosenshine’s: ’Principles of Instruction – Research – Based Strategies That All Teachers Should Know’ should be incorporated into the Business & Economics classroom. In the Spring 2019 edition which had a strong focus on preparing for the then new Ofsted inspection framework, Jade Slater wrote, ‘Lessons They Will remember: Cognitive Load Theory in Business & Economics.’

Since the 1990s teacher training has been viewed by policy makers as a partnership involving schools and either a central element for school-based teacher training or a higher education home. In principle the design of the training programme and the delivery of the training is a shared endeavour. That theoretical model has not always been a reality as the reality has been that teacher training providers have sometimes struggled to find school places for trainees and schools have sometimes regarded their role as doing the provider a favour by taking a trainee for a placement. While the reality may be as one headteacher put it eloquently, ‘if the government seriously thinks I have any interest in training teachers they are sadly misguided. I take trainees to help recruitment so that we can carry on educating pupils. We are here to educate pupils, not to train teachers.’

When visiting schools as part of inspecting teacher training, HMI have often found the view that it is the ‘provider’ that is the subject of the inspection, rather than the school. It may not be stated explicitly, but signals can include an HMI visiting a school and the headteacher not even saying ‘hello.’ Similarly, the school’s willingness to prioritise mentor activity, including training, will be assessed. It is HMCI’s view that trainee doctors are not expected to know more about medical theory and research than experienced medical staff and so in the same way, mentors should be experts who are up to date with the latest research in teaching their subject.

In a section 5 (standard) school inspection, inspectors are likely to want to speak to trainees. The inspection handbook says that ‘Inspectors will meet any trainees employed by the school on the School Direct (salaried) route to assess their support, mentoring and induction.’ Practice here is a little confusing as a salaried trainee may be responsible for a significant element of a deep dive subject. However, the handbook says, ‘Inspectors will not take trainees’ performance into account when assessing the quality of education.’

Summary of the issues for an Ofsted ITE inspection:

  1. Are trainees aware of up-to-date scholarship and learning/ cognitive theories?
  2. Are secondary trainees inculcated into their subject community and up to date scholarship in their subject?
  3. Are school based mentors able to engage in scholarly discussions with the trainees by being up to date themselves?
  4. Is the ITE training curriculum designed sequentially with continuity between the central and school-based training/ mentoring?
  5. Are secondary trainees trained to support pupils’ reading?

Adrian Lyons was one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) for over 16 years. During that time, he led the inspection of schools and initial teacher training. He was Ofsted’s national lead for economics, business and enterprise.

 

References

Knapton, H., & Gurjee, J. (2019). Teaching Business, Economics and Enterprise 14-19. Routledge