08 February 2017
Article by Joe Champion, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
Assembly Members recently voted to extend the number of professions who had to register with the Education Workforce Council (EWC) and set the fees for that registration. Having approved those regulations, Members will now vote on the Education Workforce Council (Accreditation of Initial Teacher Training) (Additional Functions) (Wales) Order 2017 (the Order), on 14 February 2017.
The Order will expand the remit of the EWC to make it responsible for accrediting initial teacher education (ITE) programmes in Wales. It will also give the EWC responsibility for monitoring the ITE programmes, with a view to withdrawing accreditation from programmes it deems to be uncompliant with its accreditation criteria. This, alongside some of the other changes set out below, is intended to raise standards in the sector. The Welsh Government consulted on the new powers for the EWC, alongside a draft version of the criteria to be used in ITE accreditation, in autumn 2016.
Current and proposed systems of Initial Teacher Education
Granting the EWC the power to produce accreditation criteria and award accredited status to initial teacher education (ITE) programmes is part of a wider shake up of the system. At present ITE is currently provided from three centres in Wales:
- North and Mid Wales centre: Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities;
- South East Wales centre: Cardiff Metropolitan University and University of South Wales; and
- South West Wales centre: University of Wales, Trinity Saint David.
These centres were funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), who also set the accreditation criteria. Estyn currently inspects ITE provision in Wales to ensure its quality and compliance with the requirements for ITE. The latest Estyn inspections for the centres found:
- South West Wales Centre’s current performance was adequate, while its prospects for improvement were good in 2012;
- South East Wales Centre’s current performance was adequate, but its prospects for improvement were unsatisfactory in 2013; and
- North and Mid Wales Centre’s current performance was unsatisfactory as were its prospects for improvement in 2015.
As a result of this, and other reports which were critical of the sector, the Welsh Government decided a change was needed. Foremost amongst these was Professor John Furlong’s Teaching Tomorrow’s Teachers report. You can read our blog on the Furlong Report here.
The recent draft accreditation criteria consultation proposed the creation of a Teacher Education Accreditation Committee (TEAC), which would be based within the EWC. The Welsh Government proposed that the TEAC would comprise ‘members of the profession, experts in the field of initial teacher education, a practising or very recent head teacher and a representative of Estyn’ and it ‘would be responsible for accrediting all programmes of initial teacher education’ in Wales. In the explanatory memorandum that accompanies the Order, the Welsh Government estimates that:
The Accreditation of Initial Teacher Training Committee will require initial start-up costs of £260,000 and will be paid over two financial years 2016-17 and 2017-18.
The consultation document also highlighted the Welsh Government’s intention that all future ITE programmes will be led by ‘partnerships’ made up of a Higher Education Institute (HEI) and a number of ‘lead partnership schools’. It is anticipated that the ‘HEI together with all of their partner schools – must take joint responsibility for their contributions to the programme’.
Under the partnership system proposed in the consultation HEFCW will retain responsibility for administering funds for teacher training. Estyn will undertake inspections of ITE provision every five years, ideally one year prior to a partnership’s re-accreditation with the TEAC, so that inspection reports can feed into the accreditation exercise. Estyn’s inspections will be undertaken using a revised inspection framework and guidance that explicitly takes into account the TEAC’s accreditation criteria.
The explanatory memorandum to the Order clarifies the Welsh Government’s expected timescale for the reform of ITE, and is replicated below.
A voice of opposition
The Welsh Government’s summary of responses to the ITE Accreditation consultation stated that:
For many it seemed a logical step for the Education Workforce Council (EWC) to have responsibility for accrediting programmes of ITE and establishing a Teacher Education Accreditation Committee (TEAC). Respondents from the Teaching Councils of Ireland, Scotland and Northern Ireland said this was in line with statutory arrangements they have had for a number of years.
However, the NASUWT union, in a paper submitted as part of a Children, Young People and Education committee consultation on teachers’ professional learning and education, noted that:
The EWC in its current form is not an appropriate body to take on the statutory responsibility for accrediting all programmes of ITE in Wales.
The NASUWT has argued that the EWC would need to demonstrate that it can act coherently, consistently and equitably in relation to its existing responsibilities, before additional functions are allotted to it.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) paper to the same consultation also noted that it was:
…concerned about the configuration and remit of the EWC. Currently the Council is made up of people appointed by Ministers. We strongly believe there should be no more ‘mission creep’ or an extension of the remit of the EWC until it includes members elected from all the education unions.
The Welsh Government, in the draft criteria consultation, argue that:
Enhancing the role of the EWC, will enable the education profession to exercise a collective voice; both in policy making and leading the improvements in standards and the process of change. A committee of the EWC could include a range of stakeholders, including representation from the teaching profession itself. It would also be well placed to provide leadership and coordination for teacher education on a national level, while at the same time being at arm’s length from the Welsh Government.