Navbar button The Headteacher

Strategies to build knowledge

August 2, 2021, 10:07 GMT+1
Read in 4 minutes
  • Emma Hollis asks how can ITT providers develop the subject knowledge required by Ofsted?...
Strategies to build knowledge

In June last year, Ofsted introduced a new Initial Teacher Education (ITE) inspection framework.

This established a one-stage inspection model with a particular focus on the quality of the ITE curriculum and with two key judgements: the ‘quality of education and training’ and ‘leadership and management’.

Previously, Initial Teacher Training (ITT) providers were inspected in two stages across two different terms, with less focus on the curriculum and more on trainees’ outcomes.

Ofsted was due to start inspecting under this new framework in January, but suspended its plans due to the third national lockdown. From May, however, the first inspections under the new inspection framework have been under way.

They also seek to understand the impact of Covid-19 on each partnership and how leaders have responded. The importance of subject knowledge and curriculum development is clear from ITE inspection framework.

We have seen excellent practice in the development of highly ambitious ITE curriculums, many of which we have collated and shared.

The introduction of an entirely new curriculum expectation, if it is to be done thoughtfully and to a high standard, is always going to take time and this new inspection framework fell right in the eye of the Covid-19 storm.

Despite this, the work we have been doing with ITT providers has not lost sight of the importance of curriculum design and implementation.

For ITT providers who might have had a greater focus on more general teaching strategies and pedagogy as the focus of their teacher development programmes, there may be some additional development needed in these two areas.

Many frameworks that have been published to guide providers of ITT and CPD (such as the Core Content Framework and Early Career Framework) are excellent documents but lack subject specificity.

There is, therefore, work for providers to do to shape professional development programmes which are truly based around subject.

Learning theories and pedagogy are still vitally important, but it will be necessary to teach these within the context of how they apply to particular subjects.

So what can ITT providers, and school leaders, do? Here are five strategies to consider:

1. Work closely with national subject associations
They are your first port of call and hold a wealth of knowledge and understanding around their subjects. Provide membership to the appropriate associations for your staff and trainees and (most importantly) ensure they are engaging with the content. The Council for Subject Associations is a great place to start that conversation.

2. Promote subject-specific professional development
Prioritise CPD opportunities and training which is grounded in subject rather than generic approaches to teaching. From Primary Art and Primary Geography to Secondary History and Secondary Religious Education, there are organisations (including ourselves) which provide the subject-specific development that is needed.

3. Use your networks, share resources and expertise
Identify and utilise subject knowledge experts across networks of schools. Carefully select trainers and facilitators, working with them to ensure their own subject knowledge is up to date and relevant. Offer them opportunities to engage in high quality professional learning opportunities which extend their knowledge of subject and encourage them to share this across your ITT provider (and school) networks.

4. Be part of the wider conversation
Regularly engage your ITT trainees and school teachers with the big debates relevant to their subject. Encourage critical thinking around the wider subject and, while this can be tempting, avoid a focus on exam specifications. Expertise is created through knowledge and passion for subjects, and there is a need to foster both of these.

5. Seek external support as needed
Look at the tools that promote subject-focused discussions between trainees/teachers and their mentors. For example, the NASBTT Curriculum Design and Assessment Toolkit and our Subject Knowledge for Teaching Toolkit both include approaches for promoting subject-focused discussions between trainees/teachers and their mentors. Take the opportunity to engage with NASBTT Networks Live to supplement your subject knowledge development offer for trainees, early career teachers, mentors and subject leads.

Emma Hollis is Executive Director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT).