Schools face severe staffing shortages as Government risks ‘breaking’ teacher education sector

Government’s teacher education market review may force dozens of universities out of the system 

New data shows quality of training better than ever – jeopardising it on verge of pandemic recovery is ‘foolhardy’ say critics  

More than 30 universities in England have warned they may be forced to stop offering teacher education programmes amid fears the Government will introduce an “unviable” new contracting system. 

Internal polling carried out by the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers has shown that 35 of 40 providers who responded said they may have to withdraw from the market if this is the case.  Together these providers train more than 10,000 new teachers each year, one third of the annual total, a loss that would have “catastrophic” consequences for the sector. 

The Government’s market review of the teacher education sector has prompted the concerns that a new system will be introduced under which a small number of selected organisations offer short-term contracts to Initial Teacher Education (ITE) providers. Such a move would not be dissimilar to how other teaching professional development programmes have been structured recently, including the Early Careers Framework for New Qualified Teachers (NQTs), the National Professional Qualifications for leaders and indeed the Government’s proposed Institute of Teaching, which would only provide 1,000 new teacher training places – far below the 10,000 currently at risk 

Critics question the validity of holding a market review in the midst of pandemic, particularly when there is no data suggesting the quality of teacher training is a problem. Quite to the contrary, the Department for Education’s own most recent survey of NQTs showed more than 80% of new teachers rated their Initial Teacher Education (ITE) highly, and Ofsted has judged every single teacher education partnership as Good or Outstanding. The Government often states there are now 1.9 million more children in Good or Outstanding schools compared with 2010, and the teacher training sector has a lot to do with that. 

Fresh data from the polling app Teacher Tapp paints a picture of a continually improving system, with those trained most recently (in the last two years), answering 

  • 78% would recommend their training provider to a friend 
  • 81% rate the quality of teaching and learning from their provider highly 
  • 76% say their education prepared them well for their first role.  

This data comes just as the country is recognising the one-year anniversary of the first lockdown, and the devastation the pandemic has wreaked across the education sector. Teachers and teacher educators across the country have risen to the challenges caused by COVID-19 and are working tirelessly to support pupils with their social, emotional, mental, physical and academic needs over the coming post-pandemic months and years. The brilliant ITE sector helped facilitate this innovative national response, and it is high-quality training that will keep more outstanding new teachers going into schools to teach this generation of children and young people and beyond.  

Critics of the review are also concerned that it has been launched without a call for evidence and no basis on which to make any informed decisionsThe Government, in its answer to a Parliamentary Question of 16th February, said that “the review is focused on ensuring consistently high quality ITT [initial teacher training] based on the CCF [Core Content Framework]”.  

However, the CCF, a new framework setting out the requirements for teacher education programmes, was introduced in September 2020 and Ofsted has not yet been able to carry out inspections of providers since then because of the pandemic. Until Ofsted inspections resume there is then a subsequent bank of inspection reports evidencing how well CCF is being implemented within providers, any decisions to reshape the system around the CCF would lack substance.  

James Noble-Rogers, Executive Director of the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), said: 

“It is absolutely right that there is regular review of all publicly funded systems, and there are few systems more important than that by which we educate new teachers. However, the market review of ITE currently being undertaken presents huge risks.  

Our #TeachBest campaign asks Government for a proper call for evidence and for the review to be conducted within a reasonable timescale, when the sector is moving beyond the pandemic and when Ofsted has returned to inspection and has assessed how well or otherwise ITE providers are implementing the CCF. We are asking for everyone who believes in the importance of high-quality teachers to please get involved with the campaign, writing to the Secretary of State and their MP, which can be done through our website,  

“We need the Government to reassess and take the decision to undertake an evidence-based review in good time that enhances and improves our teacher education system, not diminishes it, and which leads to a pipeline of even more great teachers, not fewer. We are not complacent about the quality of ITE and believe that there will always be room for improvement. But any proposed changes must be based on evidence and properly discussed before they are introduced. 

Rachel Lofthouse, Professor of Teacher Education at Leeds Beckett University and Director of CollectivEDThe Centre for Coaching, Mentoring and Professional Learning, said: 

At the heart of teacher education is the knowledge that we are all present as learners and that our expertise is built on a dynamic relationship between practice and research. 
My professional biography and contribution were forged from the choices I was able to make because of the strength of the partnerships between schools and universities. My experiences are not unique; the teaching profession has been sustained over decades through these partnerships. The conversations and opportunities that exist in the work between academics and teachers create the capacity that we need to meet the needs of pupils and students in all of our schools, early years settings and colleges. 

We will continue to evolve and serve communities. We must ensure that these partnerships grow for decades to come. We are not a market that needs review. We are an essential, creative and productive infrastructure that should be celebrated.” 

Rosellen Walsh, Alumna, London Metropolitan University, said: 

“The quality of ITE that I received is the single biggest reason why I am still teaching, and still enjoying it, over 14 years later. The ITE was a strong foundation without which I would not have thrived in those first tentative years of my career. It led me to becoming a head of department and is a foundation I still rely on and cherish today.”  

Notes to editors 

  • The Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) is an independent, professional organisation funded solely by its member institutions, universities, colleges and others providing accredited Higher Education level teacher education.  Their mission is to support the quality, sustainability and professionalism of teacher education through the encouragement of cohesive partnerships and constructive stakeholder engagement based on evidence from UK and international research. You can see more at:
  • UCET launched the #TeachBest campaign on Monday 15th March 2021, at 
  • In all, some 30,000 teachers each year join the profession through Initial Teacher Education (ITE) partnerships. As many as 80% of those involve universities through undergraduate and Master’s programmes, as well as strategic partnerships and mentoring support that universities have with schools, colleges, school-centred initial teacher training organisations (SCITTs) and other providers.