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Universities take centre stage in the fight against Covid-19

Amid predictions that higher education will be changed forever by the current pandemic, Professor James Miller, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Glasgow Caledonian University, suggests the innovative ways the sector is responding to the crisis will make it even more valued in the future.

New norms highlight the value of scientific experts and research collaboration

The current crisis has underlined the critical role played by the UK’s experts and researchers and the institutions supporting them, as well as the need for collaboration between them, says Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business.

Online Learning Summit supports shift to remote teaching and learning

As a growing number of universities move teaching and assessment online in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the University of Derby is holding a virtual conference which aims to support staff in making the transition.

OfS cuts back regulatory demands in face of Covid-19 crisis

The Office for Students is leaving it up to universities to decide on particular approaches to the Coronavirus pandemic rather than issuing specific guidance, and has promised to minimises its regulatory demands on the sector in response to the crisis.

HEi-think: White Paper serves up "under-done" teacher training plans

New plans for teacher training contained in the Education White Paper Educational Excellence Everywhere have some merit, but need further development: preferably with the help of the university sector, argues James Noble-Rogers, Executive Director of the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers.

 

From a teacher education perspective, the Education White Paper 'Educational Excellence Everywhere' was a bit of an under-done Curate's egg; good in parts but not yet fully boiled. The Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) and the university sector hope to help bring it to the boil over the next few months.

The good news is that at least some ITE providers will receive an allocation of places that will allow them to plan the number of new teachers they will be expected to train to meet the needs of schools in their areas and beyond. That will help avoid some of the catastrophic scenes experienced this year, where a rigged system of recruitment controls led to a rush to recruit, and the perverse spectacle of prospective teachers arriving for interviews only to be turned away at the door. The one concern that we have is whether this stability will apply to all providers, or only to the favoured few.

Replacing QTS with a longer process under which teachers only receive full recognition after a period in the classroom is also a potentially good idea. For it to work, however, new teachers will need access to structured early professional development that builds on and complements their initial training, and which allows time out of school to maintain links with their ITE providers and to reflect alongside their peers. Without this, the new system could in practice turn out to be little changed from the one that we currently have, which would mean another missed opportunity.

There are some very welcome references in the White Paper to the importance of CPD and to research, something that has been overlooked for far too long. We hope that this long overdue recognition will extend to Master's level CPD, which is proven to have a positive impact on both retention and the performance of teachers in the classroom. It may be too much to hope for now, but maybe we will start to move again towards a Master's qualified teaching profession. That really would improve the status of teaching, as well as incentivising high calibre new recruits.

There continues, unfortunately, to be an assumption that 'school-led' training (whatever that actually is) is somehow superior to the more traditional school-university partnerships. There is of course no evidence for this.  All routes into teaching make a valuable contribution and all should be allowed to flourish on an equal footing. That is why it is disappointing that the only new ITE providers that will be accredited are SCITTs, despite the role that university partnerships could fill and despite the fact that universities are, on average, much better at filling places.

Finally, there are the proposals to establish new university centres of excellence. This idea has potential and is very interesting. Although a lot will, as with the rest of the White paper, depend on the detail.

 

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