Why are we working on school placements?

Schools play a critical role in delivering Initial Teacher Training (ITT) by providing placements and mentors for trainee teachers. However, school involvement in ITT is not compulsory, and engagement levels vary.

ITT providers are responsible for organising at least two school placements for each of their trainees. Evidence shows that, over the past few years, ITT providers have found it more difficult to secure all the school placements they need. This risks England’s teacher pipeline because, without enough placements, we cannot train enough teachers.

A diagram showing the relationship between trainee teachers, ITT providers, schools and mentors
The relationship between trainee teachers, ITT providers, schools and mentors

Drivers behind the problem

Impact of reforms and global events

Research shows the cumulative impact of recent reforms, initiatives, and other circumstances has put increased pressure on schools (who host placements) and their teaching staff (who mentor trainees on placements), reducing their capacity to support ITT.

The Covid-19 pandemic

  • Resources were diverted to address the school disruption, putting a strain on the education system and Covid-19 catch-up for pupils.
  • An increased number of trainee teachers in the system led to greater demand for placements and exposed flaws in the school placements market.

The Early Career Framework (ECF) and National Tutoring Programme

  • These programmes tap into the same pool of teaching staff who typically mentor trainee teachers.
  • As ECF is a statutory requirement, schools prioritise their mentor resource for ECF over ITT.

ITT market reforms

  • A new formal requirement for ITT (general) mentors to complete a minimum of 20 hours of initial training and 6 hours of annual refresher training takes teaching staff away from the classroom, and some experienced mentors consider it repetitive.
  • Because of market changes resulting from the ITT accreditation process, some schools have had to change ITT provider(s), which means they must complete additional work and training.

Wider context

  • Increased workload, funding constraints, and shortages in teaching staff.

Mismatch between supply and demand

Research suggests a mismatch between the supply of trainee teachers (recruited by ITT providers) and demand from schools wanting/offering to host trainee teachers. This appears to manifest at a local level.

To successfully organise a school placement, ITT providers need to ensure that:

  • a trainee’s location, course subject, course age range/education phase and personal requirements match what a school and mentor can offer and/or need for their talent pipeline.
  • the placements arranged for each trainee contrast sufficiently to meet ITT criterion C2.4.

Trainee entry criteria, ITT curriculum, mentor training curriculum and general processes and ways of working differ between ITT providers. This makes it difficult for schools to work with multiple ITT providers, and it limits their ability to host placements and provide mentors for trainees at short notice (for example, when a pre-planned placement falls through last minute).

Barriers to addressing the problem

DfE does not collect complete and consistent data on school placements and ITT mentors, so officials cannot:

  • accurately assess the scale and potential impact of school placement/ITT mentor issues
  • provide appropriate/targeted action to support schools/mentors, ITT providers, and trainees
  • effectively protect the supply of trainee teachers in England

Our mission

The purpose of the Alpha project is to find the optimal way to bring more visibility to the school placements market to:

  • help ITT providers and schools find placement partners more efficiently and effectively
  • gather complete and consistent data on school placements to enable DfE to make informed policy decisions that make the school placements market operate more effectively and improve outcomes for users