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‘Read The Trial by Kafka for a good analogy’: Teacher educator experiences of DfE accreditation in England

Aimee Quickfall, Head of School - School of Education at Leeds Trinity University Phil Wood, Professor of Education at Nottingham Trent University

The whole initial teacher education (ITE) sector in England has just been through a significant change, brought about by the Department for Education’s ITT Market Review (DfE, 2022). We use the term ITE to reflect our thoughts on education versus training, the DfE use ITT (initial teacher training). While the DfE promised streamlining of the ITT market – as it argued that doing so would make it easier to apply to teach – the review went further and recommended a whole-sector accreditation process. Subsequently all providers were required to apply for reaccreditation in order to provide ITT from the 2024/25 academic year onwards, by way of a workload-intensive two-stage process, where many providers lost accreditation in stage 1.

‘There are well-founded concerns within the sector that new DfE Quality Requirements will lead to a reduction in the number of schools willing to support student teachers.’

The number of providers has been reduced from 240 to 179 (Worth, 2023), potentially leading to a loss of 4,000 training places (Zuccollo, 2022). New DfE Quality Requirements, as set out in the ITT Criteria 2024/25, have also increased the requirements (and hence workloads) for ITE providers, and have stipulated increasing training expectations on school-based mentors (20 hours training in the first year). There are well-founded concerns within the sector that this will lead to a reduction in the number of schools willing to support student teachers, as Noble-Rogers (2022, para. 4) points out:

‘Fewer school placements means fewer new teachers coming into the profession. It is as simple as that. The impact of the accreditation process on teacher supply is serious.’

This is potentially a bleak outlook for teacher recruitment and partnerships – but what did teacher educator participants think about the accreditation process they are currently navigating? As researchers, we want to share some insights into our second survey of academics working in the university initial teacher education (ITE) sector, carried out in the summer and autumn of 2023. Our annual survey (kindly supported by UCET[1]) covers workload, job security, accreditation and Ofsted; we discuss the results of our first survey in a previous BERA Blog post. First of all, a warning – this does not make for happy reading.

We received 143 responses to the survey in 2023, roughly 11 per cent of the sector (based on HESA[2] data), and the findings are unsurprisingly bleak given the immense pressures and workload falling on this group currently.

Figure 1: Likert scale responses, 2023

Some 69 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed that accreditation has been a positive experience. Just 9 per cent of respondents reported that they agreed or strongly agreed. Participants also volunteered text responses, here is a representative comment:

‘Read The Trial by Kafka for a good analogy. The fact that we had a call from a representative of the DfE saying they had been assigned as our recruitment officer as there is a teacher shortage in our area, while at the same time being refused reaccreditation is indicative of the farcical nature of the whole thing.’

It seems that the recruitment and retention crisis in schools that the Market Review sought to address may spread to university ITE departments. Through loss of accreditation or staff simply not being able to continue, there is a new crisis emerging, as one participant explains:

‘I am not sure how much longer I can stay working in ITE. I am worn down by the Tory/DfE’s ideological-based changes to education in the last decade or so … it’s going to take a long time for the damage created to be undone and a more balanced approach taken. I’m not sure I have the strength…’

We have read many responses that echo the sentiments of this quote, and all we can do now is hope that in future years, our survey results reflect an improvement in support for the university ITE sector, before many experienced and brilliant colleagues walk away and the sustainability of the sector becomes uncertain. Our study continues with the 2024 survey launch in May for ITE colleagues in England, but we would also appreciate insights from international perspectives on how our teacher educators can be supported through this time of turbulence and uncertainty  – please do contact us.

Academics in ITE Experiences of 2023/24 Survey:

[1] The Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers.

[2] Higher Education Statistics Agency.


Noble-Rogers, J. (2022, September 30). Has the initial teacher training market review caused a supply crisis? WONKHE.

Quickfall, A., & Wood, P. (2022, June 29). 2021/22 experiences of academics in teacher education: ‘I should not be afraid in my job, but I am’.

Worth, J. (2023). Short supply: Addressing the post-pandemic teacher supply challenge in England. National Foundation for Education Research.

Zuccollo, J. (2022, December 8). Why cutting ITT providers is a gamble the DfE cannot afford to lose. Times Education Supplement.