Other universities including Oxford and UCL have threatened to follow Cambridge’s leadLouis Ashworth

The University of Cambridge has stated that it plans to stop training teachers if the government persists with plans to reform teacher training in England, The Guardian today revealed

Other universities, such as Oxford and University College London (UCL), have threatened to follow Cambridge’s lead, posing the risk of a drop in the calibre of new trainees, and a threat to the prestige of the teaching profession.

Professor Susan Robertson, the head of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education, said that if the government persisted with its planned reforms, “we would find that delivering high-quality [education] would be deeply compromised, and we would have no recourse other than to not offer the initial training postgraduate certificate in education”.

The government’s proposals would lead to a “highly prescribed curriculum and model of mentoring [which] doesn’t at all look like what we do,” she explained

The Faculty’s threat of ceasing to offer the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) programme, which is taken by up to 350 students every year at Cambridge, has the full support of the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Steven Toope. 

Under the proposed reforms, which have been called a “wrecking ball” by school leaders, Cambridge and all other providers would have to seek re-accreditation, and would be required to conform to a new curriculum in their training. 

Cambridge’s submission to the Department for Education’s (DfE) consultation expressed concern that the reforms would “restrict continued improvement in teacher education and pupil experience and lead to universities, all currently deemed ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ by Ofsted, withdrawing from teacher education altogether.”

“The proposals appear to confuse quality with uniformity and conformity,” it continued. 

These concerns were echoed in the submissions of other universities, with Oxford writing that it was ““deeply concerned about the academic integrity” of the proposed programme and “the potential reputational risk” for the University.


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UCL told the DfE that the Government’s review of teacher training “presents teaching as general, easily replicated sequences of activities, based in a limited and set evidence base”. It concluded: “In their current form, the proposals risk extensive and damaging disruption … putting the quality and supply of provision at risk and eroding capacity for improvement.”

Cambridge also criticised the government for holding a “much reduced” seven-week consultation “during the summer holidays, limiting engagement” from providers.

Robertson too raised these concerns, saying that “we don’t have confidence at the moment that the government is listening to us. It’s as if they want to drive through this review.”

“Is it worth risking outstanding providers leaving? We absolutely want to stay in teacher education, that goes right to the top. Our vice-chancellor and pro vice-chancellor see it as a really important contribution to schools, to young learners, and to our region.” 

A DfE spokesperson said: “Supporting our teachers with the highest-quality training and development is the best way we can improve pupil outcomes, and we want all teachers to have a world-class start to their career.”

“We continue to engage with the sector on proposed changes to initial teacher training and we will respond to the review’s recommendations later this year.”