In this short paper I outline some perspectives in answering the above question. It is not intended to present an argument either for or against large scale ITT provision, but to summarise some of the perspectives generated from research in this area.
Supply and demand. The mechanics of population distribution and density are reflected in the distribution of large-scale ITT providers, which tend to locate in area of high population density (such as urban areas). This is due to a number of factors:
According to the ITT Census data 2020/21:
HEIs are also more likely to attract trainees with an Upper Second degree: total 13,253 – average of 192, across 69 providers (in comparison SCITTs: total of 5,025 and on average of 31 across 164 providers).
However, the geographical distribution of providers shows that focussing on the scale of provision does centralise around urban areas. The four largest providers University College London, Sheffield Hallam University, Birmingham City University, The Manchester Metropolitan University, Edge Hill University (near Liverpool) are all based in major urban conurbations. Large urban areas also have more choice with more than one provider.
Research into the costs and benefits of ITE (Allen et al 2014) was unable to draw any conclusions about the long-term costs and benefits of different routes, such as varying retention rates, due to a lack of the necessary data. They were also unable to consider lower economies of scale in advertising, recruitment and training or the possible shortfall in supply of newly qualified teachers that may result from less centralised (typically university-based) training.
Preferences and assumptions of applicants. Across ITT, there is an assumption about quality and scale. For example, across Australia, the highest quality programmes are assumed to be those described as boutique (Fraser & Lefty, 2018). This is based on assumption that high quality ITT requires high levels of personalisation which is best achieved on small programmes, with a smaller range of dedicated partners and one-to-one supervision. Applicants are often concerned that larger programmes will be “anonymous”, with poor levels of tutor interaction and without high quality personalised mentoring and support.
Labaree (2006), in his review of teacher education programmes across the US, highlights a paradoxical relationship between perceptions of prestige and professionalism and scale: that small scale elite programmes are viewed as more prestigious which makes teaching more attractive to better qualified graduates; large scale programmes could be seen as being easier to get into and so could be less likely to attract high achieving academic applicants.
Increased size = increased complexity. West (2017) highlights the “power laws” connected with scale: that scaling up is not a linear process, and that large scale includes super-linear advantages (eg, large cities have more services than a linear scale would suggest) there are also sub-linear disadvantages (but there is also increased crime rate, but the increase in crime is lower than the increase in services).
Darling-Hammond and colleagues (2006, 2017; 2013) have highlighted that high-quality programmes require a shared vision and consistent implementation of that vision across all aspects of the programme and across all partners. Increased student numbers make this more challenging with the corresponding increases in the number of mentors, schools, and tutors.
Opportunities of large-scale provision Research into the practices of large-scale university-based provision internationally (Brooks, 2021) has highlighted that scale can provide certain opportunities:
Brooks, C. (2021). Initial Teacher Education at Scale: Quality Conundrums. London: Routledge.
Darling-Hammond, L. (2006). Powerful Teacher Education.: Lessons from Exemplary Programs. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.
Darling-Hammond, L. (2017). Teacher education around the world: What can we learn from international practice? European Journal of Teacher Education, 40(3), 291-309. doi:10.1080/02619768.2017.1315399
Darling-Hammond, L., & Lieberman, A. (2013). Teacher education around the world: Changing policies and practices. Abingdon: Routledge.
Fraser, J. W., & Lefty, L. (2018). Teaching teachers: Changing paths and enduring debates: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Labaree, D. F. (2006). The trouble with ed schools. New Haven: Yale University Press.
West, G. (2017). Scale. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
Worth, J., De Lazzari, G., & Hillary, J. (2017). Teacher Retention and Turnover Research: Interim Report. Slough: NFER.