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What is a SCITT and why are these training programmes important?

Posted on: 27 Feb 2018
Posted by: Barnaby Lenon

The shortage of modern languages, maths and physics teachers in England means that the introduction of School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) groups are more important than ever in supporting the training of good teachers.

In 2017 a group of independent schools set up a modern languages SCITT - School Centred Initial Teacher Training group - with Silverdale School in Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University. A similar SCITT has begun this year, run by Wycombe High School and the University of Buckingham for physics and maths. Both programmes are the result of pioneering partnerships between the state and independent sectors to build numbers of trainee teachers.


These two SCITTs are based on four principles:

  1. There is a national shortage of teachers in these subjects and we would like to increase the supply by persuading people to try teaching because they are so attracted by the quality of the course on offer.
  2. In these subjects (modern languages, physics and maths) independent schools have a high proportion of candidates who go on to take A-level and an even higher proportion of those who get top grades. It therefore makes sense to use their expertise. Independent schools have always run teaching practice for trainee teachers doing PGCEs (post-graduate certificate of education) and they have gone on to teach successfully in the state sector. But the proportion of teachers taking a PGCE has fallen as School Direct has grown as an alternative method of training. So independent schools are less involved in training for the state sector than they were. School Direct has certain advantages but you are NOT guaranteed to be trained within the context of a strong academic department using this route.
  3. Only schools with very strong modern languages/maths/physics departments are allowed to be part of the SCITT group. So the trainee teachers will be exposed to the best practice available in state and independent schools in England. For example, Headington School in Oxford is part of the physics/maths SCITT because it has such a good track record of persuading girls to choose these subjects at school and then at university. Given the small number of girls who take physics A-level, there is much that can be learnt from them.
  4. They are based on school subjects. We believe that this is essential. Good subject knowledge is what defines the best teachers. Teachers should be trained in the context of their chosen subject.


Both SCITTs will start small and then grow. So they will do little to help solve the teacher shortage to start with. But over time, if they are successful and the government permits it, they will expand. Other subjects and other SCITTs may evolve. Independent schools are keen to be fully involved.

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About Barnaby Lenon

Barnaby Lenon is chairman of ISC.

Barnaby taught at Sherborne School and Eton College for 12 years, was deputy head of Highgate School, head of Trinity School Croydon and head of Harrow (12 years). He has been a governor of twenty-two schools. He is chairman of governors of the London Academy of Excellence, a free school which opened in 2012 in Newham, east London. He is chairman of the Independent Schools Council, a trustee of the Yellow Submarine charity, a director of the New Schools Network and a member of the Advisory Council of Parents and Teachers for Excellence. He has recently published two books: ‘Much Promise: successful schools in England’ and ‘Other People’s Children: what happens to the academically least successful 50%?’