A private/public partnership has been chosen to replace a university in providing initial teacher education training, leaving some worried

Teach First NZ, a private training programme that places graduates in low decile schools, has a new partner.

Newsroom revealed earlier this week that Teach First had parted ways with the University of Auckland.

This placed it in a race against time to find a new partner and develop an approved programme for its 2018 intake, which it had already started recruiting for.

Teach First recruits high-calibre graduates and puts them through an eight-week course before they are sent to a school to begin teaching

It is one of the Government’s initiatives to tackle a teacher shortage and has had its funding extended through to 2019.

Since its start in 2013 it has received positive evaluations, but the University of Auckland, which developed the programme, has withdrawn due to fiscal reasons and uncertainty about an ongoing review of the initial teacher education sector.

The Labour Party and the PPTA both raised concerns about the loss of the university and whether a replacement would have the same level of expertise.

Teach First has now announced that The Mind Lab, a public-private partnership with Unitec that provides digital-centric courses for children and teachers, will develop the new course.

Founded by Frances Valintine, The Mind Lab has grown rapidly since 2013 and has centres across New Zealand.

It has, however, never provided initial teacher education, instead providing courses for teachers who are already qualified.

Both Teach First and The Mind Lab are confident they can develop a robust programme.

Valintine said she jumped at the opportunity to partner with Teach First and was well-placed to do so, already providing the largest post-graduate programme in the country with one in 24 teachers having been through a course.

“We are a practice-based institute with Unitec, it’s all about applied practice which is exactly what the Teach First programme is — it’s applied within the classroom.”

She said a new masters programme designed from the ground-up would be used, which would have a strong leadership aspect.

Valintine dismissed criticism that The Mind Lab lacked the skillset of a university.

“I think actually we have as much experience, if not more experience than anyone else in the country in terms of what we’re doing.”

It will be a race for the new programme to be re-certified by the Education Council, NZQA and the Ministry of Education.

Jay Allnutt, Teach First’s chief executive, is confident the course will be ready in time and said he was happy with The Mind Lab’s skillset.

“Number one I would say the University of Auckland is a very prestigious organisation and we’ve enjoyed working with them. That’s something we’re going to have to develop to make sure we have all the expertise we need.”

Teach First is strongly supported by outgoing Education Minister Hekia Parata, who has defended it from criticism.

She will be keen to see the course continue, but other political parties and education unions will be watching keenly how the situation develops.

PPTA president Jack Boyle has high praise for what Teach First had achieved in partnership with a university, but was disappointed to see them move away from a tertiary provider.

Similar programmes in other countries that had done the same had been found to be of lower quality, he said.

The Mind Lab had been providing good, targeted courses for teachers but Boyle was unsure about how they would adapt to such a different area.

“It’s a pretty big jump from providing a pretty narrow set of qualifications largely based around IT to providing a broad based and high-quality initial education teacher programme. “Let’s just put it out there, we would have been much more comfortable with a reputable and established university partner supporting the Teach First programme.”

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