Urn: 70182 Region: East of England Remit

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Today’s graduates – tomorrow’s teachers: Alban Federation

URN: 70182

Region: East of England

Remit: Schools

Provider background

The Alban Federation is coordinated by the Alban Teaching School Alliance and based at Sandringham School in St Albans. While it works primarily to serve the training and teacher recruitment needs of local secondary schools within the St Albans and Harpenden area, it also provides newly qualified teachers for Hertfordshire local authority. It was the second ITE provider judged outstanding in November 2012 under the new ITE inspection framework introduced earlier that year.

Brief description

This case study highlights the success of The Alban Federation as an outstanding teacher training partnership. It focuses on the Federation’s rigorous selection process and the exceptionally high expectations of the Federation, which trainees consistently meet. Trainees receive excellent support and high quality training from the start of the programme from their highly skilled and committed mentors. The Federation has also responded successfully to the challenges and opportunities provided by the currently changing landscape of initial teacher education (ITE).

This is part of a set of eight examples showcasing good practice in initial teacher education.

The good practice in detail

High expectations and the rigorous selection process

The comprehensive and rigorous selection process that Alban trainees go through to gain a place on the training programmes shows the high expectations of the Federation.

When applications are received via the central portal they are checked by both the Federation’s Coordinator and Administrator. This ensures that the applicant meets the statutory requirements for teacher training and any additional requirements for the route for which they are applying. Each application is then carefully tracked using the application tracking sheet throughout all four stages of the recruitment and selection process: the initial selection process, the initial visit, the school selection day and the interview.

Stage 1: The initial selection process

The Alban Federation applies the following selection criteria for all routes into teacher training.

  • A degree of 2:2 or higher from a United Kingdom Higher Education Institution (HEI) or an equivalent overseas qualification confirmed by the National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC).1

  • Prior to starting their training, applicants must have a minimum of five days’ experience in school. If applicants do not meet this requirement by the time of the school selection day, then this must be arranged subsequently by the applicant. The five days can be completed in any school offering relevant experience to the training they will undertake.

In addition to the above, for the School Direct Training Programme (salaried) route, applicants require three years’ career experience.

Applications that meet the selection criteria are forwarded by the Alban Federation to the professional mentors in partnership schools with a clear indication for which route they have applied. Applicants are informed via the Alban Federation website that they will be contacted directly by any partnership school that wishes to proceed with their application.

Professional mentors discuss applications with headteachers, heads of subject and potential subject mentors and then make a decision about which applicant(s) to invite for an initial visit. If none of the partnership schools wish to proceed with the applicant, they are informed they have been unsuccessful on this occasion with reasons for the decision and guidance on how to strengthen any future application (if appropriate).

Stage 2: The initial visit

The initial visit to the partnership school is arranged by the professional mentor to give both the school and the applicant the opportunity to decide if this would be a suitable environment for their training. To make this process more manageable, several applicants visit the school on the same day. Some of the schools hold specific ‘subject days’ when all of the applicants for a subject attend together. If the initial visit is successful the applicant will be invited to a subsequent school selection day by the professional mentor.

Stage 3: The school selection day

This is held in the partnership school and is the first stage in the formal interview process. During the course of the day, the applicant will be interviewed by:

  • the headteacher and/or professional mentor to determine their suitability for teaching

  • colleagues in their subject department to determine whether they have adequate subject knowledge

  • a pupil panel so that the school can use feedback from pupils as part of the decision-making process.

Interview sheets will be completed for each section, including a declaration sheet – a way of recommending an applicant for a formal interview. The applicant will meet other members of the prospective host department and spend time observing lessons. If the applicant has prior teaching experience they are asked to teach part or even the whole of a lesson during the school selection day. Applicants may be required to attend these days at more than one school if several schools are interested in their application.

Stage 4: The Federation interview

If a partnership school wishes to offer a training place to an applicant this will be indicated in the school selection day outcomes forwarded to the Alban Federation.

The final stage in the process is the Federation interview undertaken by a professional panel comprising the Federation Coordinator, the professional mentor from the potential partnership school, and an additional independent representative from the partnership. Applicants are asked to provide formal proof of identity, original qualification certificates and to complete an additional information form in relation to safeguarding checks. The interview process follows the Federation’s Equality of Opportunity policy.

The final decision about a candidate’s suitability for teacher training is based on all of the information and feedback from the entire selection process including from references.

If an applicant is suitable for a place at more than one school, then their views and the school’s needs are also considered when deciding which school to place them. Places are offered through a formal conditional offer letter sent by the Alban Federation. The Coordinator advises partnership schools of any further action that applicants need to take before training can proceed through a ‘conditions and follow through’ document.

If the Federation judges the applicant is not suitable for teacher training, they will advise the partnership school that they will not act as a training provider for this applicant.

Support and high-quality training provided by highly skilled and committed mentors

The mentors selected to support me (subject and professional) were experienced in their field and were able to provide me with the right level of support throughout my training year, professionally and personally. The really outstanding feature…is the excellent level of communication and therefore, the understanding of the trainees and their needs… I was expected to aim high and push myself to gain as much experience as possible in order to become the best teacher that I possibly could and yet there was always the knowledge that should I be struggling with anything, a support network was in place to help and guide me.’– Former trainee
rainees are supported throughout their training year by committed, experienced and expert subject and professional mentors. They devote their time and energy to providing support and training. Consistently high-quality mentoring is ensured by frequent and effective communication between all those involved in the training process.

A particular strength of the partnership is the commitment and expertise of the key group of professional mentors. They are all highly experienced teachers, most holding leadership positions within their school. This group meets on a monthly basis and this frequency of contact is the ‘glue’ that holds the partnership together. At these monthly meetings:

  • the progress of each trainee is reviewed

  • quality assurance information is evaluated

  • information is used to inform both operational and strategic planning.

Professional mentors also take responsibility for the smooth running of the partnership within their schools, including the efficient organisation of a weekly professional studies programme that runs across the partnership. This enables the training programme to draw on the strengths of all schools in the partnership and enables trainees to gain experience in each of the partnership schools during their training.

The partnership has an extensive group of experienced subject mentors, many of whom have taken several trainees ‘under their wing’ over the years. They have encouraged their own staff to get fully involved in mentoring. A number of current subject mentors are former trainees employed in the partnership schools. They relish the opportunity to offer the same high-quality mentoring that they experienced while training to others joining the profession.

The Alban Federation in-school training was outstanding, in particular the supportive coaching environment created by the subject and professional mentors. The professional development sessions gave me a platform upon which to study and go on to gain a Master’s degree in Education. I have recently been appointed as an Assistant Head at Sandringham School from September 2013, clearly demonstrating the solid foundation that an Alban Federation ITT course provided for my own professional development.’

Assistant Headteacher at Sandringham School

eachers in the partnership schools are quick to recognise the opportunities being involved in successful ITE programmes offers for their own professional development and recognise how much they gain from acting as mentors

Responding to the changing ITE landscape

With the graduate teacher programme ending the Alban Federation has successfully bid for accreditation as a school-centred initial teacher training (SCITT) partnership. As an entirely school-based partnership the transition to the School Direct Training Programme from an employment-based route has been relatively straightforward as the desired structures were already in place.

From September 2013, four new schools have joined the partnership and it is running two programmes:

  • the School Direct Training Programme (salaried)

  • the School Direct Training Programme (tuition fee).

Planning the completely new tuition fee programme presented the partnership with new and interesting challenges which they have met by working collaboratively with their extended partnership of schools.

Tuition fee trainees have had an intensive six-week core training programme at the start of the course and the partnership has worked together to devise a programme which is entirely school-based.

The partnership identified a key theme for early training for each of the six weeks, and the schools have worked in pairs to develop a particular theme and training materials. As a result, the tuition fee trainees benefit from spending time in each of the partnership schools during the first six weeks of the training.

The themes for each week’s training were:

  • ‘Introduction to the Alban Federation’

  • ‘How children learn, what children learn’

  • ‘Special Educational Needs’

  • ‘Lesson planning skills’

  • ‘Managing behaviour’

  • ‘Assessment for learning’.


Although the inspection of the Alban Federation’s ITE provision, in November 2012, took place relatively early in their training, trainees were already demonstrating notable strengths in terms of their teaching and their standards for professional and personal conduct.


‘…Prior experience and skills [were] carefully considered when deciding on how the programme of training will proceed. This gave me the opportunity to develop my skills quickly and effectively to become a confident NQT. My personalised programme gave me a high level of challenge early on in my training, while my subject and professional mentors gave me encouragement and support to allow me to rise to the challenges provided.’

Former trainee

his is because the training focuses on the individual development of trainees’ practical teaching skills and the need to ensure that the pupils they teach make at least good progress in their learning. The partnership prides itself on its outstanding ‘highly personalised, locally based initial teacher training.’

The high-quality preparation of the good and outstanding teachers produced by the Federation means that trainees complete their training and gain employment. Most of the Federation’s former trainees gain responsibility and leadership posts early in their careers.

Other good practice examples in this set

Alban Federation

London East Consortium, University of Cumbria

Stockton-on-Tees Teacher Training Partnership

Suffolk and Norfolk Primary SCITT

Two Mile Ash ITT Partnership

University of Durham – primary

University of Durham – secondary

Wakefield Regional Partnership for Initial Teacher Training

    autoshape 2

1 NARIC is responsible for providing information, advice and expert opinion on worldwide qualifications. 50% of applicants’ initial degree must relate to the subject they intend to train in.

Good practice example: schools

Alban Federation

May 2014, 140043

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