The Big Question: Does teacher training need to change?

Each week, we speak to the people who count, people like you, and post their opinions on the big issues in the education world. Read it and comment to make it a lively and insightful debate.

The Big Question: Does teacher training need to change?

An inquiry by the Children, Schools and Families committee has recently been launched into initial teacher training. The inquiry will look at a variety of areas including:

  • The effectiveness of teacher training for preparation of teachers for their roles in primary, secondary, special education, early years or further education
  • Whether routes into teaching are attracting the right candidates
  • The appropriateness of current entry requirements into teacher training
  • An examination of different ways to measure good quality teaching

Do you feel teacher training equips teachers for their roles? Share your views with other TES users by posting below, or you can comment directly to the Children, Schools and Families committee

“By all means have high and demanding entry criteria into the teaching profession but also encourage individuals with personalities into the teaching profession. The emphasis should be on enthusing and motivating young minds and on the acquisition of skills and knowledge A good teacher can “make dirty dish water sound like sparkling wine” and will know that “pupils are not vessels to be filled but candles to be lit.”

“Teach teachers to teach not to jump through predetermined hoops such as target driven agendas, annual SATs and calendar focused league tables. We need a highly motivated, well qualified and probing professional workforce that constantly asks the very powerful question “Why?”
Dr Len Parkyn, Senior teacher, special needs, from Vines Cross in East Sussex


“Teacher training has always been something of a contradiction. Sitting in lectures being talked at by “teacher trainers” never served much a purpose in terms of training a person to teach. It is only by getting into the classroom that a teacher learns the trade. Much like driving really, you learn which pedals to push and how to co-ordinate your movements in the company of the instructor. But you don’t actually learn to drive until you’ve passed your test and have the opportunity to experiment.
How many high flying graduates walk into a classroom and fall at the first hurdle? It’s not because they don’t have the necessary intellect, it is simply that teaching is not about having knowledge and passing it on; it is a characteristic as opposed to ability. Think back to your own education and the best teacher, or if that is too far, read the “my best teacher” section in the TES. The people that stand out as good teachers were not the ones that knew more than everyone else, they were the ones that made learning enjoyable and thus made it interesting.

“Teaching is the ability to create an enthusiasm for learning so that, far from passing on knowledge, the learner takes the understanding off the teacher. It is not about the effectiveness of the teaching, or the methods of measurement, it is all about learning.

“The better farmer makes more from a greater crop, thus the measure of the farmer is in the ‘what is achieved’, not in the ‘what is done’. We must stop watching the farmer and concentrate a little more on the crop. The measure of the teacher is not in the teaching, but in the learning.”
Simon Parker, Head of 14-19 Partnerships, KS4 & Further Education, in Norwich, Norfolk


“Ask children what makes a good teacher - inevitably they all say the same - approachable, good sense of humour, fun, understanding, sympathetic, fair etc. I have yet to come across one that values an academic teacher. Teachers are now prepared academically but not prepared for the “job”. Teachers should do an apprenticeship - it works both ways - they have an opportunity to “feel” if they are suited to the profession and a professional body assesses the candidate’s suitability.

“I can say happily mine is a vocation and I love it. If I didn’t have to get paid I would consider it a great hobby! I was told 30 years ago when I started teaching that I am a good teacher and I have been told the same now.

“If it is possible to measure soft skills then that should be the gauge for entry requirements. I can tell you which pupils in my class would make a good teacher because the ability is innate.

“How do you measure good quality teaching? Use a standard checklist to randomly interview a cross section of children to check on their enthusiasm and attitude to school, interpersonal skills combined with academic progress etc. Use a checklist to chat to teachers to gauge their enthusiasm and approach to work.”
Jinty Joy Orange, primary school teacher, from Hertfordshire