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Can in-service courses fiasco be sorted out?;Letter

Anthea Millett says that the Teacher Training Agency "inherited. . . a closed group of (higher education) providers routinely receiving money year after year" (TES, March 27). She implies this represented a monopoly which needed to be opened up to the fresh air of competition in a free market.

Factor that up to the system as a whole: a "closed group" of universities offering degree programmes; a "closed group" of schools educating children and young people; a "closed group" of NHS hospitals routinely receiving money year after year to enable them to continue their work. The fact is that these HE providers carry out work for which they are (still) well-suited, work which no one else is doing: offering award-bearing continuing professional development of a kind which teachers can find only in higher education. As a result of the bidding process introduced by TTA, half of that work is to be phased out, with devastating consequences for teachers in some regions of England.

Ms Millett asserts that this system "was not geared up to meet clearly defined educational objectives". Can this really be true? No higher education provider would have lasted long had it not matched its courses carefully to the needs identified by teachers, schools and local education authorities. Teachers are not forced to attend twilight sessions at the end of a busy day in the classroom: they choose to go because they find there something which really does help them meet their objectives - though not, it seems, objectives identified by the TTA. What (for instance) will now happen to all that lost special needs provision? If that is not considered a clearly-defined educational objective by the TTA, it certainly is by the Government.

It is much to be hoped that the "interim bidding rounds" the TTA has now said it will introduce will quickly rectify the problems this exercise has so unfortunately created. One has to ask, though, why the TTA could not have anticipated the likely results of its reforms before, and not after, taking its decision.

MICHAEL NEWBY

Chair-elect Universities Council for the Education of Teachers 58 Gordon Square London WC1

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