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Change, change, change for ITE

The review of initial teacher education (ITE) sees no need for institutional reform but calls on universities to develop more flexible part-time and distance learning routes into the profession.

Peter Peacock, Education Minister, has backed the review group's recommendation that access needs to be widened to attract more men, more disabled people and more entrants from ethnic minorities.

The Education Minister holds out the concept of the Scottish Teachers for a New Era initiative - being developed by Aberdeen University and the General Teaching Council for Scotland, with funding from the Hunter Foundation and the Scottish Executive - as a possible example of future radical restructuring.

Mr Peacock commits the Executive to reviewing funding and student support arrangements for flexible and part-time courses and says that it, along with the GTC, will revise entry requirements.

But Mr Peacock effectively dismisses findings by HMIE that many new teachers feel under-prepared. He said that pupil behaviour and dealing with additional support needs - the areas where they felt most exposed - were the most challenging and stretching to all in the profession. "In that regard, the needs of newly qualified teachers are therefore not unique, and I am satisfied the results of the (HMIE) scoping study need to be read in that context," Mr Peacock stated.

"However, there is more work that can be done in relation to new teachers to make sure they are better supported in these important areas of teaching, through ensuring a better structure of professional learning and development, through ITE and induction into further CPD in their early years in the profession."

In a series of challenges to local authorities, universities and the GTC, he calls for greater partnership, better developed relationships and more innovative thinking.

"I shall want to be clear that appropriate arrangements are established to encourage and facilitate exchanges of information about, for example, local teacher supply and demand circumstances, and the content and structure of ITE curricula to ensure that CPD during induction is tailored to complement and build on a teacher's ITE experience," Mr Peacock said.

"Local authorities must tell universities what their service needs are and universities must react accordingly."

Education authorities are told they must standardise feedback to teacher education institutions (TEIs); help to develop mentoring in schools; develop a strategic co-ordination role for placements (something already being developed in response to problems related to the significant increase in numbers); and second more school staff to universities to help in ITE.

Education faculties must allow student teachers to receive elements of their professional education alongside students from other courses, such as child protection.

Universities are asked to become more ready to adapt their provision and, with the GTC, to give classroom management and awareness of additional needs a higher priority.

The GTC is recommended to consider changes to its accreditation systems and quality assurance procedures for universities, while HMIE is being asked to carry out an aspect review of ITE focusing on student placements.

Iain Smith, dean of education at Strathclyde University, welcomed the broad thrust of the minister's challenges to make ITE more flexible, saying Strathclyde had been operating part-time primary courses for five years.

The main constraints had been the prescriptive nature of guidelines on ITE.

"One of the disappointments of the report is that it has not called for an early relaxation on these guidelines. Instead, that is being signalled as something for the medium to long-term."

Mr Smith welcomed proposals to encourage secondment of experienced teachers, but warned: "Student numbers are currently going up very dramatically because of the need for extra teachers, so we need extra staff in TEIs. One of the major sources for that is through the existing teaching force. In the short-term that produces a paradox: the more you recruit staff to TEIs, the more you are contributing to the very problem you are trying to solve."

Professor Pamela Munn, dean of education at Edinburgh University, said the review put new responsibilities on stakeholders to deliver change. For the university sector it meant stepping up efforts to work more closely with local authorities on student placements and becoming more involved in teachers' induction year.

However, Professor Munn warned that the review placed a greater onus on local authorities, in terms of whether all 32 had the capacity to deliver what was expected, and whether education departments which were in the process of merging with social work departments would be able to prioritise teacher training.

Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said: "With this growth and spread of students on placement in schools and the stronger role to be played by local authorities in schools, it will be important that the 'receiving teachers' have the time and space to do that effectively and also that they have the knowledge and the awareness of a sense of what is expected by the TEI of the student teacher."

Lindsay Roy, president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, said that if student teachers were to receive the kind of mentoring offered to probationers, staff needed to be able to spend more time with students and that meant additional funding.

John Mulgrew, director of education for East Ayrshire, who represented the ADES on the ITE review group, said: "Education is now going to be given a much more structured role in working with TEIs and what we have to work out is developing our partnership links. There has to be an appreciation in the TEIs of what the realistic needs are of the education authorities."

Matthew MacIver, GTCregistrar, said: "This is a substantial report which has the potential to create a new culture in initial teacher education in Scotland. In looking at areas like widening access, more flexible pathways to the profession and in appealing to wider sections of the community, it is pointing us in the right direction."

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