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Dead lock over teacher training

Schools' assessment of students on teaching placements has emerged as a major stumbling block in the General Teaching Council's "partnership" review of teacher training.

The issue led to a vigorous debate at the GTC's meeting in Inverness on Wednesday, which took place in the presence of Raymond Robertson, the Education Minister. It is believed to be the first time a Scottish Office minister has attended a meeting.

Mr Robertson asked the GTC to set up the review after the collapse of the controversial mentoring scheme for teacher training, a move which he acknowlegded could be portrayed as "simply getting us out of a hole". The institutions were pointedly reminded by Mr Robertson, however, that they must be prepared to share some of their "power and responsibility".

But there was little evidence in Inverness of the teacher education leaders being prepared to follow Mr Robertson's advice despite a strong statement from Ivor Sutherland, the GTC's registrar, that schools "must have an equal contribution to make in the field of assessment".

Gordon Kirk, the council's vice-convener and principal of Moray House Institute of Education, agreed that greater school-by-school consistency in assessing and grading students was important, but added that the external examination guaranteed standards.

An even stronger defence of the status quo came from Bart McGettrick, principal of St Andrew's College of Education, who declared; "I believe it is dangerous territory for 'weighting' to be given to schools' assessment of students. That is properly the preserve of those who are responsible for the students' qualification at the end of the day."

George Livingstone, vice-dean at the education faculty of Strathclyde University, told The TES Scotland later that the issue of weighting was a "shibboleth". Mr Livingstone added: "If you create a weighting formula and grade students on a passfail basis, which is one of the options under consideration by the GTC working group, you are effectively giving schools a veto."

The report is now being finalised for consultation before recommendations go to the Education Minister at the end of the year.

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