Exclusive: Early years should be 'prerequisite' of all teachers' training, says Sir David Carter

Proposal from national schools commissioner could help disadvantaged secondary pupils, experts say

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Understanding good early years teaching should be a “prerequisite” of every teacher’s training, the national schools commissioner has said.

Sir David Carter’s proposal has received a broad welcome, with some suggesting it could help disadvantaged secondary school pupils who are behind their peers to catch up.

Sir David told the recent Bett Academies Summit in Birmingham that where he sees outstandingly good early years practice, he saw the foundations on which the next layers are built.

“I think that focus of what really good early years teaching looks like should actually be a prerequisite of every teacher’s training,” he said, “even if they are working in the secondary sector, to understand what happens in terms of phonics teaching, in terms of good stages of development, that underpins everything that we do.”

Last year, a group of independent experts led by Stephen Munday, chief executive of the Cam Academy Trust, published a framework of core content for initial teaching training (ITT) courses.

Asked about Sir David’s thoughts, Mr Munday told Tes that “in principle, it’s got to make sense”.

“It contextualises the teaching you are trying to do,” he added. “All good teaching should be taking account of prior learning. This is fundamental.

“Not having a clue about it does not seem a good principle in terms of what you need for good teaching.”

But he said his group had not included early years in the framework for all teachers because of “the practicalities”, given the amount of learning already squeezed into the ITT curriculum.

James Noble-Rogers, the executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, described himself as “sympathetic” to Sir David’s idea.

However, he warned that “for postgraduates, you are talking about trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot”.

Instead, he suggested they could learn about good early years practice in the first years after they qualify.

Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, a charity dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement, said: “We do need to make sure secondary schools have the tools and resources to support those pupils who are still struggling to read and write at age 11.

“This could mean making sure that every teacher has a good grounding in early and primary literacy approaches. The consequences for these pupils, if they fall even further behind, are just too big for us not to look at every option.”

This is an edited article from the 7 April edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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