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Exeter fights plans to cut its courses

ONE of the country's most prestigious centres of teacher-training has launched legal proceedings after it was put "on warning" following a critical inspection of one of its courses.

Exeter University's four-year undergraduate course for primary student teachers specialising in English failed an Office for Standards in Education inspection.

The university has applied to the High Court for judicial review of a decision by the Teacher Training Agency to start proceedings to withdraw its teacher-training accreditation and to cut numbers on all of its primary courses, including its post-graduate certificate in education course.

The undergraduate course was rated poor on its assessment of trainees against the standards for qualified teachers, and on trainees' skills in monitoring, assessment, recording, reporting and accountability.

The TTA will now halve student numbers on all of Exeter's primary courses from this autumn, a reduction the university calculates could cost it pound;1.4 million over three years. The university has described the TTA's response as "disproportionate and unreasonable". The undergraduate course in question, which is to be re-inspected later this year, is set to close. Its last students were admitted in October.

Exeter said its seondary courses were consistently rated by inspectors as among the best, while its primary mathematics provision was rated as arguably the strongest in the country.

A TTA spokesman said that almost every provider threatened with withdrawal of accreditation in the past had improved their training by the time of a follow-up inspection.

The TTA has stopped withdrawal procedures against Wolverhampton University, after a reinspection showed a primary English course previously found to be poor had improved. North London University has avoided withdrawal procedures, despite a critical report of its training in primary physical education, because PE is not a core subject.

But withdrawal procedures have been started against several school-centred schemes - the Luton-based Chiltern Training Group, Solihull Secondary Group, and South West Teacher Training in Exeter. The Kent Teacher Training Group, based in Dartford, has avoided the threat of withdrawal procedures by dropping its struggling PE provision.

Two others - the South East Essex Consortium, Southend-on-Sea, and the Woodrow Consortium in South Redditch - have dropped out of teacher-training altogether, after aspects of their courses were rated as poor.

Karen Thornton and Warwick Mansell

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