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Experience is key to work placement

Teacher-training colleges are struggling to place PGCE students in schools, since the introduction of new standards calling for all trainees to have experience of at least two key stages, writes Adi Bloom.

In September 2002, the Teacher Training Agency ruled that PGCE students could only qualify if they have held trainee placements in two key stages.

Any college which fails to provide this training for its students will be deemed non-compliant by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted).

Colleges, which claim that schools are often reluctant to accept student placements, citing staff shortages or forthcoming inspections, say that the new regulation has compounded the problem.

"We used to offer a seven to 11 programme. But, since the new regulations, we've had to make it five to 11, introducing a key stage 1 element," said Peter Fleming, head of initial teacher training at York St John college at the University of Leeds based in York.

"We're now trying to get twice as many pupils into key stage 1, so we've found it challenging to find places for students. I attribute this directly to the change in requirements."

"This is the straw that could break the camel's back. It's just one extra facet worsening a situation that is already difficult," said James Williams, PGCE programme leader at Sussex University.

Once teachers have graduated, they will be qualified to work in both primary and secondary schools, and to teach any subject, regardless of their training. But the TTA does not see any contradiction between the strict demands it makes of its trainees, and the freedom given to newly qualified teachers.

"Successful teaching in any single key stage depends to some extent on an awareness of what has gone before and what is to follow," said a TTA spokesperson.

"The trainee regulations are a realistic interpretation of the actual range of teaching covered by most teachers, and a reflection of the expectation held by heads and governing bodies when appointing staff."

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