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Fight on for funded mentoring training

Practitioners say it is essential to help staff to support student teachers

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Practitioners say it is essential to help staff to support student teachers

Teachers and school leaders have called for properly funded training in mentoring and coaching to better equip staff to support student teachers.

They say it is also needed to ensure that the new programme of professional update is effective.

Challenging conversations between managers and teachers are considered central to the success of professional update, under which teachers will be required to demonstrate every five years that they are continuously improving their skills.

Good-quality mentoring and coaching in schools is also seen as key to providing successful placements for student teachers.

But mentoring did not come naturally to everybody, said Pam Nesbitt, president of the Association for Head- teachers and Deputes in Scotland, in evidence to the Scottish Parliament's education committee this week.

The high number of student teachers requiring placements meant that they were not always placed with suitable staff, Mrs Nesbitt said. Her own school had just had seven students at one time, she added.

When the one-year teacher induction scheme was introduced in 2002, money for mentoring training was ring-fenced, Kay Barnett, convener of the Educational Institute of Scotland's education committee, told MSPs, who were taking evidence on teacher education and career-long professional learning.

The demise of subject departments in secondary schools and their replacement with a faculty system had also led to "issues in relation to supporting students", she said.

Schools should not think they were doing universities a favour by taking students, argued former senior HMIE chief inspector Graham Donaldson and Anthony Finn, chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

Mr Finn said: "I don't think we should be allowing schools to opt out. Where they don't want to take a student but are able to do so, there should be a professional obligation."

In the past, CPD had been "mundane" at times and done to teachers, Mr Finn continued.

The focus on master's- level professional development was necessary because the issues facing education were complex and difficult, said Professor Donaldson, author of Teaching Scotland's Future, the review of teacher education.

But Mrs Barnett questioned how quickly teachers would take up opportunities while there were unresolved issues in relation to salaries, pensions and workload. And Scottish teachers remained unhappy about the scrapping of the chartered teacher scheme. "There is a degree of cynicism," she said.

The witnesses railed against press reporting of teachers' literacy and numeracy skills, sparked by the introduction of literacy and numeracy assessments for trainee teachers from September next year.

Photo: Kay Barnett: among those giving evidence to MSPs. Photo credit: Alan Richardson

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