Four-year B.Ed is put to bed

Universities unveil programmes with more academic emphasis in the wake of Donaldson

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The traditional four-year Bachelor of Education degree is on its way out.

The 2012-13 batch of B.Ed students will be the last at the universities of Dundee, Strathclyde and the West of Scotland, with other institutions following suit later.

They are to pioneer new approaches in line with the Donaldson review finding that B.Eds are out of kilter with a modern understanding of teaching.

The institutions' moves to dismantle the B.Ed were confirmed to TESS by Richard Edwards, co-chair of the "national partnership group" shaping responses to Donaldson - although he stressed there were still processes to be gone through within universities and the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

The Donaldson report called for B.Eds to be replaced by concurrent degrees "which combine in-depth academic study in areas beyond education with professional studies and development".

Yolande Muschamp, dean of Dundee University's school of education, said Dundee was already designing a four-year Master of Arts in education which would require detailed study outwith the field of education.

The changes to degrees would vary by university, Professor Muschamp said, but all were "committed" to introducing them "in a phased approach over the next few years".

A spokesman for the University of the West of Scotland said replacements for its B.Ed in primary education would include Bachelor of Arts (Education) degrees with maths, science or languages.

The new degrees should be ready for 2013-14 and would "have a greater emphasis on `core skills' such as literacy, numeracy and languages".

Donald Christie, head of Strathclyde University's school of education, stressed that the Donaldson review coincided with the formation of a new humanities and social sciences faculty, and subsequent move towards a common degree structure.

Students will go through one year of university before deciding on a teaching career, at which point they face a selection process.

Edinburgh University's two B.Ed programmes, in primary education and PE, will undergo "significant changes", said Cara Aitchison, head of the school of education.

The first cohort for the new PE degree should start in 2013-14, with the primary programme commencing in 2014-15.

There will be an emphasis on research and "critical enquiry".

"We've been asking whether we can `make the intellectual cool' as it was in the age of the Scottish Enlightenment," said Professor Aitchison.

Priorities for those devising Edinburgh University's degree for primary teachers include cross-curricular approaches to literacy and numeracy, and the development of Scottish studies.

Changes to degrees, which will also affect Edinburgh's two postgraduate programmes, should enhance students' opportunities to "experience research-led teaching" from the university's "world-renowned" experts in education policy, additional support for learning, child development, child protection, integrated children's services, and outdoor learning.

Aberdeen University already has a "concurrent" model, with students in first and second year taking a range of courses from across the campus.

"The transition to phase out the four-year B.Ed and replace it with a concurrent BA or MA in education will be very simple for us," said Liz Clark, director of learning and teaching.

What Donaldson says

The Donaldson report grants that the B.Ed has many supporters. "Significant demand" remains for a vocational undergraduate route into teaching, and the B.Ed is "generally seen as a good preparation for the classroom".

But the B.Ed risks becoming "too narrowly vocational, which can lead to an over-emphasis on technical skills at the expense of broader and more academically challenging areas of study".

Its proposed solution is "concurrent degrees which combine significant academic study outwith education with rigorous professional development".

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