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HE staff turnover means trainee teachers lose out

Student teachers on placement are suffering because of cuts to initial teacher education, according to HMIE.

Student teachers on placement are suffering because of cuts to initial teacher education, according to HMIE.

The "restructuring and reduction" of teacher education staff had weakened the relationship between councils, schools and universities, inspectors found in their two-year aspect review of initial teacher education, published yesterday.

A "valuable working relationship", helpful in offering particular support to individual students, had been lost due to the recent high level of staff turnover at all universities, education authority and university staff reported. And school staff complained they no longer had "a personal relationship" with university staff responsible for individual students.

Headteachers and education authority staff also felt professional observation by university staff of students during placement had become "too limited".

Inspectors concluded whilst there were some examples of close partnership working between universities, education authorities and schools, there was nevertheless "headroom for improvement".

They said: "Closer joint working by all concerned would lead to more consistent, better learning experiences for all students when on placement."

In 2008, Children's Minister Adam Ingram announced the HMIE review into "how, and how well" universities were preparing new teachers to deliver Curriculum for Excellence.

Inspectors described the intervening period as a time of "significant challenge". Key university staff had changed and the "differing circumstances prevailing in each university have affected the pace and direction of its development of CfE".

Nevertheless, they reported that over the two years of the review, "almost all" universities had made good or very good progress in developing staff's understanding of CfE.

Challenges included:

- PGDE students' limited time in training resulting in less knowledge and understanding of curriculum content and skills development, as well as pedagogical expertise;

- the lack of consistent, high quality experiences for students to observe good practice in CfE;

- the need for universities and schools to ensure that all primary NQTs had a clear understanding of how to teach the basics of reading;

- the need to ensure an appropriate balance between NQTs' knowledge of theory and research, and their acquisition of practical teaching skills;

- a small number of university staff not yet effectively communicating the opportunities afforded by CfE;

- universities needed more robust approaches to improving "a few" students' literacy and numeracy skills;

- better collaboration between councils and universities to develop continuing professional development.

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