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Inspection may block early-years recruits

SCHOOLS could find themselves short of new early-years and sixth-form specialists because of changes in the inspection of teacher training, writes Karen Thornton.

The new framework requires students to demonstrate their skills during substantial teaching placements. But trainees are finding it difficult to find teaching practice places in nurseries and sixth forms which are less likely to be able to offer work lasting the required time.

Teachers' leaders fear the changes will lead to teachers becoming less employable because they will be restricted to a narrow age range.

Universities say they are now reducing postgraduate secondary courses to 11 to 16 and restricting the age range of primary training because they cannot meet the inspectors' requirements.

Early-years specialists are already in short supply, as the Government aims to fulfil its commitment to provide nursery education for three-year-olds.

But the Office for Standards in Education says universities have had enough time to prepare for the inspection changes, which came into effect last September.

A handful of courses have already run into trouble with the inspectors because they covered three key stages but were unable to provide enough placements.

For example, 11 to 19 business studies courses were found to be technically breaking the rules because hardly any schools teach the subject at key stage 3 and the placements did not meet the standards for qualified teacher status. The courses are now being reduced to cover the ages 11-16.

The Teacher Training Agency is advising providers to restrict their courses to two key stages, or provide two-phase tracks within all-through courses.

For example, trainees could cover the full 11 to 18 age range, but be assessed for qualified teacher status in only 11 to 16 or 14 to 19.

In a one-year PGCE, primary trainees must spend at least 18 weeks being trained in schools, and secondary at least 24 weeks.

Peter Gilroy, former Universities Council for the Education of Teachers chairman, said: "The concern is that the powers-that-be seem unaware of what that might mean for further education colleges and sixth forms."

Martin Ward, deputy general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said newly-qualified teachers without sixth-form training might find themselves less "saleable" to schools.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "If the consequences are damaging to early-years or post-16 teaching, then this is something the government agencies ought to sort out."

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