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League tables can't reach higher

It is with surprise and regret that I read of Labour's David Blunkett's comments on the methods, standards and skills in primary schools and his linking those concerns with a call for league tables of "teacher-training institutions".

League tables may fit with popular conceptions of teacher education (and schools) being akin to the European Championship: they have little connection with the real world of preparing students for the teaching profession where the context is a diminishing pupil regard for teachers in a society whose values, culture and mores have changed dramatically over the past decades. What link is there between league tables and the search for quality enhancement?

It is true, nevertheless, that there have been threats to quality, and it is these factors which should be at the top of the agenda for change in the programmes of all political parties: funding levels must be restored, as it is clear that high-quality teacher education cannot be maintained with the cuts which have been imposed. There must be a review of the balance between school-based elements in programmes and the part played by higher education institutions: too much emphasis has been placed on putting "training", as the politicians insist on calling it, into schools.

Good, successful partnerships between schools and institutions, built up over the years, have been threatened and weakened by rigid Government directives, which have been unrealistic regarding the financial costs of school-based work, while not recognising the educational costs of taking the major responsibility for teacher education away from those best qualified to provide it: universities and colleges.

ALAN COUSINS Chair, teacher education standing committee National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education College of St Mark St John Derriford Road, Plymouth

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