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McConnell urges new shake-up in training

The status quo in teacher education is under attack on two fronts in the wake of McCrone, reports Neil Munro.

The Education Minister has signalled his wish to see a fundamental shake-up in the way teachers are prepared for the classroom, as part of the review of initial teacher education agreed in the teachers' pay settlement.

Jack McConnell outlines his views in the current edition of Teaching Scotland, the journal of the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

He revealed he had both the content and the quality of courses in his sights, not just the narrower "structure of qualifications" on which the teacher education institutions and the GTC would prefer to concentrate.

The Minister wants in particular to see a more practical emphasis in teacher education, without jettisoning the academic elements of existing qualifications. He cites discipline and management skills as two key requirements, possibly backed by school-based mentors as teachers move from initial training to probation and into their careers.

Mr McConnell also urges the teacher education institutions (TEIs) to draw their students from a ider variety of backgrounds, an appeal which is likely to feature in the Scottish Executive's forthcoming recruitment drive. "It is not good if every teacher goes from school to university to teacher training and is never out of the education environment," he told Teaching Scotland.

This call for greater diversity is an implicit rejection of entry barriers to training in favour of concentration on the quality of the output, a demand which is supported most notably by Douglas Weir, Strathclyde University's dean of education.

It reflects a broader approach which is reinforced by Mr McConnell's strong belief that teachers would benefit from having ongoing training alongside other council staff, which is also in line with the "joined-up services" philosophy behind new community schools.

Despite his strong personal commitment to continuous professional development, however, Mr McConnell has ruled out making it a condition of being allowed to remain in teaching - at least for the time being. That would be a radical step, he told the GTC journal. It was more important to get the quality of CPD right first.

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