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A new era in teacher training

Peter Peacock's response to the report by the initial teacher education (ITE) review group has been percolating for some time - since last summer, to be precise. Because the ministerial response has been on the back burner for so long, events have overtaken some of the review group's findings - for example, the need for local authorities to provide strategic co-ordination of student placements.

There are no major surprises. Mr Peacock finds no need for institutional reform, endorses the four-year BEd and one-year PGDE models, and calls for more of the flexible, distance-learning courses that have been evolving in recent years.

Significantly, however, the minister hints that more radical changes may be in the pipeline. His excitement at the concepts being explored in Aberdeen University's "Scottish Teachers for a New Era" initiative, due to take in its first students in August (note the financial support again from the Hunter Foundation), may provide a pointer. That course requires greater partnership between the university and education authorities (a key theme of the review) and sets out a vision of the "new teacher" being more conversant with the application of research to practice in the classroom.

The "new teachers" of the 21st century may relish the opportunities, indeed requirements, to participate in non-education courses as part of their training. But will such an approach satisfy the fundamental concerns that all too many new teachers express - that they emerge from teacher training and their probation year still under-prepared to deal with discipline problems and with additional support needs in the classroom?

Mr Peacock's message in his review is that new teachers are not alone in doubting their abilities in this area - these are the very areas which are the most challenging and stretching to all in the profession. He does acknowledge that more needs to be done, but he cannot allow that support to stop at the door of new entrants. He must ensure that all teachers are confident in their abilities to manage their classes and to meet the diverse needs of pupils with additional needs.

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