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A new focus for primary teachers

A new super subject association is in the offing as ministers attempt to foster professional expertise in the classroom.

A single council for all the subjects, aiming to enhance cross-curricular professional development, has the backing of the Government and could be launched within two years. One of its main aims will be to encourage primary teachers - vastly outnumbered in traditional subject associations by their secondary counterparts - to become members.

More than 20 subject bodies are already involved in an informal government-backed group seen as a precursor to the council, which is likely to be led by a permanent director. Lord Adonis, the schools minister, is thought to be enthusiastic about it.

Ian McNeilly, of the National Association for the Teaching of English, said the enthusiasm among teachers for the project was obvious when subject associations met recently to discuss it.

He said: "This is a rare government initiative I'm fully behind. You cannot really expect primary teachers, who teach everything, to join lots of different subject associations."

The council would also sponsor cross-curricular training for both primary and secondary teachers. Subject-based professional development is also being encouraged by the Training and Development Agency for Schools, said Mr McNeilly. It is now paying universities to develop subject-based training programmes for teachers which lead to masters degrees.

Chris Davis, of the National Primary Heads Association, welcomed the emphasis on working with primary teachers, although with reservations. He said many primary teachers were sceptical. There was still some concern that these groups often tended to think in subject-specific ways, calling for their own subjects to be expanded without taking into account the overall impact on teachers.

The classic example was the creation of the national curriculum in 1988, when well-intentioned moves by experts to include as much detail in their own subjects had overloaded teachers and pupils.

He said: "If this body is to be set up, I think it's absolutely crucial that the primary voice, with its cross-curricular expertise, is there."

* warwick.mansell@tes.co.uk

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