New route into teaching in Scotland could bypass universities

Report predicts ‘profound’ change to training, with the SNP mooting a version of Teach First

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The Scottish government is “shortly” to tender for a new route into teaching that could open the way for initial teacher education to take place largely outside of universities, Tes Scotland can reveal.

Teach First – a fast-track route into teaching, long resisted in Scotland – will be able to tender for the new route, which will be aimed at attracting “high-quality graduates in priority areas and subjects”.

The development sheds further light on a pledge in the government’s delivery plan, published last June, which referred to “developing a new route” that would “build on the model developed in partnership with the University of Aberdeen to attract career changers to the profession”.

The move comes as a leading academic has shared findings with Tes Scotland, which conclude that university-based training gives teachers the “critical edge” they need to succeed in the classroom.

The research, by Ian Menter, commissioned by the Scottish Council of Deans of Education, is a sign that battle lines are being drawn ahead of a potentially significant shift in the way teacher education is delivered.

The emeritus professor of teacher education at the University of Oxford told Tes Scotland: “The university contribution provides the critical edge that 21st-century teachers desperately need in order to undertake their challenging work successfully.”

Looking at the routes

It would be “a tragedy” if Scotland were to introduce a route into teaching that bypassed universities, he said.

A Scottish government spokesperson said it was "essential" all teacher education routes were of the highest quality and any new routes would have to be accredited by the teaching watchdog, the General Teaching Council for Scotland. However, she added that the tender for the new route into teaching would be open to more than just the universities. She said: “The tender will be open not just to universities, but to organisations capable of delivering high-quality teacher education experiences.”

The SNP government has indicated on a number of occasions that it is interested in new routes into teaching “specifically designed to attract high quality graduates into priority areas and subjects”, prompting speculation that it might introduce a Scottish version of Teach First.

Teach First recruits receive university input for five weeks before they begin working in schools, where they deliver 80 per cent of a teacher’s timetable and begin working towards the Postgraduate Diploma in Education over two years.  They also receive training from them over the two year course.

In recent weeks, Teach First has been a topic of discussion at the education committee’s inquiry into workforce planning, as well as at First Minister’s Questions.

Aiming high

Meanwhile, also during the education committee inquiry, the schools of education have come under criticism over the content of their teacher education courses.

But Dr Rowena Arshad, head of the University of Edinburgh’s school of education, told Tes Scotland the aim should be for more highly qualified teachers and an emulation of the Finnish model of a master’s-level profession in order to create “critical professionals able to adapt to complexity and diverse circumstances”.

A Teach First spokesman said: "Teach First works closely with universities in England and Wales – with graduates receiving training from them across two years as they deliver the Post Graduate Diploma of Education.

"If we ever do anything in Scotland, universities would be at the heart of that – it would need to be a new Scottish model built on Scottish universities’ expertise."

Writing in today's Tes Scotland, Teach First executive director James Westhead argues a Scottish programme "would chime with and support many of the Scottish government's ambitions around attainment and leadership."

This is an edited version of an article in the 2 June edition of Tes Scotland. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. Tes Scotland magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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