New staff unprepared for racially diverse classes

Students are happy with their training but want more help teaching ethnic-minority pupils. Karen Thornton reports

NEW teachers are generally satisfied with the quality of training they receive, but want more help with teaching ethnic-minority pupils and using new technology.

The vast majority, just over 80 per cent, of 5,500 newly-qualified teachers felt that their initial training courses were "good" or better, almost the same as last year, and only 2 per cent said they were poor. There was little variation in responses between men and women, undergraduate or postgraduate trainees, or teachers from different ethnic groups.

Primary NQTs were less happy with training than last year (78 per cent said it was "good" or better, down from 82 per cent), while secondary colleagues were more positive (up from 82 to 85 per cent).

Areas rated good by more than 75 per cent of trainees included preparation for the literacy and numeracy strategies; understanding the national curriculum; specialist subject knowledge, skills and understanding; and methods promoting children's learning.

However, for the third year running, the same three areas of training were highlighted as relatively weak: behaviour management, teaching ethnic-minority pupils , and use of computer technology.

Only 60 per cent of NQTs considered their training on managing pupil behaviour to be good or better. The figure was 55 per cent for using ICT in their teaching, and just 30 per cent for preparation for teaching ethnic-minority pupils.

The last result supports the findings of research into the treatment of ethnic-minority children in mainly white schools. Teachers told a research team from Luton University that racial diversity issues had not been covered in either their initial or in-service training.

The Luton report warned: "There was no evidence that either initial training or in-service training had prepared staff for the challenges of diversity that they can expect to meet with increasing frequency in the future."

The Teacher Training Agency has sought NQTs' views on how training can be improved. It wants trainers to draw on the findings to improve courses.

The agency hopes new standards for qualified teacher status, to be introduced next month, will lead to improvements. A spokesman said: "The new standards take account of the need for NQTs to be well prepared for the challenges they will meet in the classroom, including behaviour management, pupil diversity and the use of ICT. They should help ensure that those who qualify in future will have benefited from training more closely focused on their needs."

Professor Peter Gilroy, chairman of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said he was worried by the lower figures for teaching ethnic-minority pupils. However, other related areas of training - such as teaching mixed ability pupils and promoting pupils' learning - were ranked much better.

"Either students are not making the connection between those three areas or staff are not making those connections for them," he said.

"Minority ethnic pupils in mainly white schools", Tony Cline et al, DFES research brief 365, see www.dfes.gov.ukresearch. See www.canteach.gov.uk for the NQT 2002 survey

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