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Painless check-ups on teacher trainers

Repeated, time-consuming scrutiny of teacher education by different bodies should be a thing of the past if Government proposals work out. Four external organisations would co-operate and share information instead of duplicating inspections.

The plans come from a working group chaired by Gerry Wilson, head of the Scottish Office Education and Industry Department, which was set up following Sir Stewart Sutherland's report to the Dearing committee on teacher education. The principal of Edinburgh University said that duplication had to be reduced while quality should continue to be measured and guaranteed.

The proposed "collaborative review", which on a full scale would happen only once every six years, would validate institutions' own evaluation of their courses and work with student teachers. It would ensure that the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council was informed of students' experience, a component in funding decisions. The General Teaching Council would have the information to make decisions on accrediting and reviewing courses.

The Inspectorate would be able to advise the Secretary of State (or education minister in the new parliament) and the Quality Assurance Agency, which evaluates higher education, would be able to judge academic standards and student life. The review might extend throughout a year with up to 10 days in a teacher education institute and about five days in schools, though no more than one in each school where students were placed.

Previously the time "burden" on colleges could run to anywhere between five and 20 days a year on scrutiny of individual courses by the GTC and Scottish Office and participation in the funding council's six-yearly teaching quality assessment exercise.

For lecturers the best news in the report may be that education courses will probably not figure in the QAA six-yearly cycle until between 2003 and 2005.

A member of the working group, Gordon Kirk, dean of education at Moray House Institute of Edinburgh University and formerly a critic of QAA involvement in teacher education, said a satisfactory solution had been achieved as the result of "some direct talking".

Fred Forrester, depute general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, backed the move. There had been "too many fingers in the quality assurance pie".

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