Primary sector pays for training

Cash-strapped teacher-training being shored up by goodwill of schools, says study. James Graham reports

The teacher-training system in Wales is heavily subsidised by schools and universities and needs a substantial injection of cash, according to a research study.

Some primary schools are receiving as little as pound;275 for each trainee they take on teaching practice - well short of the real cost of a placement, estimated at pound;1,060.

But university education departments cannot afford to pay the going rate for on-the-job training and often end the year in deficit, says the report, commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW).

The council is now consulting on plans to establish a standard rate for schools, but the prospect of paying more out of existing funds could push education departments to breaking point. In the case of one, unnamed, institution included in the report, staff thought this would mean the closure of teacher-training courses.

HEFCW's initial teacher-training partnership study shows how Wales's seven training providers all pay different rates to schools for each placement.

Secondaries command pound;699-pound;1,000 while primaries receive Pounds 275-pound;729. These rates have largely been frozen since partnership agreements were struck in the mid-1990s and fail to take into account teacher salaries - up 25 per cent since 1997.

The main cost is releasing experienced teachers and senior managers to mentor trainees and undertake teaching observations.

A similar report in England found partnership was under-funded by 20 per cent. In HEFCW's study, author Professor John Howson states: "There are insufficient funds to operate the partnership model in its present form without cross-subsidies by both higher education institutions and schools, particularly primaries."

He says two education departments have deficits of pound;250,000 and Pounds 600,000. But Dr Carl Peters, who chairs the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers Cymru, said: "We all have to look carefully at costs but I've not heard anyone say they won't continue."

Dr Peters, who is also dean of the school of education at Newport University College, added: "We need to increase the funding. The funding council is very sympathetic, but the Assembly would have to allocate more money."

The National Association of Head Teachers Cymru confirmed that primary schools want to see more money. Director Anna Brychan said: "These partnerships are hugely valuable, but there is no reason why they should be funded at a lower level than secondary schools."

It means that primary heads are often forced to balance a commitment to training with "creative use of the budget", according to Jon Murphy, headteacher of Usk Church in Wales primary school in Monmouthshire.

The Assembly has announced plans for a major review of initial teacher training, and tenders to run the review close today. A spokesperson said: "The HEFCW will decide how to take this forward and a consultation conference has been arranged for next month." news 2

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