A question of skills

Half the institutions training teachers to teach 14 to 19 diplomas leave them underprepared

THE QUALITY of teacher training in vocational subjects is promising but suffers from "notable shortcomings", according to inspectors.

Ofsted found half the training institutions and providers inspected did not properly prepare teachers in some aspects of teaching such courses to 14 to 19-year-olds.

Assessing pupils on work-based training was highlighted as a particular weakness. Teachers were also not focused enough on teaching pupils the key vocational skills, the report said.

The findings were published as the Government took its vocational skills agenda to the next level by saying all pupils should remain in training until they were 18.

To make this possible, specialised vocational diplomas will be launched in September 2008. Five of these employer-designed courses for 14 to 19-year-olds will be trialled before they are made available to all pupils in 2010.

Training for teachers was judged to be at least satisfactory in all 14 institutions inspected, and good or better in half of them. Inspectors judged trainees at the end of their vocational teaching courses as similar in quality to those trained in teaching traditional subjects.

A majority of teacher trainees recruited for these courses had relevant expertise and experience in their subjects, the report said. But inspectors said that insufficient emphasis was placed on teaching key vocational skills and coping with pupils' lack of knowledge.

"Although attention was given to the place of skills on vocational courses, their importance was often underplayed," the report said. "Many teacher trainees were not aware of the potential barriers to learning created by students' low levels of key skills, and did not know how to address this."

Half the teacher-trainers did not give would-be teachers the chance to teach the full 14 to 19 age range, so new staff were not fully prepared to cover some aspects of their courses.

The Government views vocational training as vital to plugging a national skills gap. But Ken Boston, chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, has warned that diplomas risk failing if teachers are not of a high enough standard.

The first five diplomas - in information technology, engineering, creative and media, health and social care, and construction - will be offered in a limited number of schools and colleges from next year. By 2013, they will have to offer pupils a choice of 14, at three levels each. They will be taken alongside GCSEs. A work experience element will be compulsory.

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