State provides intellectual rigour

I AM very worried by the rather misleading impression given by Professor Harry Brighouse (TES, May 10). His premise is that postgraduate certificate in education students should seek intellectual freedom in the independent sector.

The PGCE - by definition - is a postgraduate process. Professors should have "done their bit" in enriching "the life of the mind" during the students' undergraduate years.

The key to successful preparation for teaching is a secure understanding - or the beginning of an understanding - of how pupils learn and the practical realities of the teacher's part in this process. This requires an engagement with both theory and practice.

Practice comes, for PGCE students, in school placements, working alongside teachers who have a real insight. In working to ensure all pupils make progress, these PGCE students will be required to use their knowledge and understanding of their subject to encourage and inspire young minds.

The context in which this is to be achieved will vary from school to school and will require a great deal of thought and preparation of the student. Hardly lacking in "intellectual richness".

What is more, the capacity for young teachers to "survive" the first year is crucial and a clear balance must be struck between a pragmatic and a cerebral approach if they are to get through.

I can assure Professor Brighouse that students working in schools are not strait-jacketed or merely "trained in techniques" - this would be their death knell as teachers as it would detract from their character and individuality.

Learning - and teaching - is a dynamic and exciting alchemy. Pupils would not respond to the sort of "work-bench" approach hinted at by Professor Brighouse. Nor would the pupils make the progress they can in an unstructured swirl of "intellectual richness".

PGCE students on placement in schools work in an atmosphere of challenge and support. I am disappointed that Professor Brighouse seeks to disparage this.

Dr BT Wratten

Headteacher

Churchill community school

Churchill Green

Churchill

North Somerset

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