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Stringent training standards unveiled

Students wishing to teach English, maths or science in secondary schools will have to meet exacting standards before they can be let loose in the classroom, the Government announced this week.

The second instalment of the national curriculum for trainee teachers sets out what students should know about their subject, together with explicit instructions about what they should be taught to teach (see box left).

The proposals from the Teacher Training Agency will now be sent out for consultation until April 3, and the curriculum will be enforced from September.

Trainees must also have a more thorough grounding in information technology; currently many teachers feel less confident on computers than their pupils. Students must be shown the revolutionary potential of IT as a teaching tool.

The first part of the national curriculum, which covered primary English and maths, was launched in February 1997 by the Tory education secretary Gillian Shephard. She presented it as part of a drive to shake up the educationa l establishment and kill off "trendy" teaching methods. While universities and colleges found the contents unexceptionable, many academics were infuriated by a Government quango dictating what universities should teach.

This Government has allowed curriculum development to continue, but avoided a fanfare launch in the hope that the concept of a training curriculum has been accepted.

However, Liberal Democrat education spokesman Don Foster wants to amend the Teaching and Higher Education Bill to make sure the curriculum does not apply to undergraduate BEd courses. He did not, he said, object to the TTA's dictating the content of "postgraduate, vocational courses" such as the postgraduate certificate in education, "but the BEd course is a mix of academic and vocational elements, so it is possible that the imposition of a national curriculum is encroaching on academic freedom".

The curriculum has already provoked protest from academics who say that their recommendations on science have been ignored.

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