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Student teachers can't cram it all in

Teacher trainers have been criticised by one in four new teachers for failing to prepare them adequately for life in the classroom. Probationer staff believe their one-year postgraduate course is too crammed and too short.

Findings from a survey of more than 1,200 new teachers, carried out by the General Teaching Council for Scotland, support calls for continuing reform of initial teacher education.

Probationers appreciate the "high-quality" support from staff in universities but say they learn most on school placements. Many say there is too much emphasis on theory and too little on how it relates to running a class.

These complaints were raised five years ago by Jack McConnell when he was education minister, in his comments on dealing with rising indiscipline.

One teacher told the GTC that there was a "lack of practical strategies for dealing with issues in the classroom".

Despite the criticism, most teachers - more than 70 per cent - say initial training does prepare them for their future careers, although they complain about aspects of their courses.

Some claim theory comes far too early in their courses when they have not had enough classroom experience and therefore find it difficult to understand lecturers. As the GTC report states: "Many elements taught in the university were hard to understand and to appreciate the relevance of without classroom experience. There was a strong feeling that there was 'too much too soon' without students having the experience on which to contextualise their learning. There was a need for more concrete advice."

One-year primary and secondary courses were considered too packed. Some primary teachers also said that they were not adequately prepared to teach the core curriculum of literacy and numeracy while some secondary staff felt they were under-prepared to teach to the depth required in the S3-S6 curriculum.

What new teachers want is help on aspects such as forward planning, setting, differentiation, behaviour and classroom management, dealing with disruptive pupils and assessment.

Some teachers believe some lecturers were out of touch, had been out of teaching too long and had romanticised notions of what teaching was about.

"Much of the university input was perceived, rightly or wrongly, as being out of date and not relevant to the current situation in schools," the GTC report states. "One of the main reasons for this was that university staff, particularly in the secondary sector, were seen as being too removed from the real world of the school; they had been away from the classroom for too long."

Many teachers also told the council they were confused by the Standard for Initial Teacher Education and the Standard for Full Registration. The GTC is therefore pressing for one standard which would define the competences to be achieved by students and probationers.

It further calls for a national mentorsupporter training module for all staff working with students and probationers.

Reflecting on experiences of the teacher induction scheme is published by the General Teaching Council for Scotland and is available on its website

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