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Survival skills in the classroom

What they teach you at college and what actually happens in school has been the butt of classroom humour for as long as anyone cares to recall. Last month, we carried a probationer's tale in which an English teacher spelt out the difference between being taught in college how to be "a reflective, self-evaluating professional" and handling a bottom second-year class that is beginning to career out of control "when it is last period and they are pumped up on hormones and Irn-Bru".

The probationer was forced to draw up "complex formalised lesson plans which we had to construct on unwieldy A3 grids" that were subsequently dismissed by teachers as irrelevant. The most useful aspects were comments from the principal teacher and headteacher and watching others prepare and deliver lessons.

Peter Peacock, the Education Minister, may agree with him as he launched yet another review of teacher training with the focus on what teachers really need to know to survive in classrooms and deliver the five national priorities. Many want the skills to deal with the disruptives who won't stop shouting, throwing rubbers or demanding to go to the toilet. Top of the minister's list, too, are classroom management strategies and providing for a range of abilities.

Probationers and ministers are not alone in harbouring doubts about the balance of training. In another sphere, headteachers on the Scottish Qualification for Headship say that their course may need to emphasise more practical dimensions if it is to become more effective. The theory and practice balance and many other aspects will surface in the review of initial teacher education that promises significant changes. But we should not forget that the quality of teacher entering schools has never been higher. We are building on strengths.

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