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Teacher development key to educational success, says Donaldson

Teacher quality matters more than ever at a time of unprecedented economic difficulties, warned Graham Donaldson, HMIE's former chief, who is reviewing teacher training in Scotland.

And crucial to this is teacher education, he told the Scottish Learning Festival this week. "We need to maximise its impact," he said.

But improvement related as much to culture as to specific change, he added: "The need continuously to improve our education system remains one of the keys to future success. That will require flexibility, creativity and determination from everyone involved. We must not allow pressures to achieve savings to lead to a climate of defensiveness and damage limitation."

Mr Donaldson has still to report the conclusions of his Review of Teacher Education in Scotland, but he gave some hints of the direction of his thinking.

Citing Tennessee University researchers William Sanders and June Rivers, Mr Donaldson pointed out that "students of the most effective teachers have learning gains four times greater than the learning gains of the least effective teachers".

Raising teacher quality was "perhaps the policy direction most likely to lead to substantial gains in school performance", he said, referring to the OECD report of 2005.

Some 60 per cent of respondents to a survey carried out as part of the Donaldson review thought PGDE students should have more time in schools; and 51 per cent thought that B.Ed students should have more time in schools.

Only 4 per cent said they had the opportunity to retain links with their university during their probation year. But 45 per cent would have done so, if given the opportunity.

Mr Donaldson said that 39 per cent of the teachers said they would undertake more CPD if it was accredited, but only 51 per cent thought the current system of professional review and development was "effective or highly effective".

Less than a third - 29 per cent - said they tried to monitor the impact of their CPD frequently, and only 22 per cent said their schools did this frequently.

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