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Teacher Training Agency survives ...

...but the DFEE has told it to focus on recruitment and is to take on its professional development work. Nicolas Barnard reports

THE TEACHER Training Agency has survived its review with its core functions intact - but with the General Teaching Council waiting threateningly in the wings.

A five-yearly government review of the agency has concluded its "remit is too wide" and that it should concentrate on teacher supply and recruitment - which it should make "its top priority" - and on initial teacher training.

It will be expected to stay in daily contact with the new teachers' unit, formed at the Department for Education and Employment to take forward the Green Paper on "modernising" the profession.

The DFEE unit will also take over the TTA's growing work on teachers' professional development and heads' qualifications. The headship work will eventually become part of the new National College for school Leadership which the DFEE is overseeing.

The agency will continue to fund and allocate places for initial teacher training. This role has been much-criticised by universities but was robustly defended this week by chief executive Anthea Millett who said the agency's difficult remit meant that some noses were bound to be put out of joint.

But the GTC - to be set up next year - will take an advisory role, and some critics seized on hints in the review that it could later gain funding powers as evidence it could supersede the TTA.

The review says the GTC "should have an advisory role across the piece, but no funding functions at this stage".

Ms Millett - who announced she will stand down at the end of the year - was upbeat about the report, and one TTA insider predicted those that had called for its abolition would be disappointed.

But training providers were jubilant. Mike Newby, chairman of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said: "The TTA has only just got away with it. There's not a lot left of it.

"The GTC's presence throughout the document is significant. We really can't see the need for all these functions to stay with the agency, and the Government agrees with us."

Schools minister Charles Clarke last week declined to rule out the GTC taking on some TTA functions. Talking to The TES, he predicted their relationship would evolve and that in five years "it will be a very different state of affairs ... (when) the whole of the education world (can) see how effective it is".

The agency won credit for raising standards in initial teacher training through its system of giving extra places to providers which score highly in inspections and cutting them for those that score poorly.

St Martin's College in Lancaster, described the system in its submission as "crude but it has had the effect of pushing up standards."

But there were trenchant criticisms of the TTA's working style, its "endemic long hours culture", tight deadlines and sometimes abrasive approach.

"The agency has undoubtedly achieved a great deal by any standards, but it has made few friends in the process," the review document said, adding it was hard to say whether such strides in quality could have been made with a less aggressive approach.

GTC is born, 15. Leader, 20

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