On the eve of publication of the Scottish Executive's review of initial teacher education, Gordon Smith, president of the Association of Head Teachers in Scotland, has outlined a vision of a two-year PGCE course, one year of which would be paid, and a revised four-year Bachelor of Education degree.
Mr Smith said that any new teacher expected to teach reading to a five-year-old and science to an 11-year-old should have at least two years'
With a significant expansion in the number of training places in order to meet the Executive's commitments on teacher numbers, the AHTS is calling for a formal system to be set up to mentor student and probationer teachers in school.
Mr Smith also called for mentoring to become one of the modules in the chartered teacher programme so that teachers in schools would be formally trained to supervise and guide new teachers.
"We would pay them as well to be probationer or student mentors," Mr Smith said. "If you want to train 2,000 students in Scotland, you have to have in place 2,000 mentors to complete that training, especially if they are coming out with one year of training."
Mr Smith, head of the primary department in Jordanhill school, Glasgow, said that primary headteachers had felt for some time that the one-year PGCE primary course was not enough. Concerns have grown with the flood of new teachers coming into the profession.
"You can get some wonderful teachers coming out of a PGCE course, but if you have got 1,000 coming out, there will be 10 who are natural communicators and teachers but also some who sink," Mr Smith commented.
"The right mentoring and training would make them very good teachers, too, but you can't just throw them into P2."
He advocates a two-year postgraduate course, one year of which would be financially supported. Alternatively, those doing the four-year BEd degree should do two years of academic study in a particular area, such as infant pedagogy, French, or the expressive arts, while the final two years should concentrate on the methodology of teaching.
This solution would help provide primary schools with the specialist teachers they lack, particularly in the upper primary classes, when teachers are expected to teach modern languages and science.
Meanwhile, in a signal that the AHTS is gearing up to become a greater force in education policy-making and politics, the association is also hoping to take on an advisory role to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.
This follows the position of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, representing secondary heads, since the two bodies withdrew from the teachers' side of the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers.
The AHTS recently appointed a former civil servant, Greg Dempster, to be its first full-time salaried general secretary and plans to recruit field officers to serve members across the country.
Mr Smith also made it clear that the AHTS has the Educational Institute of Scotland in its sights and plans to increase AHTS membership by targeting EIS members who hold headteacher or depute head posts in primary, nursery and special schools.
Youth on their side 3