A week in education

6th August 2010 at 01:00
A quick guide to this week's education news

Scottish Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have been engaged in separate pursuits of incompetent teachers. Parliamentary questions lodged by each party elicited that 17 teachers were struck off in 2009-10, but only one for incompetence; the previous year, 15 were struck off, but again, only one for incompetence. Liz Smith, Conservative education spokesperson, called for the "small minority of incompetent teachers" to face tougher regulations when it came to retaining registration with the General Teaching Council for Scotland, and Margaret Smith, Lib Dem education spokesperson, said greater powers for heads would improve staff training and teacher competence in their schools.

HMIE's submission to the Donaldson review of teacher education paints a positive picture, but with serious concerns. Its findings highlight the "enthusiasm and high motivation" of almost all newly-qualified teachers; staff taking greater responsibility for their own professional development; the growing range of people involved in teacher education; and the "world-leading" probationary scheme. But inconsistency of initial teacher education across Scotland is a major concern: a number of headteachers, students and NQTs flag up new teachers' insufficient preparation for teaching reading, and heads say a "small but significant" number of students are "weak", and should have been identified by universities. HMIE suggests allowing local authorities to move teachers between schools without interview, for "refreshment of ideas"; and fixed- term contracts for headteachers.

Stirling Institute of Education surveyed its graduates to discover how well prepared they felt for the classroom. It found 97 per cent of the 29 respondents (out of a year group of 88) had the confidence to tackle new challenges; 82 per cent felt they had the knowledge and understanding they needed, and 100 per cent said they had a suitable placement and appropriate supervision. Only 72 per cent found that the university course elements were good preparation for school placements.

Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie has accused the SNP Government of failing to ensure every school operates an effective alcohol education programme from primary. Freedom of Information requests revealed a third of primaries in South Ayrshire said they did not provide effective alcohol education, and a quarter in Aberdeen; East Lothian reported that in a third of its primaries, the person delivering alcohol education lacked suitable training.

Public-sector union Unison, which covers classroom assistants and other ancillary staff in schools, has rejected a pay offer of 1.5 per cent over three years. The union had called for a one-year deal of 3 per cent or pound;600, whichever was the greater, and a pound;7 per hour minimum wage. Last week's Independent Budget Review, led by Crawford Beveridge, proposed a raft of cost-saving options including public-sector pay restraint; a recruitment freeze; changes in working conditions; a pension review; shared services; a graduate contribution to higher education; and an end to universal free school meals and student tuition.

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