The geographical spread of in-service courses could improve after an apparent policy change. Susannah Kirkman reports
TEACHERS may no longer have to travel hundreds of miles for in-service courses after a change of heart by the Teacher Training Agency.
The quango faced widespread anger after its controversial new funding regime, announced earlier this year, ditched many established courses and left yawning gaps across the country.
But it appears that from September 1999 there will be a better spread of colleges and universities offering professional development.
Under present arrangements, teachers in the South-west, for example, who want to take a course in special educational needs have to travel hundreds of miles, as one of the main providers, the University of Plymouth, has lost its funding.
And Northumbrian teachers wanting to study for a mandatory qualification to teach deaf children must travel to Birmingham.
But now the agency has told more than 30 colleges and universities left out of its recent pound;21 million funding allocation that they can resubmit bids for September 1999 - without changing their training priorities.
The TTA's funding policy, which is targeting cash at courses that address the Government's training priorities, is expected to create particular problems for female teachers with family responsibilities. David Malvern, of Reading University's faculty of education and community studies, said:
"Women with children just won't be able to make long, complicated journeys to do courses after work."
Mike Mercer, head of funding and allocations at the TTA, confirmed that some cash might be released to improve access to in-service training, but denied that this was a change in policy.
The universities disagree. "The interpretation definitely has changed. We are delighted that the TTA is showing more flexibility and is giving us a chance to get back some of our funding," said Dr Gordon Taylor of Plymouth University, which has lost pound;455,000.
All three HE institutions in Liverpool had their bids for funding turned down for September 1998. Funding is also being withdrawn from Homerton College, Cambridge, the Open University and Oxford Brookes University.
Teachers in Oxfordshire and Berkshire wanting to take primary courses will now have to go to Brunel, Bath or Southampton universities. Teachers in Merseyside, Kent and Hereford and Worcester are also facing long journeys.
Full report, Friday, page 27