Be careful what you wish for

4th December 2009 at 00:00

I wonder if I might try to bring some closure to the ongoing dispute about Raymond Soltysek's status; is he an expert or isn't he? Given that Raymond first entered the lists on my behalf after I suffered an anonymous attack on my professional integrity, I feel duty bound to try.

Raymond is undoubtedly an excellent teacher, principal teacher and lecturer. His credibility was forged in the white-hot heat of comprehensive schools and, more recently, in initial teacher education. As an English teacher, Raymond can lay claim to be that rarest of individuals - an award-winning, published author; someone who practises what he preaches.

At Strathclyde University, he became knowledgeable on a range of issues, not least approaches to behaviour management. He, with colleagues, developed well-received continuing professional development on this topic and, with humility, offered a range of approaches to classroom teachers to help them deal with the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis.

So, is he an expert? I would say so but, I - and he - would be the first to acknowledge that he does not have all the answers; no one has. That he is no longer a classroom teacher is indisputable; but anyone who works in initial teacher education, by definition, has moved out of the classroom.

So, his critics - some anonymous, some willing to be named - are suggesting that he, and his ilk, have nothing to say on the matter of behaviour management or even on the training of teachers. The alternative is that we close faculties of education and place the onus on schools to train the next generation of teachers.

To Raymond's critics I would say: be careful what you wish for - it may well come true. Universities would love to offload initial teacher education to schools. Are you ready for it?

Brian Boyd, Emeritus professor of education, Strathclyde University.

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