Beyond boundaries;Leading Article;Opinion

30th July 1999 at 01:00
TEACHERS ARE the obstacle to doing something about S1 and S2. That is not their fault. They are trained to teach certain subjects. Their expertise extends no further, but it would if they were given scope, since the needs of 12 and 13-year-olds should not be beyond the capabilities of well educated and professionally trained adults.

Douglas Weir as dean of the largest education faculty in Scotland believes that the next generation of teachers has to be prepared differently from those with a long pedigree. As his article alongside argues, the contrast between training for the primary and secondary sectors could hardly be different. In the one case teachers are expected to be able to handle anything the curriculum planners throw at them. For some the demands of science or languages in the upper primary are excessive, and education faculties should recognise that a measure of specialism would not detract from the principle that a primary pupil fares best when relating to a single class teacher.

In the secondary the challenge is exactly opposite, though the pupil may have matured by only a year. Professor Weir might not put it so bluntly, but 12 and 13-year-olds do not need their historical or geographical studies reserved for an honours graduate in the discipline. A generic approach to the social subjects is desirable. It is thwarted by traditional pride in academic training and by General Teaching Council registration. Professor Weir, a member of the GTC, wants a fresh approach.

Science teachers have already trampled down the boundaries of physics, chemistry and biology as they affect pupils up to Standard grade. Their ability to teach, say, Advanced Higher is not put in question, nor is the requirement on them to keep abreast of developments in their subject. The trained mind is, almost by definition, flexible.

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