Crucial time to seize the day on Donaldson

30th November 2012 at 00:00

It's all aboard and full speed ahead, as our cover says, with the implementation of recommendations in the Donaldson report on teacher education - finally. Though perhaps that requires some modifying.

Teaching Scotland's Future and the National Partnership Group's report on how to take it forward will have a major impact on every teacher's career, from students applying for teacher training to headteachers at the height of their powers (News Focus, pages 12-15).

Some will hate what these reports represent - an unstoppable force driving professional development onwards and upwards, whether they like it or not - and there will be those of a certain age who just want out. Others will welcome the new framework which could help them forge a successful career and - let's not forget it - improve the chances of children in the classroom.

From one to 50, the partnership group lists the Scottish government's response to each of Graham Donaldson's recommendations (acceptaccept in principleaccept in part) and progress on each item. Clearly, things have advanced since the review was published almost two years ago, judging by that and the inspectors' review of developments across the country.

It is impressive to see how carefully attempts are being made to synchronise the recommendations and the standards for practice being developed by the General Teaching Council for Scotland, and to support them all with online materials from Education Scotland. This is a tight budget and a tight schedule.

It is impressive, too, to see how the different partners in the group have had their say - universities, education authorities, inspectors, headteachers, Education Scotland, GTCS... But therein lies its weakness.

For all the collaboration, some of the best that was in Donaldson is at risk of being diluted and lost. With so many partners, there is an ineluctable sense that certain ones may also be defending their own positions, and with them the status quo.

So some of the more ambitious ideas such as hub schools - centres of excellence where large numbers of student teachers could be taught by the very best teachers and lecturers together - look set to be adapted and sit alongside more traditional models, depending on local interests. Raising the bar for entry to the profession with higher standards of literacy and numeracy - then pitching it at level 5 (Standard grade Credit or Intermediate 2) could prove a wasted opportunity. Is that really the level of literacy our teachers should have?

Many questions remain unanswered. Proposals for the early stages to be a continuous phase and for a pathway to a master's degree have been adopted. But we could miss out on a real transformation of initial teacher education if too many of the partners cling to the past and fail to seize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

gillian.macdonald@tess.co.uk, editor.

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