Damning verdict on staff training

14th November 2003 at 00:00
New recruits ill-prepared and ignorant of key lecturing skills. Steve Hook reports

A third of trainee lecturers would not pass a GCSE in English or maths, according to a report by inspectors who claim that staff enter the profession lacking the specialist knowledge and academic ability to do their jobs properly.

Their damning report fires off a broadside of criticism against the colleges that train new recruits and calls for an overhaul of lecturer training.

The Government reacted swiftly to the Office for Standards in Education report by launching a review of FE teacher training.

Inspectors declare that current training "does not provide a satisfactory foundation of professional development for FE teachers at the start of their careers".

"While the tuition... on the taught elements of their courses is generally good, few opportunities are provided... to learn how to teach specialist subjects, and there is a lack of systematic mentoring and support in the workplace."

The report also attacks the FE National Training Organisation (Fento) saying it does not "clearly define the standards required of new teachers".

Most courses fail to take account of the wide ability range of people taking them and rarely include training specific to the trainee's specialist subject.

Tutors lack basic information about the previous qualifications of trainees, many of whom have poor basic skills: a third lack level two literacy skills and the same proportion level two numeracy. The report is drawn from visits by Ofsted and the Adult Learning Inspectorate to eight higher education and 23 FE institutions that provide initial training.

There has been little previous scrutiny of post-16 teacher training. Before 2001, there was no requirement for FE teachers to be trained.

The report goes on to say that attainment amongst trainees is "uneven", with many failing to reach their potential. It says trainees are "generally good" at managing lessons but, it says, their teaching is "affected by their limited knowledge of how to teach their specialist subject".

Ofsted recommends that FE colleges must make sure trainees get proper mentoring in their specialist subject. It also says the Department for Education and Skills should work more closely with Fento on a review of training standards and look at how these can be linked more closely to the training of schoolteachers.

Universities, it says, should introduce more practical teaching on their courses.

David Hunter, chief executive of Fento, agreed that the criticisms had to be "taken on board" but added that still further support will be needed for lecturers if they are to be judged by the same standards as teachers in schools.

Fento wants a probationary year after formal training and says mentoring must be guaranteed to the end of this. Mr Hunter said: "The first year following training is one of the most important. The support we are asking for has been commonplace in schools for years."

Fento has also called for resources to support changes recommended by Ofsted, including the mentors, who will have to be trained for their role.

Announcing the review of training, Alan Johnson, the further and higher education minister, told this week's Association of Colleges conference:

"We must get their training right."

The consultation period for the review ends on February 26. The DfES standards unit is expected to produce proposals for training reform in April.

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