Degrees of direct comparison

14th November 2003 at 00:00
The view from Warwick University reflects our survey findings - and the debate over the usefulness of PGCEs compared with BEd degrees

Warwick University has more than 500 students on a variety of teacher-training routes, some of whom are in the TES sample.

Senior PGCE teaching fellow Kate Shilvock wasn't surprised to be told that our sample revealed an older, more mature student, because that matches the Warwick experience. "People are delaying career choices in order to travel and experience other things," she said. "The older students have more worldly experience."

There are also more students coming into training from other careers, a development that Ms Shilvock welcomes. "They have decided that their initial career choice wasn't fulfilling their personal development needs," she said. "They tend to be more committed because they have stepped out of something secure. It's a change they have thought about."

She feels that these career-changers are likely to have better organisational and people management skills because they will have had time in their other jobs to develop their expertise. "They will have developed ways of managing people that perhaps someone straight from university hasn't had to do," she said.

It's something that initial teacher training providers have to take into account. "Many have had some experience of training. ITT providers must recognise this," she said.

One of the concerns about the one-year PGCE is the limited time - effectively two and a half terms - that students have to develop their classroom practice and an understanding of education theory.

There are a number of education academics who doubt whether one-year courses can properly prepare people for the job, and primary headteachers in particular are sceptical about the value of PGCE when set alongside the more traditional BEd.

This is one of the questions the TES hopes to have an answer to by the time the research project comes to a close next summer. "It would be true to say that PGCE is a very intensive year," says Ms Shilvock. "And if people entered teaching without an education philosophy then we would have failed."

But she doesn't believe that happens. "The PGCE year at Warwick University does provide the time for that reflective process to be kick-started, and people can continue to develop their philosophy once they are in the job," she says. "The advantage of the PGCE framework is the opportunity to mix with others, while at the same time getting on with learning from the classroom experience."

She said trainees are desperate to get into the classroom, reflecting the criticism of past training courses, which were seen by many as too theory dominated.

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