Do trainees who lack practical skills need a roux and a clue?

22nd October 2010 at 01:00
Pupils know more than some aspiring class practitioners, says depute head

Some aspiring practical subject teachers have skills poorer than S3 pupils, it has been claimed.

One home economics student did not know what a roux was and a trainee art teacher told her principal teacher drawing skills were "over-rated", said Aileen Hollywood, depute head at Kilmarnock Academy. Others lacked knowledge about world-renowned artists, she added.

She said: "They are going into PGDE programmes with degrees in related subjects, like consumer studies or health studies or dietetics, but they don't have the practical skills working with fabric and food.

"Another area we have had problems with is art," she continued. "We have had a number of students and probationers who maybe completed graphic design or digital art degrees but have poor knowledge of world-renowned artists and poor fine art skills."

In interviews with senior school leaders about the quality of new recruits, appearing in this week's TESS, the abilities of students in the practical subjects come in for recurring criticism - but there were also some divided opinions.

Mrs Hollywood's observations were echoed by Karen Bryce, principal teacher of hospitality at Lochend Community High in Glasgow. She called for the dedicated home economics qualification to be reintroduced, so that the full gamut of skills needed to teach the subject could be covered.

Mrs Bryce commented: "Fabric will start to be a subject taught by us and by art to get round the problem that there are just not enough specialists out there. The food side is also difficult. Hospitality courses have made this subject very successful, but they are very demanding and you need a high level of skill to teach them in the upper school.

"If someone has done a hospitality degree, they will have these skills. But if they come out with a degree in consumer management, they will need to learn them."

However, principal teachers of art disagreed with Ms Hollywood.

Jennifer Di Mambro, principal teacher of art and design and creative technology at Dalziel High in Motherwell, said: "The art curriculum is wide-ranging, covering everything from jewellery to textiles and architecture.

"No one is going to be a master of everything but it is up to individual teachers, departments and councils to make sure training needs are catered for. Here, we play to our strengths and offer training to other members of the department."

No one in her department was a photography specialist, she pointed out, but the school had introduced the Higher in the subject and all 21 candidates achieved As.

Paul Cassidy, principal teacher of art and design at Lenzie Academy in East Dunbartonshire, said: "Newly-qualified teachers and student teachers are full of enthusiasm and have got a strong base of transferable skills. They are always going to be ahead of the pupils."

Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, said he was aware of the problem in practical subjects but did not think it was widespread.

Feature, 12-13

emma.seith@tes.co.uk.

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