Editor's comment

14th January 2011 at 00:00

One would not expect the former head of the inspectorate to produce a report that was short on support and challenge, self-evaluation or professional enhancement. Graham Donaldson's review of teacher education is predictable from those points of view. But it is an impressive piece of work - comprehensive in its reach, international in its outlook and even radical in some of its recommendations. As befits an inspector to trade, he has identified strengths and weaknesses and built on the positives in the system, as well as pointed to imaginative solutions. He is to be congratulated for reinforcing the message that preparing to teach is an intellectual endeavour, not just a craft to be learnt on the job.

The weaknesses in teacher education have been known for almost as long as The TESS has been in business. Courses cover too much ground, the balance between theory and practice is often skewed, the quality of school placements is variable and lecturers are remote from the hurly-burly of the classroom. Donaldson has addressed all these points by pulling off a tricky high-wire act that puts schools more centre-stage in the process while reinforcing the role of universities.

Of course, at the heart of teacher education is the quality of entrants to the profession. Donaldson has solutions aplenty. He is right to emphasise the notion of "career-long learning" for teachers, but we are not convinced by his screening proposals. Why should someone who may be dodgy in maths be prevented from teaching art or languages? We already require would-be teachers to have Higher English and Credit maths, so it is surely the responsibility of schools to ensure that pupils with these qualifications pass muster in all walks of life. In their turn, schools need teachers who are not just knowledgeable but interesting, cultured and civilised human beings who can inspire their pupils. Donaldson has not quite captured the essence of that.

Neil Munro, editor of the year (business and professional magazine) 2009.

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