Educate the educators

6th December 1996 at 00:00
If you've ever dreamt of training teachers, the current crisis in supply may be your chance, says Michael Duffy

How about a career switch into teacher education? Don't be put off by the staffroom sceptics. The shortfall in teacher supply is reaching crisis proportions and a government that makes education a priority will need to act quickly to address it. Improving the supply of teacher trainers (and their status) would be a good first measure. This could be the right time to get your foot on to that particular ladder.

The first step is to become a mentor for a newly-qualified teacher in your school. This means some extra work, and you will need cover for some lessons so that you can watch your new colleague teaching and give feedback and support. Try to think of this as a privilege, not a chore.

In secondary schools, especially, teachers tend to work too much in isolation: working with another teacher, however inexperienced he or she may be, and helping to plan the induction programme that schools are now required to offer, is an excellent way of developing your own teaching and learning management skills. It has to be a bonus.

If you enjoy mentoring, the next step involves promotion. If your school has agreed to provide school-based training as part of an initial or postgraduate training programme it will need to identify a professional tutor to be responsible to the institution concerned for the school-based elements of the course. Often, this is a deputy head - but there is no reason other than convenience why it should be.

If you are interested in teaching itself, not just in your subject, and you want to share that interest and extend it, this could be the right responsibility for you. It offers direct links with higher education, and the opportunity to contribute to staff development in your school. If that appeals, talk to your head about how you could be involved.

It would certainly be useful to take a higher degree. Like mentoring and school-based tutoring, a part-time MEd or MA (Education) will be of value to you however your career develops - and your share of the school's staff development budget might go towards the cost. For a move to full-time teacher training, a degree that involves a research project in a topic or area that is clearly teaching-related (special needs, perhaps - or reading, or IT as a teaching tool) is going to be a strong recommendation.

Besides, you will need to find out whether you enjoy research. Most higher education posts require an element of it and teacher training, quite properly, is no exception.

At this stage you have difficult decisions to make. You are a good, hard-working teacher and, most of the time, you enjoy it. You have two or three years' experience of working in your school with teachers in training, newly-qualified teachers, your INSET co-ordinator, perhaps your LEA adviser. Somehow, you have found time to study for a higher degree or professional diploma - and you try to keep up to date with The TES. No wonder a move to higher education seems tempting.

But don't expect a less stressful life. Funding pressures have put the squeeze on higher education institutions just as tightly as on schools, and lecturers have longer contact hours, larger classes and reams of paper and committee work. Increasingly, they don't have job security. Most of the new posts advertised are temporary, often on one, two or three-year contracts.

That need not be a disadvantage: a period spent at the university end of the teacher training spectrum is likely to be bonus on an aspiring deputy's CV, and if you are mobile there are good prospects in the academic world.

In some disciplines, particularly in music and the arts, you can build up a portfolio of part-time posts and still have time for a semi-professional career.

There is uncertainty, too, about just how the Teacher Training Agency will resolve the looming teacher supply crisis. The present government has made no secret of the fact that it would like to write higher education out of the scenario altogether and leave it to schools to find and train the teachers they need.

Most schools say that they have too much to cope with as it is and prefer a partnership, if the money is right, with an HE institution. Besides, teaching has got to remain an academic discipline as well as a craft if its status and its quality are really to improve.

So will it be school-centred teacher training, or university-based teacher education? Either way, the skills and knowledge you are acquiring now will be at a premium. Good teachers - and good teachers to train good teachers -are already a priority. In career terms, the steps you are taking now could prove a shrewd investment.


Teacher training colleges and new universities

Lecturer Pounds 13,101-Pounds 21,837

Senior lecturer Pounds 21,108-Pounds 26,931

Old universities

Lecturer A Pounds 15,154-Pounds 19,848

Lecturer B Pounds 20,677-Pounds 26,430


HE lecturer or senior lecturer 46.7

HE principal lecturer 50.9

HE head of department 55.0

Primary school teachers* 50.8

Secondary school teachers* 50.3

Source: NATFHE (*STRB)

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