Flexible foe threatens training

12th March 1999 at 00:00
Green Paper plans for modular postgraduate certificates in education may undermine first degrees. Nicolas Barnard reports

TEACHER trainers have serious doubts about a Government plan to attract older people and undergraduates into the profession.

They say the proposal to make the postgraduate certificate in education modular and flexible will result in a poor-quality course. They also warn that undergraduates who have the course woven into their degree risk damaging their main qualification. Modular PGCEs - which could take longer than a year to complete - are outlined in the Government's teaching Green Paper.

The Teacher Training Agency is already designing a pilot, and universities will be asked to devise ways of integrating modules into undergraduate courses, which students could take while gaining experience and credits by working as paid associates in schools.

But Nigel Gates, executive member of the Association of University Teachers, warned: "Teacher training is a complex, involved task and just fitting together bits and pieces over a substantial period won't provide the quality we need."

Undergraduate work would suffer. Mr Gates said: "Getting a degree is a full-time occupation. A lot of students are already working part-time and it must be at the expense of their studies.

"The Government is clutching at straws. Recruitment is so bad they have to consider almost every alternative."

The Universities Council for the Education of Teachers also has concerns while backing the search for new routes into teaching. It has long sought a salary for trainee teachers but fears paying some undergraduates to work in schools will prove divisive.

UCET chair Mike Newby said: "You'll have a PGCE student being properly trained and going into school for free and an undergraduate being paid. What will they be paid to do and who will be paying?" TTA spokesman Stephen Hillier warned the AUT and UCET they were out of touch with their members. He said universities had welcomed modular PGCEs at Green Paper conferences.

"It would be disappointing if their representatives pour cold water on a very exciting development," he said. "It's premature to criticise proposals which haven't appeared yet in any detail."

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