Graduates commend degree with language edge
The first graduates with a teaching degree "like no other" in Scotland believe they will be particularly well prepared for the profession's changing demands.
The 15 students who have just completed the University of Stirling's BA professional education (primary) course specialising in modern languages or environmental studies are also hopeful of having an edge in the jobs market.
The degree chimes with current thinking about initial teacher education, after last year's Donaldson review called for the end of traditional BEd degrees in favour of courses offering a broader range of study.
The focus on languages is timely, given the recent report by the Scottish government's languages working group, which called for all pupils to start learning a second language in P1 and a third in P5, by 2020.
Lecturer Lorele Mackie, who works with languages students, said that students were able to work with all pupils from nursery to P7, and had skills that would prove useful if they decided to leave teaching.
The course had a "focus on creating teachers who are flexible and adaptable," she added, and on creating "curriculum leaders rather than curriculum followers".
The government working group's proposal about primary pupils learning two languages beyond English was "very interesting" and, if enacted, "would make the programme more attractive to potential students".
Graduate Angela Donaghy (front right), who specialises in Spanish, but can also teach French, said she had been driven to complete the course by the prospect of having a qualification that "will make you more marketable".
She found it hard work at times, but got extra tutoring to ensure she stayed on track: "Anything I can do that will make me stand out from the crowd, I will do," she said.
Miss Donaghy discovered huge enthusiasm for languages - from staff, parents and pupils - at her placement school of Lorne Street Primary in Glasgow, which "hadn't had anything like that". She will spend her probation year at St Andrew's Primary in Dumfries, where there has been similar excitement about having a teacher with languages skills.
The Stirling degree had been "the most rewarding thing I've done," Miss Donaghy said.
"The course has focused on creating teachers who are adaptable, which is empowering for us because schools want teachers who do more than just teach," explained fellow languages graduate Karen Saunders (back right).
"There are people in schools at the moment who are perhaps unsure of all the changes in policy, but thanks to this course, and the strong focus on the Curriculum for Excellence, I feel any of us can go into a school and help make sense of that."
Course coordinator Sandra Eady said: "The course structure makes it like no other in Scotland and perfect for the needs of a changing education system."
She highlighted students' small "professional enquiry research projects", related to languages or environmental studies specialisms.
"In line with emerging developments across Scotland's universities, the traditional BEd degree should be phased out and replaced with degrees which combine in-depth academic study in areas beyond education with professional studies and development. These new degrees should involve staff and departments beyond those in schools of education."