GTCS moots longer course for primary postgraduates

2nd July 2010 at 01:00
General Teaching Council for Scotland questions whether one year is `adequate preparation' for the classroom

The one-year postgraduate diploma may have to be doubled in length to allow aspiring primary teachers to cover all the ground required for their training, the General Teaching Council for Scotland has suggested.

The Republic of Ireland is considering extending its postgraduate training programme from 18 months to two years, and the GTCS is floating the idea that Scotland should consider doing the same.

Its submission to the Donaldson review of teacher education stops short of endorsing such a proposal, but it states: "The expectation of the primary teacher as a generalist covering all subjects needs to be debated and questioned, particularly for new teachers who had followed the one-year PGDE (Primary) programme. Indeed, having a one-year programme is questioned as an adequate preparation."

The primary heads' association, the AHDS, has called in the past for such an extension, arguing that entrants from the PGDE programme lacked the expertise of those who had done a four-year BEd degree.

Tom Hamilton, director of educational policy at the GTCS, also warns that the advent of more cross-curricular working in Curriculum for Excellence will require the teachers' regulatory body to reconsider what constitutes a secondary "subject" - and may therefore require a revamp of the GTCS's entry requirements for secondary teachers.

The review of teacher education, being carried out by Graham Donaldson, former senior chief inspector of education, also includes continuing professional development and probation.

The GTCS says it has carried out research which suggests probationers should have more time in the classroom - moving potentially from the current split of 0.7 class contact time and 0.3 of development time, to a ratio of 0.8:0.2.

Not surprisingly, the council sees the teacher induction scheme, which it regulates, as a strength of the system.

Nevertheless, it wants better training for mentors of student teachers and probationers - or, as Mr Hamilton put it, an increased focus on "andragogy" (teaching approaches for working with fellow adults) as opposed to "pedagogy" (teaching approaches for working with children and young people).

"In the early days of the teacher induction scheme, there was an automatic assumption that if you are a good teacher, you will be good at being a supporter (of a new teacher)," he said. One did not necessarily follow from the other, however.

The GTCS also expresses concerns about funding for initial teacher education, which could be affected by a number of factors: the "pendulum effect" of changing intake numbers; the level of commitment to ITE of individual universities; staffing levels in some universities; whether the experience of some university staff is sufficiently recent or relevant; and "a possible lack of initiative and flexibility within some of the universities".

The council has also told Donaldson that there is room for improvement in CPD. Curriculum for Excellence had become an overwhelming focus for CPD to the detriment of other areas, but there was also an insufficient focus on the pedagogy and principles to underpin CfE. It criticised some CPD as too "top-down" and some as little more than "tips for teachers".

There is a particular gap in teachers' CPD provision in the five years immediately after their probation year, it adds.

Mr Hamilton reiterated a previously-stated ambition that all teachers in Scotland be educated to masters level - as they are in Finland.

Scotland was beginning to move in that direction, he said, with chartered teachers holding a masters-level qualification.

Glasgow and Aberdeen universities were already offering masters-level credits and modules to newly-qualified teachers. But such developments posed a potential threat to the chartered teacher programme, according to the GTCS, since new teachers could gain a masters degree three years after qualifying while they would have to wait six years before embarking on the chartered teacher programme.

This might require the reinstatement of the flexible route to becoming a chartered teacher, which was closed more than two years ago and allowed teachers to gain credit for prior learning.

  • GTCS moots longer course for primary postgraduate students

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