HMIE review finds 'wide variation' in teacher training

28th January 2011 at 00:00
Entrants to the profession report very mixed experiences of levels of preparation and support

The schools inspectorate has published a review of teacher education which reflects much of the thinking behind the report into teacher education written by HMIE's former head, Graham Donaldson.

The report, which was made public last week, formed HMIE's evidence to the Donaldson review of teacher education.

It finds "a wide variation" in the content of teacher education courses delivered by universities and the quality of experience gained by student teachers.

"In particular, those who had undertaken a distance learning course felt that it alone did not prepare them well for the classroom," said HMIE in its "Review of Teacher Education in Scotland".

Not only was there a variation across universities in relation to the number of visits made to students by tutors during placements, but students also reported a lack of consistency in the expectations of different tutors and felt that "tutors did not often know them".

With HMIE reporting on variability in the quality of lectures delivered at university, alongside a perception by some students that some lecturers have not kept up-to-date with current educational practice, it is perhaps not surprising that the Donaldson report recommends better quality assurance of initial teacher education and annual continuing professional development checks for university staff.

Probationers and post-probationers in secondary told HMIE they did not feel there had been sufficient emphasis on learning about their subjects in initial teacher education. They did not all feel well prepared to teach their subject at different stages of the school or to be involved in assessment for national qualifications - a finding echoed in another Donaldson recommendation, that subject-related CPD be improved.

A recurrent theme in interviews with entrants to primary teaching was "the need for universities to provide more practical input on teaching early reading and mathematics at the upper stages during initial teacher education".

"Courses generally did not provide sufficient depth across the curriculum for primary teachers to feel confident in teaching across all areas. A few felt that they did not have enough knowledge to cope with the `professional freedom' of Curriculum for Excellence. A few felt that their learning about CfE during ITE did not match the practice which they found in schools," said HMIE.

The Donaldson recommendation that new teachers need to be better prepared in how to address the wide range of needs of learners, particularly those with additional support needs, also echoes HMIE's findings.

Probationers who were able to do their induction year in the same authority as their student placement experienced much better continuity than those for whom this was not possible. And the best mentoring arrangements appeared to be in those authorities where seconded staff act as mentors for clusters of schools or across the authority.

Nevertheless, HMIE reports that some authorities are experiencing difficulties in sustaining such secondments in the current financial climate - a finding that does not bode well for the Donaldson recommendation that such an approach should become standard practice.

In terms of CPD in general, most probationers in the primary sector feel authority-led training does not develop their knowledge and understanding sufficiently well in subjects across the curriculum; secondary probationers also said they would appreciate more subject-specific CPD.

HMIE also reports that a few authorities have begun to take forward the revised standard for chartered teachers and are looking for more benefit from this sector of the profession.

Overall, however, inspectors comment that: "education authorities continue to lack confidence about how they can capitalise on the role of chartered teachers and monitor their impact". Their concern is echoed by Mr Donaldson, who said in his report: "In the current financial climate, continued investment in chartered teachers must be linked to an expectation that they will, personally and working with colleagues, have a significant and distinct beneficial impact on young people's learning."


HMIE selected a number of examples of authority-led CPD for special mention, including:


The Future Leaders Development Programme (TESS, Jan 21) - a coaching approach which includes pedagogy - is intended to provide a structured progression to enable staff to grow as leaders. The authority also has a planned approach to take forward the revised standards for chartered teachers.


Teachers' learning communities are developing the education authority's links with higher education institutions, involving increasing numbers of staff in professional dialogue.


The council is involved in an action research initiative with Aberdeen University. The authority has a comparatively high proportion of chartered teachers and is using their skills to support schools and education authorities.


Of the 50 participants in its Aspiring Leaders course, 22 are now in promoted posts - evidence of its impact. The authority supplies a range of supporting written evidence, including evaluations of events and tracking of impact, to demonstrate that its approaches to CPD have rigour.


The authority is picked out for its high-quality mentoring experiences. Teachers in their second year described an "ethos where the whole school was a mentoring school" and said they could approach any member of staff. CPD is also tailored to support teachers who are in years two to six of their career.

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