How good is your teacher?

29th April 2005 at 01:00
The quality of new teachers became an unexpected issue at the conference to discuss the Scottish Executive's educational reforms, held in Edinburgh last week.

The debate was sparked by comments from Ewan Hunter, chief executive of the Hunter Foundation, who asked: "How is a lecturer in initial teacher education to progress in his or her career when university promotion is on the basis of research?"

Mr Hunter added: "How much CPD does a lecturer in ITE gain compared, for example, with a new entrant teacher? Nobody has been able to give me an answer to that - and that's scary."

He was told by Rory MacKenzie, headteacher of Balerno High in Edinburgh:

"My experience, and that of many of my colleagues, is that the quality of new teachers has improved immeasurably, but what needs to be improved is the quality of those teaching them."

Mr MacKenzie suggested that experienced teachers should be seconded for short periods to teacher education institutions.

His assessment of newly qualified teachers was supported by Helen McLaughlin, head of St Aloysius' primary in Airdrie, and by Roy Jobson, Edinburgh's director of children and families.

But Mr Hunter, referring to the location of the conference, said his comments were based on feedback from directors of education "not on this coast".

The quality of teachers as a whole was raised when Kay Hall, former president of the Association of Head Teachers in Scotland, commented: "It is all very well for us to talk about getting rid of incompetent headteachers, but it is almost impossible to get rid of incompetent teachers - and we haven't even begun to talk about the mediocre ones."

Mr Hunter suggested they should have "a dignified exit".

Mr MacKenzie replied that much more time should be spent on training and developing teachers. People in other countries were "gobsmacked" when they learnt how little time is given over to this in Scotland. The most successful companies, he pointed out, were those that invested in training.

The main problem facing the profession was a lack of teachers, Peter Campbell, rector of Mackie Academy in Stonehaven, said. "We are taking back people we thought would never darken our door again."

Aberdeen University's education faculty had set a target of enrolling 80 students on English courses but could only attract 40; next year's target is 150. Mr Campbell said: "We are going to have to think about a radically different way of delivering the secondary school curriculum."

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