Initial teacher training condemned as 'ineffective'

29th April 2011 at 01:00
General Teaching Council for Wales and ATL Cymru say overhaul is urgently needed

Initial teacher training courses in Wales need an urgent overhaul if the profession is to meet the major challenges it faces, educationalists have warned.

Both the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) and teaching union ATL Cymru have expressed serious concerns over the quality of ITT provision, which they claim is inconsistent and often ineffective in practice.

In a position paper released last week, the GTCW called for the content of current ITT courses to be reviewed.

Council chairwoman Angela Jardine claimed many courses do not give students time to cover all of the relevant areas in enough detail to prepare properly for the classroom.

The problem is compounded in many cases, she said, by "inadequate and inconsistent" training during teachers' induction year.

ATL Cymru director Dr Philip Dixon said Wales' ITT centres needed to "wake up and realise the teaching profession is changing".

In a recent survey, some of the union's members were scathing of present ITT practices, claiming PGCE courses were a "waste of time" and of little practical use in the classroom.

Dr Dixon said: "The quality of ITT is variable and has given us some concern. Often the training is not much use on the ground. This is a big challenge to ITT centres. They must up their game and need to learn how to start sharing best practice."

Earlier this month Wales' ITT centres held their first joint meeting to discuss the issues facing them.

Professor John Parkinson, chairman of the Universities Council for the Training of Teachers (UCET) Cymru, said the meeting was a success, and another is planned for June.

"There is a desire in everyone involved in ITT to improve," he said. "We recognise there have been problems in education, and we are looking at what we can do by working together to play our part in addressing those issues."

In February, education minister Leighton Andrews announced that he wanted to enhance the professional standing of teachers and would explore the possibility of making teaching a masters-level vocation.

That proposal is now a key pledge in the Labour party's election manifesto, and the other main parties have also vowed to review teacher training.

Professor Parkinson, who is also head of the school of education at Swansea Metropolitan University, said he would welcome a masters qualification, but said it should be phased in over a number of years.

"We need critically reflective teachers. Just having a series of skills is not going to improve the profession," he said.

Dr Dixon said a purely academic masters course would be of no use to new teachers.

"The Welsh government needs to take note of what is being said about the content and quality of teacher training, and must ensure that any proposed future masters course is rigorously practical and based on imparting the skills and knowledge needed in the classroom," he added.

In its position paper, the GTCW said it supports the view that teaching should become a profession "in which all practitioners should eventually be qualified at a minimum of masters level".

It said moving towards that status should be part of wide-ranging reforms that would see consistent professional development at all stages of a teacher's career.

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