Keep it simple, urge inspectors

29th September 2006 at 01:00
A follow-up report by HMIE into how well student teacher placements are working has found improvements in provision, organisation and quality, but warns that shortages of placements remain in English and maths, and a few secondary departments are still refusing to take their share.

Teacher education institutions still have different student teacher assessment and reporting arrangements and there has been "little progress to date", according to HM Inspectorate of Education.

Some primary schools and secondary departments are also struggling to support student teachers and probationers at the same time, the inspectors found. The inspectors urge the TEIs to simplify the demands they make on schools.

The progress report, published today, follows an earlier one in October 2005 which made a series of recommendations for TEIs, education authorities, schools and the Scottish Executive Education Department to implement.

The significant increase in new teachers has put strains on all those involved in initial teacher education, a situation which prompted the Education Minister to request HMIE's review of placements in 2004-05. The inspectors warn that, while there is a need to increase available placements, the quality of those placements must be closely monitored.

The report continues: "In primary and secondary sectors, headteachers have taken students with very little notice. However, in a few cases, schools have had to place students in less suitable classes due to the increased numbers of students and newly qualified teachers."

The inspection found, however, that schools have a clearer understanding of the expectations of student teachers, and schools and education authorities have made a promising start to developing well-defined frameworks for student teachers.

On the positive side, the report comments that "TEIs have adjusted the timing of placements in secondary schools to make it easier for schools to organise common induction programmes. They have also adjusted primary programmes to ensure that they are not all seeking placements at the same stage throughout the year. This approach has helped to alleviate the particular difficulties in obtaining pre-school placements".

Nursery placement shortages are of concern in the longer term.

In relation to the assessment of students on placement, the report notes that TEIs vary considerably in the way they take account of school evaluations of students' performance. "In some cases, there is considerable discussion between the class teacher and tutor before an evaluation is made," it states.

"In other cases, tutors spend little time sharing views on the student's performance, and miss opportunities to strengthen evaluations .

"TEIs ask students to reflect upon and evaluate their school placement experience. However, the information thus gathered is not shared formally with schools or education authorities. This information would provide valuable feedback to enable schools and authorities to make improvements to their arrangements."

Mentoring is being encouraged, HMIE found, but in some schools is still at an early stage of development. Although authorities have supported TEIs'

efforts to recruit appropriately skilled teachers to fulfil the roles of tutors and teacher fellows, some TEIs are still having difficulty in recruiting sufficient numbers of staff to meet the demands of growing numbers of students.

The level of knowledge and understanding of the Standard for Initial Teacher Education remained variable among school staff supporting students, HMIE says.

School staff felt there was a need for more training in making focused classroom observations of students' teaching. For their part, students perceived that there was a variation in the quality of feedback provided by teachers, and inconsistencies remained in teachers' application of competencies in assessing students.

For the full report, visit

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