Kirk demands BEd shake-up

12th June 1998 at 01:00
One of Scotland's leading figures in teacher training has called for a fundamental review of teaching qualifications.

Gordon Kirk, principal of Moray House Institute, told the General Teaching Council last week that a wide-ranging review was necessary partly because of increasing links between primaries and secondaries and between schools and FE colleges.

Professor Kirk told The TES Scotland later that there should be a three-tier structure with qualifications covering pre-school and early primary, upper primary and early secondary, and upper secondary and further education.

"The educational world is changing and it would be a pity if we ended up with a set of qualifications which was not keeping pace," Professor Kirk told the GTC, of which he is vice-convener. "The present structure was introduced in 1907 and it would be extraordinary to think no changes were necessary."

His observations follow recent proposals from Ron Tuck, chief executive of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, who suggested a common qualification for teachers and FE lecturers "to break down the cultural divide between schools and colleges".

Professor Kirk said the four-year primary BEd was under particular strain because of the increasing demands for modern languages, Scottish history and culture, science, technology and health education to be taught in primary schools. "Each time the guidelines are reviewed nothing ever drops out," he said.

"The BEd is an honours degree programme," he reminded the council. "So it must allow for depth of study which is difficult to sustain over an increasingly extensive range of course content. It is not the way to educate teachers if they are just a couple of pages ahead of their pupils."

The GTC's draft response to Government proposals on initial teacher education backed two-tier primary training, arguing that the existing "generic" BEd course failed to prepare teachers for essential infant work such as the teaching of reading.

But the claim that concern over this issue was "habitually expressed" raised a storm of protest and the reference was deleted from the council's response.

"I don't recognise this picture of habitual concern and I don't agree with it," George Livingstone, vice-dean at Jordanhill, declared. Others said that different primary qualifications would be divisive and make it difficult to allocate staffing.

Support for a change came from Wolseley Brown, an Airdrie primary teacher and past president of the Educational Institute of Scotland. "There is a feeling that it is almost impossible to do justice to the job with the traditional training course covering ages three to 12 because of the vast ground which primary teachers are now expected to cover," Mr Brown said.

But Joan Robertson, headteacher of Pitcorthie primary in Dunfermline, told the council that the way to improve deficiencies in initial training was through "properly funded in-service".

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