Learn Welsh before you teach

13th January 2006 at 00:00
All new teachers training in Wales should study Welsh before starting their courses, a new report released after TESCymru went to press is expected to say.

The long-awaited Furlong review of teacher training suggests new recruits should receive pound;150 a week in bursaries while completing four-week immersion courses in the summer before they start their professional training.

The Assembly government commissioned a group led by Professor John Furlong of Oxford university to look at how teacher-training intake targets, courses and availability could "more closely match demand and encourage under-represented groups into teaching".

Wales has been training more teachers than it needs for some time, particularly in the primary sector. In 2004, only 303 (35 per cent) of 1,065 new primary teachers who trained in Wales managed to find jobs, according to the General Teaching Council for Wales.

The Assembly government has already increased the time newly-qualified teachers have to complete induction from four terms to up to five years.

But unions have called for a guaranteed one-year post for NQTs so they can complete their induction period as quickly as possible - as happens in Scotland.

With pupil numbers declining in Wales, the Furlong review has been wrestling with how many teachers the country will need in the medium term, and where they should be trained.

The group has also been anxious that its proposals should ensure the viability of courses generally, and Welsh-medium training in particular.

The recommendation that all new teachers - primary and secondary - should have some Welsh-language training is intended to reflect the increasingly bilingual character of Wales.

The Assembly government consulted last year on new standards for qualified teacher status, which would require all new primary recruits to teach Welsh as a second language - with the support of more experienced colleagues.

A spokesperson said it was still considering responses to the consultation and that no final decisions had been taken.

But there was a mixed reaction to the proposal, with some claiming the requirement would be unfair and discourage people from joining the profession.

The Furlong group has taken these concerns into account but has calculated that, as most people training to be teachers in Wales are from Wales, relatively few would be put off by a four-week language course.

Education and lifelong learning minister Jane Davidson formally received the report yesterday from Professor Furlong, after TES Cymru went to press, but has yet to respond to it. It will be discussed by the Assembly's education committee on January 26.

At present, teacher training takes place in Wales at Aberystwyth, Bangor, and Newport universities; University of Wales Institute of Cardiff; Swansea Institute of Higher Education; North East Wales Institute of Higher Education, and Trinity College Carmarthen.

* karen.thornton@tes.co.uk

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