Letters extra : Frustrating training for Threshold Assessors

9th March 2001 at 00:00

I feel strongly compelled to write to the TES having recently endured, in the company of around thirty frustrated but very patient individuals, a three-day CFBT training course for aspiring Threshold Assessors in London. Only 75% of those enrolled for the course actually turned up. Perhaps they knew what to expect or was it the result of the one-day tube strike that made the outward journey a miserable experience for many?

The delegates were for the most part either ex or serving heads (Primary and Secondary) or AdvisersConsultants of one kind or another, people of considerable educational calibre and experience. Whilst the quality of the training materials is not in question, `though the `bulk was somewhat excessive, and all the delegates seemed at least reasonably confident at the end of the three days that they would be able to fulfil the role of TA efficiently and effectively, nevertheless the deliverycontent of the course was quite frankly unacceptable. To sit for three days at cramped tables and struggle mechanistically and laboriously through the instruction manual with an Instructor whose knowledge level was no better than any of the delegates and who, despite being a qualified TA, had yet to practise in the field, was hard work in the extreme. There were occasional opportunities to talk to and cross-refer with one's neighbour and the lengthy sessions were punctuated by four pressurised tests of varying relevance. Role-play, which featured strongly in the training for External Adviser, was almost totally ignored, rather strange given the importance of the dialogue(s) with the headteacher, and the three groups were kept separate for the entire duration of the course `though in fairness, as is often the case at such events, there was a good deal of social interaction at mealtimes and in the evenings, and it was very pleasing to note colleagues from all phases of education mixing so well.

For an exercise as important as Threshold Assessment there has to be a training programme which is diverse, demanding and practically relevant, led by experienced instructors able to handle effectively and challenge high calibre professionals. It would be unfair to point the finger at any one individual, given that all three group leaders were clearly working to an agreed brief, and delegates were repeatedly told that in the first year of TA training it was essential for everyone qualified to have undergone the same experience and taken exactly the same tests. All I can say is this: all the course delegates I spoke to were very disappointed with the qualify of the training experience and discussions since with other qualified Threshold Assessors lead me to believe that other courses have provoked similar reactions. It is to be hoped that Training Agencies such as CFBT (and indeed the DFEE) pay heed to the widespread criticisms and dramatically rethink and restructure training programmes for year 2.

A M Hill
Ex-Secondary Head
21 The Green Beeston
SG19 1PE PS.

P.S. Even the food was a letdown! Breakfasts apart the quality was generally poor

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