Long live the revolution!;Career development

15th January 1999 at 00:00
Anthea Millett gives a quango's perspective on what the Green Paper holds for teacher training...

The Green Paper heralds a new age for teachers and teacher-trainers. It should have a major impact in making the teaching profession more attractive and in securing high-quality initial teacher training (ITT) and continuing professional development. It should ensure that there are opportunities for systematic and regular training at every stage, taking teachers from ITT, through induction and into a classroom teaching role with real prospects of salary progression and professional growth.

Years of neglect of teachers and their professionalism are coming to an end. We can now say goodbye to the era of shabby staffrooms and hello to an era of modern professionalism, in which teachers who meet high national standards will receive recognition and reward.

As we move into the next century, teachers will at long last take their place alongside every other profession where, as Lord Puttnam has been tirelessly pointing out over the past 18 months, good working conditions, a desk you can call your own, with a telephone, PC and administrative support, are rightly taken for granted.

But the revolution in teaching will go much deeper than this. Teachers will need to adapt to the sort of performance-management arrangements that other professionals take in their stride. Teachers have nothing to fear from sensitively-developed performance-related pay (PRP). Local management of schools was hard to get used to at first, but no school would be without it now.

My New Year forecast is that PRP will take its place in schools much more smoothly and successfully than cynics are suggesting. The performance threshold will liberate tens of thousands of good teachers who would otherwise find themselves blocked too early in their careers, or else needing to move into management when their real interest and expertise is in the classroom.

The repositioning of appraisal within the overall performance-management arrangements is another far-sighted step that will create a firm new basis for decisions about teachers' pay and professional development.

These aspects of the Green Paper are visionary enough, but added to them are equally far-reaching and incisive reforms of teacher training and continuing professional development. The proposed fast-track scheme, which will apply to those considering teaching and those already in service, will be an important bridgehead for attracting more of the brightest and best.

As a result of the Green Paper, we can expect to see more teachers trained via employment-based routes, including the Teacher Training Agency's graduate teacher programme. There will also be a new modular approach to courses for postgraduate initial teacher training, which will allow more flexible start and end points.

The new skills tests in literacy, numeracy and information and communications technology are also important steps forward in ITT, as they will ensure that every new teacher comes to schools equipped to do the job.

I hope training-providers will also welcome the proposal to identify schools which can form a network of high-quality training centres. We need to see more good and innovative practice; this network will help to ensure this happens.

Ministers' nod in the direction of school-centred ITT is also positive, as are the suggestions that we examine ways of routing more of the funding to schools and trainees in future.

The continuing professional development aspects of the Green Paper are even more radical. The distinction between three types of priority - national, school and individual - offers a firm basis for a thorough overhaul of the continuing professional development system, which for too long has ignored its most appropriate focus - the needs of pupils. The proposed code of practice will provide long-overdue leverage on the system.

On headship, the Green Paper confirms the Government's intention to establish a new National College for School Leadership. For a long time teachers have needed the same kind of training venue that people from business and industry have taken for granted for years.

The wide-ranging nature of the Green Paper's concerns is unique, taking in all aspects of modern teaching, including pay and performance, and all stages of teacher training, from pre-qualified teacher status to headship. There has never been such a comprehensive review, and we shall probably not see its like again for another generation. It should leave no one in doubt that, at last, teachers and teacher-trainers have a government which knows that greater teacher professionalism is essential to the goal that everyone in education and every parent shares - the need to raise standards of pupil achievement.

Anthea Millett is chief executive of the Teacher Training Agency

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