Look before you shoot

13th May 2005 at 01:00
In response to the comments made by Marion Rae in last week's TES Scotland, can I make it clear I am a very strong supporter of the staff and courses at Moray House, where I spent four very productive and enjoyable years - albeit in the late 1970s.

In my role as headteacher, I have always actively promoted and supported a constructive approach to our school's role in relation to initial teacher education. For the last 10 years, for example, we have run an induction programmme with the University of Edinburgh whereby around 20 undergraduates a year who are interested in teaching as a career take part in a well planned school-based experience, provided by principal teachers from all our subject departments. Unlike some schools, we always welcome and accommodate student teachers.

Marion Rae is wrong when she says that I was criticising initial teacher education. My remarks at the recent education reform conference, praising the quality of new teachers, were in response to critical comments about the quality of ITE made by one of the keynote speakers.

But the fact that I believe the quality of entrants to teaching is high does not mean that improvements cannot be made in the quality of courses provided by Moray House. Marion Rae should understand that the quality of new entrants may also be, in large measure, related to the individual's motivation, skill and enthusiasm and not simply to the quality of teacher training they have received at Moray House.

I have long believed that ITE could be enhanced by the introduction of a system where highly experienced teachers are seconded on a full-time basis into universities for a period of around two to three years. The educational benefits are self-evident.

Finally, in relation to Marion Rae's comments about the need to put pressure on those who make cuts in education budgets, I have to say that, since the late 1990s, education budgets in Edinburgh have been strongly protected and steadily improved and I am heartened that Peter Peacock is currently engaged in an exercise to ensure that monies allocated by the Scottish Executive do find their way into schools.

It is obvious that Marion Rae is an extremely competent and committed teacher. However, a little more reflection before shooting from the hip would not go amiss.

Rory Mackenzie Headteacher, Balerno High

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