Ministers advised to start praise culture

21st May 1999 at 01:00
THE Government needs to radically rethink its plans for initial teacher training - and to start praising staff already working in schools, ministers have been told.

Labour's plans for modernising the profession are exciting but need to be handled with great skill if they are to be brought in successfully, says a paper from an Society of Education Officers.

The SEO, which represents education officials in councils in England and Wales as well as the education and library boards in Northern Ireland, said there was a need for much more praise of teaching as a whole.

"The profession is sensitive to criticism, but telling it so does nothing to change that," it said in its response to Teachers - Meeting the Challenge of Change.

"Similarly, laying the blame for low morale at teachers themselves is not helpful."

In its Green Paper, the Department for Education and Employment claimed teachers have too often felt isolated, believing they are the unique victims of the process of change.

But it said: "The reality is that in many sectors change has been more revolutionary and had greater impact on pay, conditions and styles of work."

The SEO said: "It is possible to give general praise to all teachers without inducing complacency or diminishing high expectations for future performance."

Teaching already attracted far too low a share of good graduates, especially in shortage subjects such as maths and it was time to break the cycle with what it called a modern approach.

"The best employers offer new graduates an immediate salary, training over a period of two or three years, a phased introduction to responsibility, and an expectation that knowledge and skills will develop over time rather than having to be completed in one postgraduate year on a student loan which is all that is offered to prospective teachers."

Higher pay was essential to attract and retain good teachers as well as pursuing the aim of ever improving standards, it said.

The two-tier pay structure proposed by Government was not attractive in itself but "at the present time may be the best way to achieve significant change".

The SEO welcomed the aim of a properly-focused system of teacher appraisal but said successful schemes did not necessarily have a close relationship with pay.

Shortages ease, 14

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