More troubleshooting than it's worth

30th June 1995 at 01:00
We were appalled at the conclusions drawn about teacher training in Warwick University by Sir John Harvey-Jones's BBC2 Troubleshooter programme on June 7 (TES, June 9). An interview with three Warwick University students took place in a Solihull school and based on this sample, Sir John raised some fundamental issues about teacher training.

The tenor of opinion from the students interviewed seemed anti-intellectual, in that it was against "theoretical" teaching in a university environment, the argument being that much of what was delivered was totally irrelevant to practice in the classroom.

We challenge these conclusions for a number of reasons.

First, the validity of a generalised and misleading conclusion from a sample of three students who clearly had strong personal opinions but very limited practical experience.

Second, Sir John drew such conclusions despite the research evidence. The survey conducted by Sir Peter Newsam at the London Institute of Education showed that newly practising teachers (two to three years after training) found their academic experiences most useful in classroom preparation and practice.

His analysis found that: "For every student who finds an element in the course too theoretical, another points to the fact that, (on) a post-graduate course, they had expected to be even more vigorously challenged intellectually. "

Third, firm evidence from Solihull schools, where some of our more exciting and vibrant teachers turn out to be recent products of the school of education in Warwick.

Fourth, it is regrettable that that filming of the headteacher and also of university staff and students within Warwick did not form part of the programme. They all gave their time and thought on the understanding that Sir John wished to give a balanced picture. In the event it was one-sided and lacked argument.

CHRISTOPHER TRINICK Director of education Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council JOHN TOMLINSON Professor of education University of Warwick TREVOR DAVIES Headteacher Balsall Common primary school Coventry

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