Stirling University is introducing a course that will allow trainee primary teachers to gain their professional qualification and an academic qualification at the same time, similar to the one it runs for secondary teachers, which is unique in Scotland.
Traditionally, students wishing to study the arts or sciences as well as primary teaching complete an honours degree, then the postgraduate diploma in education (PGDE), taking them a total of five years. But from September, the university will offer 50 aspiring primary teachers the chance to combine academic study in modern languages or environmental science with their professional qualification.
The Scottish Government believes too many come through the one-year PGDE route, which is seen as giving trainees insufficient time.
In documents revealed in a Freedom of Information request, civil servants set out plans to introduce "four-year primary provision with specific specialisms". This would help to increase teacher numbers and allow schools to work towards reducing P1-3 classes to 18, while rebalancing "the PGDEBEd intakes which have been out of kilter".
The Association of Heads and Deputes in Scotland has welcomed the course. It agrees that a one-year postgraduate course is not enough to acquire all the skills needed to become a primary teacher. It prefers courses, such as the Scottish Teachers for a New Era programme, that allow primary trainees to study certain subjects in more depth.
Greg Dempster, AHDS general secretary, said: "In primary teacher training, you're learning how to teach as well as learning about the elements of the curriculum, and you have to cover from pre-school until the end of P7. That's a lot to cram into a year."
Claire Whewell, director of initial teacher education at Stirling University, says the course offers two main advantages: students qualify a year earlier, and have four years instead of one to learn how to teach and to decide if it is for them.
"If it's not for them, they will still come out with a degree in environmental science or modern languages," she said. "There's also no pressure to get them through their teacher placements. We can concentrate on the quality of teacher we are putting out."
Scottish Teachers for a New Era, p12-13.