New chance to rewrite the training book

17th October 2003 at 01:00
Many years ago I was one of a small group of young lecturers who walked into Hamilton College of Education full of ideas to right the wrongs of long established and, we thought, traditional teacher training colleges. We thought we could write a new rule book and be exciting and innovative.

Around that time there had been a recruitment of men as trainees in the hope of providing role models to boys in primary schools.

There had also been a drive to entice mature students as they had had experience of life and possibly industry and would bring different skills with them.

Looking even further back, to my training at Jordanhill, just one period on three Friday afternoons was given to studying infant reading methods, so if we trainees chose to extend our weekend that could mean no reading studies at all. In fact, I think I spent more time in the gym than I did considering aspects of literacy. However, in all I spent four years studying to be a teacher, as I added an extra year to include Froebel training to specialise at the early stages.

A number of friends studied for degrees and then completed a postgraduate certificate of education. All of them came to us long-haul trained teachers for help when they felt ill equipped to begin their careers having tried to cram everything into one year.

So, what should happen now when there might be a chance to influence change again? Perhaps we should think again about more men coming into primary schools. There are many more men in the European classrooms I have visited on exchanges.

What happened to the men who trained in the early 1970s? I still meet a few and most of those are in promoted posts and influencing Scottish education at a senior level. Many more took their degrees and used them to gain entry to another line of work which offered better salaries and prospects for overtime payments or speedy promotions.

Those were the days when teaching salaries were seen as fine if they were a family's second income but preferably not the main salary.

I still worry about the long time it is going to take for a chartered teacher to work up the ranks to gain the higher salaries on offer. An ambitious young high-flyer might still seek other pastures to find job satisfaction.

In this time of e-learning, might there be more opportunities for distance learning coupled with school placements? It seems unequal to deny the opportunity to train as teachers to candidates who live in rural or island areas.

Mentors support probationer teachers by being given time to work alongside them. If there are plans to increase the amount of training time in schools, we cannot expect teachers to take time away from pupils. This would be an ideal time to build mentoring of student teachers into the teams which will emerge next year when planning time forms part of teachers' working day. Also, perhaps student teachers' assignments could be more closely linked to the work of actual schools, as it is for the Scottish Qualification for Headship, which could be a useful model.

Let me leave you with a story about dedication to duty. One evening, on hearing breaking glass and the sound of fire, my husband ran down to Brandon, one of the six residence halls at Hamilton College, where 100 first-year male students lived. He helped to rescue them and no one was seriously hurt but one young man was last seen running up the hill and off campus, clutching his teaching practice suit. I wonder what he is doing today.

Sheilah Jackson is headteacher of Queensferry Primary, Edinburgh

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