No cover role for assistants

26th September 2003 at 01:00
Plans for more flexibility in teacher training will not mean employing assistants to cover classes when teachers are off. The General Teaching Council for Scotland has already warned of the threat.

The second stage review of initial teacher education, announced on Monday, by Peter Peacock, Education Minister, marks a break with south of the border where classroom assistants are being handed more prominent roles.

Ministers stress that they will not draft in less qualified staff, although they are under pressure to recruit thousands of extra teachers over the next five years. The numbers who want to be teachers, especially in primary, are holding up well.

But there is speculation that the demand for more English and mathematics teachers in the first two years of secondary to meet the First Minister's commitment to reduce class sizes may yet weaken the GTC adherence to separate qualification routes for primary and secondary teachers.

A new intermediate teaching qualification for the 10-14 age group remains an option, although staffing difficulties in the transition from primary are most likely to be met by existing teachers undertaking further training and courses, either moving up from primary to S1-S2 or down from secondary.

There is no suggestion of any teacher education institution facing the chop. Indeed, colleges, local authorities and universities are likely to enter into closer links to set up initial training outwith the central belt and attract more mature students.

The model is the course launched last month by Aberdeen University and Highland which allows students to become primary teachers by studying part-time over two years through distance learning techniques.

Mr Peacock, speaking at Bruntsfield primary in Edinburgh, said he had "significant plans" to address shortages in maths and English but declined to spell them out. There was no word either on financial incentives for existing teachers to retrain or for others at present outside teaching to come in.

In the recent past, the Scottish Executive has not ruled out golden hellos.

South of the border, recruitment to key subjects has risen by a fifth after the Department for Education and Skills introduced pound;6,000 bursaries to attract graduates to train, pound;4,000 golden hellos for subjects such as maths and the repayment of student loans which can run to pound;10,000.

Mr Peacock said: "There is a lot of complex thinking to be done.

In English it is going to be less challenging than it is in maths, but they are both going to be challenging and we are going to look at a whole range of factors."

He has set up a review committee, chaired by Philip Rycroft, head of schools in the Scottish Executive, to report on what might be done in the short and long term to address shortages and ensure teachers entering the classroom are better equipped to cope, particularly with rising indiscipline and increased numbers of pupils with special educational needs in mainstream.

Interim recommendations are likely around Christmas so that planners can influence numbers entering training next year.

Matthew MacIver, GTC registrar, said: "We are all aware that many aspiring teachers simply cannot afford to give up employment to go on full-time courses to universities. We need, therefore, to widen access to help people who want to become teachers."

The review follows a pledge in the post-McCrone agreement to re-examine initial training and after a first-stage inquiry in 2001 carried out by consultants from Deloitte amp; Touche for the Executive. It will examine:

* Ways of entering the profession and how courses prepare staff, including classroom management strategies.

* Whether undergraduate and postgraduate courses are the best way of delivering training.

* Part-time courses and locating training in different parts of the country.

* The transition from primary to secondary.

* Whether the "current thrust and framework of guidelines, entry requirements and standards relating to teacher training remain appropriate".

Leader 30

Review group members

Philip Rycroft, head of schools, Scottish Executive

Donald Henderson, head of teachers division, Scottish Executive

Matthew MacIver, registrar, General Teaching Council for Scotland

James Calderwood, vice-principal, Dundee University

Pamela Munn, dean of education, Edinburgh University

Hirek Kwiatkowski, dean of education, Glasgow University

Roy Jobson, education director, Edinburgh

John Mulgrew, education director, East Ayrshire

Sheena Wardhaugh, vice-president, Educational Institute of Scotland

Greg Ingram, Headteachers' Association of Scotland

plus local authority and industry representatives

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