OK on the home front

4th November 2005 at 00:00
I refer to Marj Adams's article in last Friday's TES Scotland.

At least in the University of Strathclyde, there is no ITE placement crisis, nor is it true that "placement arrangements are strained to breaking point".

All our 1,800 plus ITE students are in school placements this term. This is largely due to the efforts of Scotland's 32 local education authorities (whose schools they are), allied to a not insignificant contribution from Scotland's independent school sector.

Not only do we confidently expect that this will be repeated later in the year, we also expect that most students (especially the increasing proportion of mature students with domestic responsibilities) will be placed in their areas of choice.

However, school placements are, legally and rightly, ultimately in the control of the local authorities - not of the seven teacher education institutions. So it would be irresponsible of us to give absolute guarantees of particular placements to particular students when that is not ours to give.

As far as home economics is concerned, we have three members of staff. One, full-time, joined us six years ago, straight from a full-time career in school. A second, also full-time, joined us three months ago, again straight from a full-time career in school. The third, part-time, combines a part-time career here with a (fuller and concurrent) part-time career in school.

How much more recent would Marj Adams wish their school experience to be?

At the level of the 5-14 guidelines, at the level of Standard grade and at the level of National Qualifications, home economics includes a blend of theory and practical skills in fashion and textile technology - which includes practical fabric skills. So students - many largely from a nutrition and consumer science background - are taught such skills, including the use of a sewing machine. Why is that a problem? It is certainly not a problem to the schools - who have actually asked us to increase the element of textile training.

In short, I am convinced that the training of home economics teachers for Scottish schools is in good hands.

Should Marj Adams wish to visit us, we would certainly not give her a tutorial on putting objects (of whatever size or nature) through the eye of a needle, a topic on which she is already well qualified, at least in the abstract. But, in the interests of promoting useful learning, we could add to her evidential base for pronouncing on home economics.

Iain Smith Dean, Faculty of Education University of Strathclyde

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