Proposals 'could force PGCE course closures'

19th August 2011 at 01:00
Universities warn new school training powers will destabilise system

High-quality PGCE courses will be forced to shut if the Government presses ahead with controversial plans to give schools more responsibility for training teachers, leading universities have warned.

The whole training system risks being destabilised, with new teachers left without the basic knowledge they need to do their jobs, according to responses to a Government consultation.

Ministers believe universities do not work closely enough with schools and are concerned that trainees see their courses as too theoretical. They have said the closer involvement of schools would improve the quality of new teachers.

Currently, decisions about courses and the number of places available are made centrally by the Training and Development Agency for Schools and the Department for Education.

But, under wide-ranging plans, schools will be given significant new responsibilities to commission places and run initial teacher training courses themselves.

It is expected that the move will be implemented within five years.

The Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers has told ministers that schools would find this work "overly burdensome" and that the changes would "destabilise the existing system and lead to the loss of some high- quality providers".

"It would also reduce economies of scale and undermine national allocations and accountability models," UCET's response to the Government's consultation on the changes says.

The 1994 Group of research-intensive universities, including Durham, Bath, Exeter and London University's Institute of Education, has said education departments could be threatened if the changes go ahead.

"It could be questionable how economically sustainable a department of education in a university would be if it were to play only an auxiliary role in teacher training," their consultation response said.

"There are concerns about a reduction in economies of scale if many small schools are involved in teacher training. A worst-case knock on effect might be that having a qualification becomes an unreliable indicator of basic capabilities."

University think-tank million+ said the changes could lead to the supply of teachers becoming "overly parochial and place specific" and lead to a less diverse range of new entrants to the profession.

"There are reasons to be sceptical about the capacity of schools to commission, manage and quality assure large numbers of trainee teachers," its response says.

"For instance it is hard to envision a small primary school in a rural village having the capacity to do so, even if the school is working in partnership with other similar schools. The proposals therefore risk destabilising an effective system of commission and quality assurance with no real benefit."

University Alliance, a group of 23 universities, including the University of the West of England, Sheffield Hallam and Portsmouth, said "careful pilot schemes" would be needed to "ensure that schools were equipped to take on the process".

A DfE spokesman said: "These are big changes to the teacher training system and we are listening carefully to all the consultation contributions. All the evidence from the best education systems shows that schools need to play a central role in teaching training.

"Higher education still has a key part to play in teacher training, but we want to make better use of headteachers' and teachers' experience and give schools a greater say."


Headline points

The Government's proposals to overhaul teacher training:

- Schools to play a greater role in training teachers.

- No funding for those without a first- or second-class degree.

- All trainees will have to pass a literacy and numeracy test before starting their course.

- Expansion of Teach First.

- Bursaries worth up to pound;20,000 for those with most potential.

Original headline: Government proposals `could force PGCE course closures'

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