Quadruple training for teachers

11th April 2008 at 01:00
Proposal to increase training and classroom observation, rather than pay, for better teaching

Teacher training should be quadrupled, according to an influential think tank, which argues that England's schools system needs better teaching to become world-class. A report next month from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), which has close ties to the Government, will recommend that all teachers receive 20 days in-service training per year.

It wants to see teacher pay rises more closely linked to the levels of training, and decisions about what course they go on taken away from schools and given to teachers.

Julia Margo, associate director of the IPPR, said an analysis of GCSE results had shown that, once a child's background was taken into account, the quality of their teacher was the single most important factor determining the pupil's performance, beating other variables such as class size.

"If we had really effective teachers then we would not be performing so poorly internationally," she said. "The buck stops with teachers.

"If you want a world-class education system, you need to be investing your money on the training and development of your workforce, not on teacher pay."

The plans are likely to anger unions, which want increased pay. They feel teachers are scapegoats for problems in the education system. Ofsted's last annual report said that only 3 per cent of teaching in England was inadequate. But the IPPR's proposals are significant because ministers have already proposed increasing training to make teaching a masters-level profession.

The think tank will argue that the best way to improve poor teacher performance is through lesson observation. It recommends making it compulsory for all teachers to watch colleagues teach four times a term, and eight times a term for heads and senior management.

The IPPR will also recommend that responsibility for in-service training budgets is taken away from schools and given to the Training and Development Agency for schools (TDA).

Money would go to individual teachers who would select their own courses, conferences or visits for 10 days of external training every year. Another 10 days would be spent on school-based training.

Teachers are supposed to get five days in-service training a year. But Ms Margo said the amount of teacher training in England was "absymal" compared to top performing education systems.

The huge expansion, to be phased in gradually by 2020, could create financial challenges for schools paying for cover. But Ms Margo said the proposals would not involve "a scary amount of money."

Derek Davies, head of Stretford High, Manchester, said: "I agree with the principle of more training but increasing it to 20 days a year is just not going to be practical. It isn't a problem that more money for extra cover would remedy; it is the break in the consistency of teaching that can be damaging for pupils."

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