Report casts doubt on school-based training

26th July 1996 at 01:00
As the General Teaching Council's review of teacher training reaches its midway point, a major study over the past five years south of the border casts doubt on the Government's drive to shift more responsibility for training to schools.

The study found few courses were preoccupied with creating "child-centred" or "progressive" teachers, despite claims from right-wing politicians.

In Scotland, local authority and union opposition forced ministers to drop the scheme which would have required students to spend more time in secondary schools under the guidance of experienced mentor teachers. The GTC was then asked to set up a working group to develop proposals for "partnership" between schools and teacher education institutions.

The English research was based on a survey of partnerships between universities and schools. It was carried out by the Economic and Social Research Council and covered 211 courses, three-quarters of the total on offer in 1995-96.

More than a third of respondents reported difficulties in recruiting schools willing to take part in teacher training, another of the factors leading to the Scottish mentor scheme being abandoned. The research council's study said the problem was particularly marked with secondary and conversion courses.

The researchers also asked if courses were designed with a particular model of a good teacher in mind. Two-thirds of respondents said they were, but most used words such as "reflective" "professional" and "competent". A small minority referred to "caring" or "child-centred".

John Furlong, professor of education at Bristol University and one of the study's authors, said: "The report provides new evidence on the progress of recent Government reforms in teacher education."

The researchers found "significant weaknesses in the current partnership models of teacher education". Partnerships were dangerously dependent on the goodwill of the partners; institutions of higher education with diminished resources have to provide mentor training and constantly search for new schools, while schools themselves have to provide training on tight budgets while coping with many other demands.

The report criticises the Government's tendency to underestimate the role of higher education in teacher training and concludes that scope for further moves towards school-centred teacher training "seems decidedly limited" in the foreseeable future.

Without more money, the report warns, "there is a risk that students will spend more time in school but have less training".

Meanwhile the GTC expects to have an interim progress report from its partnership working group ready for its regular October "meet-the-teachers" session, which takes place this year in Inverness. Raymond Robertson, the Education Minister, hopes to be present.

Mr Robertson announced the setting up of the working group last October and said that, if he agreed with its plans for an effective national framework, it might be incorporated into Scottish Office guidelines for initial teacher training courses.

Labour is also committed to a review of teacher training.

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