THE CHAIRMAN of a new body set up to promote school-centred teacher training is fighting back after a TES analysis found the sector's performance in primary inspections is not as good as that of higher education providers.
Terry Creissen called on the Office for Standards in Education to change its inspection criteria to take better account of the benefits of informal "on-the-job" training provided by school-based schemes. He also claimed that such schemes produce trainees better prepared to start their careers.
His claims come after a TES review of the most recent inspection reports of 61 higher education primary postgraduate certificate of education providers. This found that they achieved an average mark of "good" - the second highest grading.
By contrast, 14 primary school-centred initial teacher training (SCITT) providers averaged only mid-way between "good" and "adequate".
A more detailed breakdown reveals that only three of 129 individual judgments (2 per cent) on primary courses received the top grade, "very good", compared with 25 per cent in higher education.
However, Mr Creissen, new chair of the National SCITT Council, claimed that inspectors' emphasis on formal training negated one of the strengths of his members - the informal "on-thejob" experience teachers gain by, for example, talking to colleagues in the staffroom.
In his experience, school-based trainees had fewer problems getting going in their first job because they had spent more time in schools. "It tends to give students a better start to their teaching career", he said.
"Entering a school for your first job is a testing experience, where young teachers can float or sink. The feedback we are getting is that SCITT students always float, because they have already been totally immersed in the culture of a school for a year."
Mr Creissen said that this advantage was not just about being more confident about entering a school for their first job. Faced with a problem, SCITT teachers were readier to ask questions of colleagues because they were better integrated into staffroom culture.
He said his claims were borne out by his experience as head of Colne community school, near Colchester - where he founded one of the firt school-based schemes in 1993 - and those of his national council colleagues.
But Mr Creissen acknowledged that the evidence so far was anecdotal. One of the council's first tasks would be to substantiate it through research. He said he had also had initial discussions with OFSTED about the call for reports to take greater account of the informal learning opportunities school-based trainees gain.
There are 52 school-based consortia, training 2 per cent of new teachers.
Professor Mike Newby, chair of the University Council for the Education of Teachers, said: "Really the jury is out until we see a proper piece of research, but I think Mr Creissen would find it hard to find the evidence he is seeking.
"It would also be quite false to draw a distinction between SCITT-based training as being entirely professional and university provision as being entirely academic. A high proportion of the time on higher education courses is spent in schools."
An OFSTED spokeswoman said: "OFSTED has obligations to the current inspection cycle until September 2002.
"We will be discussing with the Department for Education and Employment and the Teacher Training Agency about what form future inspections should take."
Angela Crouch, 37, a trainee secondary information technology teacher with the 11-school Bromley Schools' Collegiate, said she had "jumped at the chance" to join a SCITT because of the emphasis on practical experience.
She said: "I have two sons in school and I have spent a lot of time helping out in schools and I do not think there's a better way of learning than on the job.
"I have friends on PGCEs who say they feel detached and isolated from schools because they spend less time in them.
"Here, I have been treated like a teacher from day one. The pupils see me as a member of staff, so going to school to teach for real is going to be a breeze."
Jonathan Dix, 24, a trainee secondary religious education teacher also training through the Bromley consortium, said: "There's a big difference between sitting in a university class with a lecturer telling you what happens when a situation develops in a classroom, and actually being in that classroom having to deal with the situation."