The Scottish Executive this week launched the first stage of its next big project - driving up the quality of initial teacher education.
Jack McConnell, the Education Minister, announced a new process of"collaborative review" to act as a regular external check on how well teacher education institutions (TEIs) are doing in monitoring the quality of training programmes. The review process will be piloted in the 2001-02 session and the intention is to run the finally agreed quality assurance system from 2002 to 2006.
Mr McConnell said: "We need an effective system for monitoring the quality of initial teacher education to help raise standards in our schools."
The proposed quality assurance arrangements are different from the review of initial teacher education agreed as part of the post-McCrone settlement. That will scrutinise the content and structure of training courses as part of a two-pronged initiative that will also develop a framework for the continuous professional development of teachers.
"Whatever the outcome of the McCrone exercise, quality assurance processes will have to e in place to monitor the programmes which exist," a Scottish Executive official told The TES Scotland. "This announcement in no way predetermines the outcome of the wider McCrone review."
The collaborative review will be based on a handbook which is to be issued for consultation before the piloting begins. This will incorporate a new standard for initial teacher education to act as a benchmark against which quality will be judged.
The idea of a one-stop review of TEI quality assurance arrangements came from the Sutherland report, part of the Garrick committee's contribution to the Dearing inquiry into higher education funding.
Sir Stewart Sutherland's team recommended a streamlining of the separate checks on TEIs carried out by the General Teaching Council for Scotland, the Scottish Executive, HMI, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education and the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council - all complementing internal evaluations.
The collaborative exercise will include all these agencies but is intended "to harness the expertise" efficiently, Mr McConnell said.