Teacher training in school no panacea

19th July 1996 at 01:00
A major study of teacher education over the past five years casts doubt on the feasibility of the Government's determination to shift more and more of the responsibility for training teachers on to schools. The report also finds that few courses seek to create "child-centred" or "progressive" teachers, despite the claims of right-wing critics.

The report is based on a survey of partnerships between universities and schools, carried out by a team funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and covering 211 courses - three-quarters of the total on offer in 1995-6. More than a third of respondents reported difficulties in recruiting schools willing to take part in teacher training. The problem was particularly marked with secondary and conversion courses, and in certain subjects - maths, science, technology and modern languages.

The researchers also asked whether courses were designed with a particular model of a good teacher in mind. Two-thirds of respondents said that they were - but most used such words as "reflective", "professional" and "competent" to describe the sort of teacher they tried to produce. Only a tiny minority opted for "caring" or "child-centred".

One researcher, John Furlong, professor of education at Bristol University, said: "The report provides new evidence on the progress of recent Government reforms in teacher education. Independent research is particularly important given Ofsted's failure to publish findings from the recently completed primary sweep."

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

The report criticises the Teacher-Training Agency for underestimating the role of higher education in teacher training and concludes that "the scope for many schools to move further towards the TTA model, let alone the SCITT (school-centred initial teacher training) model, in the foreseeable future seems decidedly limited." Without more money, the report warns, "there is a risk that students will spend more time in school but have less training. "

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