The way in which student teachers are trained could be in for a significant shake-up. "Teaching schools", modelled on the teaching hospitals used to train medical students, will be established for the first time in Glasgow and Aberdeen.
Jim Conroy, the outgoing dean of education at Glasgow University, cautions that the project, which is funded by the Scottish Government, is at an early stage. However, he suggests that half a dozen primaries and secondaries in the west end of Glasgow could become teaching schools by January 2011.
The initiative, he believes, will "enhance the professional status of teachers, bring school and university partnerships into a more robust alignment and improve the lives of school children".
University teaching staff would be based at the schools, like hospital- based clinical lecturers in medical training. Professor Conroy argues that the model would bring consistency to the experience of students on placement. This was a "common theme of concern" for students, he wrote in The TESS earlier this year (April 23). University staff would also help teachers within the schools to improve their practice.
Maureen McKenna, executive director for education at Glasgow City Council, described the project as having "great potential".
She said: "Glasgow is committed to providing new ways to enhance the professional development of our teachers."
In Glasgow, the model would run for a year, focusing on one-year PGDE students, Professor Conroy anticipates. Aberdeen University would test the model with students on the four-year BEd course. It envisages that staff will work in up to two clusters of schools for a few days a week.
David McMurtry, director of policy and planning at Aberdeen University's school of education, said: "At the moment our staff go into schools, do the job they came to do - be it coaching, mentoring or assessing students on placement - and then leave. But if we develop that relationship, there will be so many opportunities to work together."
These plans suggest universities are anticipating what may be a key recommendation from the Donaldson review of teacher education.
In its submission to the review, Glasgow University backed the development of teaching schools "open to experimentation and implementation of latest research". The secondary heads' association, School Leaders Scotland, also suggested considering such an approach.
General secretary Ken Cunningham said it could make sense to build expertise in a few schools, making them "better qualified" to train teachers.
"The pros and cons need to be explored," he added.