Teacher training shake-up

14th January 2011 at 00:00
Donaldson review of teacher education calls for radical changes to produce more quality staff

Hub teaching schools, modelled on the concept of "teaching hospitals" used for training doctors, should be introduced to raise standards in teacher training and improve collaboration between schools and universities.

The proposal, one of a raft of recommendations made by former senior chief inspector Graham Donaldson in his review of teacher education, reflects his theme of greater partnership working to drive-up teacher professionalism.

Rather than a return to the "demonstration" schools of the past, these hub schools would have university staff working alongside teachers doing action research. They would act as a resource to be shared with other schools in the area.

Hub schools would also be identified as training grounds for student teachers. Mr Donaldson recognises in his report, published yesterday, that although the induction year arrangement offers "world-class entitlements", it has not always been matched by world-class content.

Student placements have been subject to "wide variation", he says, and a new role should be created of specially-trained mentors, employed jointly by universities and councils, to ensure that entrants receive better support.

The Donaldson review also wants to make the probationary year part of a seamless transition from the current undergraduate and postgraduate training courses for teachers, with time in the long holidays given over to additional study.

This "single early phase of teacher education" would mean that the current one-year PGDE programme, followed by probation, would effectively become a two-year graduate programme, while the four-year BEd followed by probation would be phased out and become a five-year programme.

This model would be predicated upon probationer teachers continuing to be in class for 0.7 of the timetable, albeit applied more flexibly than currently, rather than the 0.9 timetable proposed by the Scottish Government and local authorities.

Continuing his medical analogy, Donaldson said chartered teachers, like top doctors who are given the most difficult cases to treat, should be given the most challenging classes.

Selection of entrants to teaching needs to be more rigorous and draw upon a wider set of selection criteria, the review suggests. A "small but significant" number lacked fundamental attributes needed to become a good teacher, notably basic weaknesses in literacy and numeracy.

Donaldson goes on to suggest the creation of a central assessment centre to select suitable candidates. It would carry out diagnostic literacy and numeracy tests designed to show the weaknesses students had to overcome during their teacher training. Student teachers would then have to sit a tougher competence test at the end of their training.

elizabeth.buie@tes.co.uk

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