Time to end the hundred years' war over training

22nd September 1995 at 01:00
Anthea Millett (TES, September 8) understands our letter (TES, September 1) as an attempt to enlist our historical research in support of the superiority of higher-education-based schemes of initial teacher training over school-centred initial teacher training (SCITT) schemes.

Perhaps this reading was provoked by the unhappy headline. "Forgotten flops" which The TES attached to our letter. Nevertheless, her response is not justified by what we actually wrote.

If we leave on one side the disappointing allusions to the academic integrity of our work, we can agree entirely that the structure of contemporary SCITT schemes differs in many important respects from those of the pre-war period. Moreover, our research shows that the earlier schemes achieved significant practical successes, as have their more recent counterparts.

But these were not the aspects of our work that we sought to convey in our letter. Instead, we drew attention to what appears to us as a far more fundamental point - the historic failure to establish effective and durable working partnerships between school-centred schemes and institutions of higher education in the 20th century. For more than a hundred years, the entire project of initial teacher training has been bedevilled by disfiguring and debilitating mutual suspicions between higher education and the schools. That is why the further assertion of our letter was that only through a better understanding of a history that is shared by teacher and teacher- trainer alike, will we achieve the genuine partnership of common interest and endeavour that we all seek.

That is also why our research methodology rests not upon the indulgence of our preconceptions, but upon seeking out the views of classroom teachers. It is an approach that we would commend to others.

PETER CUNNINGHAM PHIL GARDNER BOBBIE WELLS RICHARD WILLIS University of Cambridge Faculty of Education Cambridge

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