Tomorrow's practitioner

20th July 2001 at 01:00
IT is a chastening thought to recall that the concerns now being raised about the quality of teacher education, as we must now call it, saw the light of day as long as 30 years ago (page four). We must hope that the Deloitte and Touche report on initial teacher education and the next more fundamental review we are promised will bring the talking to an end and usher in some action.

Certainly circumstances are combining to give us some confidence that we will not be going over the same old ground another 30 years from now. For a start, the demand for new teachers over the next decade makes changes imperative and therefore inevitable. The latest figures from the teacher supply report (page three) confirm a healthy interest in primary teaching with more than eight applications per training place, but little room for manoeuvre in the secondary sector where there are just three applications for every place. At the same time the number of new primary teaching appointments required at the start of each new session will rise from almost 700 this year to more than 1,400 by 2010, according to the supply survey, while secondary numbers will have to increase from 587 to 768.

What these demands indicate is that the profession will require not just young blood, but fresh blood of all ages. That implies attracting recruits who are interested not just in the remuneration of the job and who are not put off by inflexible entry arrangements. It implies taking ITE to where the recruits are. And it implies that the funding of both initial training and induction in general - the main weakness in the report - must be made more secure.

There are question marks, however, over this review. The McCrone report left an unfortunate impression that ITE might be out of touch with "the real world" of the classroom - an ironic reversal of the usual claim that the classroom is out of touch. The Deloitte and Touche report has little of significance to say about this, beyond recording a lack of consensus on what to do about it. The secondment of teachers to work in teacher education institutions is a creative solution, but perhaps a more thoroughgoing study is required if the sceptics cited by McCrone are to be convinced.

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