Nicholas Barnard reports on an attempt to shake off the profession's 'compliant' image.
UNIVERSITIES and colleges are urging the Government to set up regional education action zones for teacher training to encourage innovation and creativity among the next generation of teachers.
The zones would be one way of persuading potential teachers that the profession has more to offer than hard work and strict regulations.
As ministers announced the names of the next 41 action zones for schools, the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers said it had already spoken to schools minister Estelle Morris about a similar idea for teacher training.
The zones would be part of a network of regional teacher education councils which UCET is also promoting.
The regions would bring together all the major stakeholders, from universities and other training providers to schools, local authorities and businesses.
Professor Mike Newby, chair of UCET and dean of the arts and education faculty at Plymouth University, said the private sector already had huge expertise in the field of training professionals. It could share that with teacher- training providers - and the link offered the potential for sponsorship. "We can learn from them and they can learn from us," he said.
UCET argues the moves would raise the profile of teaching as an innovative, important profession compared to the image most graduates had today of a job summed up in one word: "Compliance."
"What's on offer at the moment presents a picture of a highly-trained and competent technician, able to deliver a curriculum developed elsewhere, checked for compliance by the Office for Standards in Education and policed by test results published in league tables," said Professor Newby.
"Young men and women can see that it's exciting working with children and it's good for the world, but where is the freedom to grow, to spread your wings, make connections and try things out for yourself?"
Education action zones for teacher training, like school action zones, would see universities and other providers freed from the national curriculum for teacher training and similar constraints, but still obliged to meet agreed standards and subject to outside scrutiny.
Professor Newby said: "They would be free to take their own decisions and to innovate, adding to our knowledge about good practice.
"They would be like a research and development arm, experimenting, testing and passing on findings so that the manner in which we educate and train new teachers could develop based on real evidence rather than on Teacher Training Agency directive."
He added: "It would need additional funding and there would be dissemination costs."