5th September 1997 at 01:00
Aspiring teachers in the 21st century should not be allowed to begin training + unless they have "at least" an upper-second class university degree, according+ to ambitious new targets which universities are being asked to sign up to by + the Teacher Training Agency.The new targets are part of a five-year plan for + the improvement of both teacher supply and teacher quality being drawn up by + the TTA, due to be announced in October.The objectives, set out in a letter + sent to university teacher-training organisation s, are:* to "achieve at least+ three applications for every initial teacher-tr aining place by 2002";* to + make sure that for BEd courses "at least 80 per cent of those entering + [undergraduate courses] ... are drawn from the top 20 per cent [in terms of + A-level grade]";* and that those joining postgraduate courses have "at least an+ upper-second class degree".* to "raise the profile and status [of teaching] so+ that by 2002 it is one of the top three professions that young people wish to + join".The targets look particularly optimistic in the light of the latest + recruitment figures for this year, which show that applications are down for + all secondary subjects, including English and geography, as well as for + shortage subjects such as maths, science and modern languages. As always, the + shortages of recruits raise anxieties about the quality of those being + recruited.The TTA's recruitment blitz will stress the importance of getting all+ the players in the teacher-training field - university education departments, + schools, academics, students and teachers as well as the TTA - involved in + persuading the public that teaching is a desirable profession, suitable for the+ cream of the graduate crop. Advertisements will be broadcast on radio and in + cinemas, and universities will be asked to collaborate on them.Education + departments will also have to establish better links with other subject + departments, so that a trainee science teacher, for example, would be able to + keep up to date with the latest research.They will also have to collaborate on + a regional basis to provide "taster courses" for those considering teaching, as+ well as refresher courses for returners. Another idea is to get the + universities and colleges to support SCITT (school-centred initial teacher + training) courses. Some universities are likely to object to this on the + grounds that SCITT marginalises the role of higher education in teacher + education, making it purely training.In her letter to teacher-trainers, Jane + Benham, head of teacher supply at the TTA, said: "The TTA alone cannot change + the way teaching as a profession is regarded, and would not stand much chance + of success if we were a lone voice talking up teaching." Mary Russell, + secretary of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said that + universities were generally sympathetic to the targets,but added: "They are a + bit simplistic - the insistence on a 2:1 degree could make the system too rigid+ and rule out many potentially good teachers. It's vital to be flexible and + exercise professional judgement about what sort of people would make good + teachers. Also, I think they're pushing their luck with SCITT; I doubt whether+ UCET would support that one."The teacher unions, which have also been sent + copies of the TTA targets, are likely to insist that issues such as pay and + conditions of service would need to be addressed if teaching is ever to attract+ Britain's most able young people. One union official also questioned whether + the "top three professions that young people wish to join" can ever be + established.