The new Teacher Training Agency has promised a shake-up of in-service training and the funding for university education departments in its new corporate plan.
The plan, a self-conscious exercise in openness, sets out a long list of objectives and dates for achieving them. The new agency was set up amid controversy, and officials acknowledge the need to win the support of the teacher-training institutions they will be governing.
The agency promises to commission a study of funding to reward "quality and cost-effectiveness", a move which has already alarmed trainers in colleges and universities who are not accustomed to having their internal finances questioned. Earlier this year, TTA chairman Geoffrey Parker said that there is too great a variation in funding per trainee with no apparent link to quality. There will also be a review of continuing professional development with the introduction of "summative profiles" for newly-qualified teachers, and a more rigorous approach to in-service training.
Launching the document at a conference of school and university staff, Education Secretary Gillian Shephard returned to the theme of inadequate teachers, saying that some of them should leave the profession. "We must give credit to individual teachers. But we also know that there remains room for improvement. We know that there are still too many teachers who are delivering that stubborn core of unsatisfactory lessons about which HMI warn us year after year." The TTA, she said, has a central role in helping to raise standards.
She had earlier said that the weakest teachers identified by HMI are people who, in plain language, "should be leaving the profession". Poor teaching, she said, was not linked to a lack of resources. "I think that some people perhaps are ill equipped for the age group they're teaching and the subject they're teaching. In both these areas better targeted in-service money and GEST (Grants for Education Support and Training) money can help the matter."
"We can't afford in-service training funds to be spent in ways which are not clearly linked to school improvement," she told the conference. "We need to know which sort of in-service training work is best."
Local authority leaders were alarmed that this could spell the end of their involvement in professional development. Officials privately reassured them, however, that this is not planned.
The agency was set up under the 1993 Education Act. Its roles include funding all training courses; accrediting training institutions; promoting school-centred training courses; promoting teaching as a career; and commissioning practically geared research.
The document sets out the following deadlines: May 1995: Commission research into the teaching of literacy and numeracy.
June 1995: Produce guidance to school-centred training groups.
September 1995: Complete a study of the way student numbers are allocated and funded.
October 1995: Produce advice on partnerships in primary training.
October 1995: Devise a strategy for persuading more people to join the school-centred teacher training scheme.
November 1995: Pass on information about the benefits of involvement in teacher training.
January 1996: Pass on information about the allocation of money to partner schools.
April 1996: Disseminate information on effective approaches to training teachers.
Spring 1996: Develop strategies for an "appropriate balance" of school centred and denominational providers of training; of three-year and six-subject BEds; and specialist primary teachers, particularly at key stage 2.
Autumn 1996: Review the licensed and Overseas Trained and Registered scheme.