Training colleges hit back

10th June 2011 at 01:00
They defend relevance and standard of their courses in face of criticism and demand for overhaul

The body that represents initial teacher training (ITT) colleges has hit back at strong criticisms of the quality of courses in Wales and dismissed calls for them to be urgently overhauled.

James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), accused critics of being out of touch with the work being done by ITT providers.

His comments follow concerns expressed by the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) that many courses do not give trainee teachers sufficient time to prepare for the job, and criticism from members of teaching union ATL Cymru, who said many courses were a "waste of time" and of no practical use.

But Mr Noble-Rogers said: "The stereotypical view that many have of teacher training delivered in isolation by people who haven't been teaching in schools in many years, who have a sociological or political bias, is simply not correct.

"Providers are subject to comparable quality measures as schools.

"Evidence from Estyn, newly qualified teachers and schools shows that ITT in Wales is relevant and of good quality."

He added: "Where is the evidence to say an urgent overhaul is needed? There is none."

ITT institutions in Wales are facing an uncertain future, with education minister Leighton Andrews planning to review provision and evaluate the number of places funded in future.

The colleges recently held their first joint meeting and said they shared a "desire" to improve and to help address issues affecting education in Wales.

Mr Noble-Rogers said UCET is keen to engage further with the Welsh Government and the GTCW, and is lobbying for meetings with ministers and civil servants.

However, he admitted there were issues, and agreed with the GTCW that more "joined-up thinking" was needed between ITT and early professional development.

He also suggested that PGCE courses should be extended in length and that schools should become more involved in the development and management of ITT programmes.

Mr Noble-Rogers said Wales's ITT institutions support the education minister's plan to make teaching a masters-level qualification, providing it is relevant to the needs of pupils and schools.

NUT Cymru secretary David Evans said that while newly qualified members' experiences of ITT were largely positive, courses must adapt to new developments.

"Often NQTs wish they had (got) more guidance in practical matters such as dealing with bad behaviour," he said.

"It's right that the content of courses is kept under review."

Professor David Reynolds, a policy advisor to the Welsh Government, said standards on ITT courses in Wales are very high, and schools are "overwhelmingly positive" about the standard of NQTs. He added: "I think the Government's plan to cut quantity and up quality is really sensible."

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