Training for 'joined up teachers'

25th June 1999 at 01:00
THE WAY that teachers are trained should be completely rethought a conference on initial teacher education heard.

The plea came from Michael White, Aberdeenshire's director of education, an enthusiast for community schools. He believes they will help create "joined-up teachers" by mixing the best efforts of education, health and social work.

He said the concept was bedevilled by divisions in teaching and training, straitjacketed employment conditions and unrealistic expectations of society.

Mr White revealed that early evidence from the pilot community schools in Peterhead has shown "spectacular success". Crucial features were the specialist back-up given to guidance teachers, and the blurring of the roles of teachers, health staff and social workers who now had a wider understanding of each other's jobs.

Mr White suggested that the changes would have "massive implications" for teacher training. "It will have to take on board the idea of new community schools as a professional village," he said.

He outlined his vision of the "new professional teacher", who would undergo joint initial training alongside social and health workers with a common core leading to later specialisation.

The result would be an English teacher, for example, who could not only take a Higher English class but who could work as a speech therapist in a stroke clinic, or in a post-natal group on early speech development.

Similarly a physical education teacher could also work in fitness classes for older people or possibly, in sports injury clinics.

Mr White also called for steps to rejuvenate the profession. He said the job needed more variety as well as career development, involving post-to-post exchanges and teacher transfers. "Stagnation has created a jaded, burnt-out and cynical profession," he said. "Instead of having 25 different experiences, teachers have had one experience repeated 25 times."

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