Training move would 'kill off' PGCE, dons warn

25th June 2010 at 01:00
Education Secretary's proposal would 'wipe out' university provision, experts say

Government plans to shift initial teacher training into schools could "kill off" the PGCE and "wipe out" university education departments, experts have warned.

Michael Gove last week announced major reforms that will shift students "out of college and into the classroom", a move that would see funding reallocated to heads away from lecturers.

Speaking last week, the Education Secretary said: "Teaching is a craft and it is best learnt as an apprentice observing a master craftsman or woman. Watching others, and being rigorously observed yourself as you develop, is the best route to acquiring mastery in the classroom."

Currently, about 33,000 people train as teachers in universities every year and just 5,000 train in schools.

James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers, which represents teacher trainers, warned that if this proportion were changed it would cause havoc.

"This will wipe out some good-quality provision in universities across the board and will have a destabilising effect on a system which has consistently been rated as good and excellent by Ofsted," he said.

"This has the potential to dumb down training."

PGCE students already spend the majority of their time getting practical experience - they have to have worked in two schools for six months in order to qualify.

Jeremy Burke, head of secondary school training courses at King's College, London, said: "Pulling funding will kill off the PGCE because universities wouldn't be able to afford to run them and management will close them down if they can't pay.

"I don't see why any graduate would go into a job described as a 'craft'."

Critics point to research from teaching union the NUT that found students training in schools get less support and are not as confident as their counterparts in universities.

"If you want high-quality teachers their training needs to have a mixture of practice and theory," said John Bangs, the union's head of education.

Chris Keates, general secretary of teaching union the NASUWT, said: "This is absolute nonsense. Michael Gove clearly doesn't realise there are already plenty of classroom-based routes into teaching.

"His plans will devalue the profession and take away all the excellence built up around it - you wouldn't expect doctors or lawyers to be able to qualify just from watching others. We will end up with a system nobody respects."

Those who run school-based courses have also stressed the importance of universities to their training.

Martin Thompson, chair of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers, said: "We welcome the fact training schools will be given a high priority, but teaching is more than a craft. Students need to learn about education theories; it's very important they are educated themselves as well as trained."

Alan Tricoglus, head of Lobley Hill Primary in Gateshead, works in partnership with 41 schools to train 30 new teachers every year, supported by Northumbria University.

"Of course I would welcome the expansion of high-quality provision such as ours, but I feel there is a place for a mixed economy in teacher training," he said. "We must work side by side with universities, different courses appeal to different entrants."

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