The future of teacher education looks set for the most fundamental shake-up in its history, as significant developments emerged on two fronts this week.
The Executive launched a consultation on the first stage review of initial teacher education, carried out by consultants Deloitte amp; Touche. Their report heralds a major shift in the way the teacher education institutions (TEIs) train teachers, towards "learning how to learn" and away from "proximate skills and knowledge which will become redundant".
The report suggests that this and other more deep-seated issues should be addressed in a second review. It would include investigating whether teacher education is available in the right places - just when Dumfries and Galloway Council said that it is not.
The council's education committee agreed last week that it must train its own home-grown teaching talent if it is to head off teacher shortages, the first education authority to contemplate such a step.
If the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council agrees to give its support, around 25 primary BEd places would be offered for initial training at the Crichton University campus in Dumfries next year, rising to 100 over the four-year programme. It would involve an "exciting and innovative" link with Glasgow and Paisley universities, which have bases there. The council hopes in particular that this will encourage more mature recruits into teaching.
The nearest TEIs for south-west students currently are in Glasgow or Ayr. Many, however, opt for St Martin's College in Carlisle, which means they qualify with little or no awareness of the Scottish curriculum.
The Dumfries move is in line with current thinking in the General Teaching Council for Scotland. In an unreported speech to the recent conference on the national educational priorities, Matthew MacIver, its chief executive and registrar, described initial teacher education as "a central belt activity" which had to be opened up if more people were to be persuaded into teaching.
The project to establish a uni-versity in the Highlands and Islands sees a role for itself in teacher education, with the enthusiastic backing of the local authorities. Already Lews Castle further education college in Stornoway is to offer training in Gaelic-medium teaching in association with Strathclyde University's education faculty at Jordanhill.
Meanwhile, the TEIs themselves face major changes, both in the short and long term, if the Executive adopts the Deloitte amp; Touche proposals. The consultants want all students to face higher quality school placements during training, an entry requirement to have core skills in information and communications technology and full exposure to the education of pupils with special needs.
The report also calls for best practice in classroom control to be a more central part of initial training, and recommends new "teacher development partnerships" to be formally signed by the TEIs, schools, education authorities and the body of teachers and students.
The consultants take a creative approach to the criticisms in the McCrone report that many TEI lecturers are "out of touch" and should return to schools to refresh themselves. This was "inappropriate," the report states, but the same end of ensuring TEIs benefited from "recent and relevant experience" of the classroom could be achieved by seconding teachers to work in TEIs, as part of their continuous professional development.
Further reports next week.