Unfair to target lecturers

11th November 2005 at 00:00
I feel compelled to respond to Marj Adams's demonisation of initial teacher education staff in her October 28 column. Your readers deserve to know that her unfair condemnation appears to be based only on spite and inaccuracy.

Her main targets appear to be Jordanhill lecturers whose teaching she describes as "perturbing". I can only assume her argument was based on the opinions of one home economics student (who happens to be Ms Adams's own sister).

I applied to Jordanhill because of the institution's good reputation; I have not been disappointed. While I would not say I have been dazzled every minute of every day, I would suspect Ms Adams's own teaching has its ups and downs.

She argues, rightly, that "there is nothing more difficult in education than standing up in front of a class". This is why student teachers spend far more time in classrooms than they do in lecture theatres. In just one week of placement, I have learned an enormous amount from simply watching people do their jobs well.

Nevertheless, the huge concepts of teaching and learning - not to mention the plethora of curricula and guidelines - must be discussed and introduced to student teachers. The secondment system, by which practising teachers of many years' experience work for a period at Jordanhill, ensures that this introduction benefits from the "recent classroom experience" about which Ms Adams is so passionate. This is not to denigrate at all the high standard of teaching students receive from the permanent university staff.

There is more than one hole in Ms Adams's argument, however. She talks of students who travel from Edinburgh to Jordanhill and are not guaranteed Edinburgh placements. Firstly, many of us travel much farther than this "considerable distance" each day to get to the campus without similar guarantees. Now tell me, at what point was this "one student" forced to apply to Strathclyde over her local teacher education institution, Moray House?

Ms Adams's point here is as diluted as her claim that "students will be compelled to give up their courses mid-term" because of the placement fiasco. Rubbish. All of the 800-plus secondary students at Strathclyde have now been placed.

This has only been possible because of round-the-clock hard work carried out by those very individuals whom Ms Adams seems to despise: education lecturers. It is not easy to place 120 English students (a ridiculous Scottish Executive target) when, in one day, over 30 schools turn around and say "sorry, we can't take that student any longer".

Thankfully, many teachers hold a far more positive - and substantiated - view of initial teacher education than Marj Adams and are willing to welcome students into their classrooms.

Graeme Wallace PGDE (secondary) student University of Strathclyde

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