We are future-proofing as never before

1st February 2013 at 00:00

Boom and bust has been a frequent characteristic of the teacher market over the decades, never mind the economy. While Jack McConnell's Scottish Executive had to run advertising campaigns south of the border to attract extra talent to our classrooms just a few years ago, the last administration was faced with hundreds of newly qualified teachers joining the dole queue.

Workforce planning is never easy but the SNP government appears to have got the balance right by cutting back on the number of entrants to teacher education up until last year. This week's news of 350-400 additional places for primary PGDE courses (page 5) will delight the eager applicants currently doing their teacher training interviews at the various universities (see the prospective student teachers' forum on the TESS website).

While the figure may not affect the overall number of Scottish teachers - the current minimum guaranteed by government is 51,131 - it reveals a significant switch to a greater focus on the one-year PGDE, which will provide a quick fix not just to the number of primary teachers but also their nature.

With Graham Donaldson's report on teacher education, Teaching Scotland's Future, calling for more primary teachers with degree qualifications in other subjects, what faster way is there to inject some into the system? Next year, those graduates will be entering primary classrooms, taking with them their expertise in modern languages, history, maths or whatever subject the schools may be looking for.

Future planning is never easy, particularly for the longer term, but it's vital to get it right. The schools' national intranet, Glow, is a case in hand (page 6). It took immense vision on the part of those who created it, and was a great achievement that attracted international interest. But the limitations of the closed network only came to light as other technologies and more open systems overtook it in time.

Now those weaknesses look set to be addressed, as the government welcomes the recommendations of its ICT Excellence Group to move rapidly towards a more open system where schools can benefit fully from portable devices such as smartphones and iPads. What's more, it could be financially achievable if it succeeds in securing an advantageous national procurement contract.

Blue-sky thinking is what is required, and this week we see it in abundance in a new paper from the Goodison Group in Scotland and the Scottish Futures Forum, which challenges the government, the Scottish education sector and the business community to think about what education and lifelong learning will look like in 2025 (News Focus, pages 12-15). With four potential types of learning society ranging from local to global, and market-driven to divided, it paints a chilling but exciting picture of what could be - with lessons that need to be heeded.


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