Who is training the trainers

6th February 2004 at 00:00
I was amused by your report "Vocation for the amateur" (TES, January 23).

While it is to be applauded that exam boards and policy-makers are finally taking vocational teaching in schools seriously, the claim that "Many of those who are teaching do not themselves have a sufficient grounding in, and knowledge of, their subjects" is similar to conclusions I reached over five years ago. In 1998 I published an article "The conundrum of General National Vocational Qualifications: a case study of the training needs of school-based GNVQ teachers" in the Journal of Vocational Education and Training. I argued that "the training needs of GNVQ staff appear to be holding back the successful implementation of vocational programmes in schools", and went on to detail twin flaws in the training model. First, that the absence of practical and theoretical pre-service work on vocational courses within secondary teacher training meant newly qualified teachers lacked knowledge about the specific planning and assessment requirements of such courses.

Second, that the in-service provision for the support of assessment and verification on GNVQ was a cost to the school, and was patchy and unregulated.

My suggestion was that schools needed a package of support for effective delivery of courses, which for GNVQ might involve the use of internal verifiers in a mentoring role with less confident colleagues.

The one timely point in your article came from David Lambert. He is absolutely right that the needs of all 16 to 19 teachers are neglected in secondary training. Unless policy-makers act quickly, how are the next generation of confident and enthusiastic 16 to 19 subject experts to be trained?

Dr John Butcher Senior lecturer Centre for research and development in teacher education The Open University

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