Will we have the time to train?

20th July 2001 at 01:00
Neil Munro reports on how the debate is shaping up over the review of initial teacher education.

INITIAL reactions to the first stage of the review of initial teacher education (ITE) have been positive.

The review, by consultants Deloitte and Touche on behalf of the Scottish Executive, makes a number of recommendations to strengthen the weakest links in training arrangements for teachers and sets the scene for more fundamental changes in the teaching and delivery of ITE at a later stage. The proposals have now been issued for consultation.

Sandy Fowler, president of the Educational Institute of Scotland, welcomed the recommendations. The main area of concern to teachers, Mr Fowler said, was that arrangements for student placements should not be too onerous for schools. There was a particular problem in special schools and nurseries where placements are required for nursery nurses and special needs auxiliaries.

Mr Fowler also cited pressures on secondary schools, exacerbated by the assessment demands of Higher Still, that were causing problems in fitting student teachers in, particularly as experience of different year groups is required.

Myra Pearson, depute registrar of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, welcomed the report which she said built on good practice and the council's 1997 proposals for improving the partnerships between schools, education authorities and teacher education institutions.

The emphasis on the need for the three parties to clarify their roles and responsibilities was particularly important and the GTC "as a major stakeholder" looked forward to being involved in the discussions.

Ms Pearson also backed the opposition in the report to training schools, which were recommended in the McCrone report on teachers' pay and conditions. "Every school should be a training school," she said, "and we support the view that student teachers are bearers of new skills and enthusiasms from which every school should be able to benefit."

Gordon Kirk, dean of education at Edinburgh University, was "pleasantly surprised by the apparent thoroughness of the exercise, particularly considering the pressure of time".

But Professor Kirk, who is vice-chairman of the GTC, criticised the report's failure to come up with solutions on the funding of partnerships. "All it said was that further research is required which is absolutely pathetic, particularly since Deloitte and Touche themselves carried out an earlier study into the costs of partnership. Everyone agrees that partnership is necessary. The major stumbling block has been the way it is resourced."

Douglas Weir, dean of education at Strathclyde University, praised the thoroughness and expertise of the report. "It's most encouraging to see the emphasis on placement and partnership. If the minister were to take on the recommendations there would be significant improvements to the support available to teacher education students on placement."

Leader, page 16

WE'VE BEEN HERE BEFORE - THE SIMILARITIES WITH 1997

THE report bears a remarkable resemblance to 1997 proposals from the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

NOW: "The absence of identified funding for schools' inputs to the placement process puts pressure on those schools which choose to offer placements."

THEN: "Partnership is a resource cost to education authorities, schools and teacher education institutions."

NOW: "A common framework for . . . partnership agreements should be introduced to place the arrangements on a more formal and consistent basis."

THEN: " . . . a national framework is desirable to ensure that all students benefit from a consistency of approach".

NOW: "All schools should have the opportunity to provide placements."

THEN: "All schools should ideally have the opportunity to become involved in initial teacher education."

NOW: "The assessment of students is one of the most difficult areas for the partnership of TEIs and schools."

THEN: "Assessment . . . is acknowledged to be problematic."

NOW: "Clear, unambiguous and timeous guidance should be issued on the processes of assessment (of student teachers)."

THEN: "There is a particular need to ensure that teachers become more familiar with the guidelines for initial teacher training courses."

NOW: There should be "serving teacher inputs into ITE through secondments".

THEN: Teachers must become "effective and collaborative partners in initial teacher education" and "joint training of schools and teacher education staff".

30 YEARS OF TALKING

1972 - Brunton report recommends: "Training arrangements were not satisfactory and they should be replanned to give trainee teachers a better preparation to meet the changing needs of schools."

1978 - Sneddon report highlights need to "narrow the gap" between theory and practice.

1980s - guidelines for pre-service courses stress importance of partnerships between schools, education authorities and colleges.

1985 - teaching becomes an all-graduate profession.

1987 - agreement following the teachers' strikes defined one of the teacher's duties as "to contribute to the professional development of colleagues, including probationary and student teachers".

1989 - GTC wants change in partnerships to deliver better teacher education.

1993 - revised guidelines stress need for student teachers to demonstrate practical competences.

1992-94 - school-based emphasis in teacher training piloted by Moray House through the secondary postgraduate course, including mentor teachers.

1994 - mentor teacher scheme for all secondary courses from August 1995.

1995 - opposition to mentoring on funding and workload grounds leads to the announcement of a year's delay followed by abandonment of scheme in October.

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