Woodhead's non-PC training course

25th February 2005 at 00:00
Chris Woodhead, the former chief inspector, is involved in running a new back-to-basics teacher-training course which ditches "damaging" educational theory.

His students will focus on classroom practicalities while on the Buckingham university course. They will not study "non-essential" issues such as the impact of gender and race on the teaching profession.

The course has been set up following a high-profile attack by Professor Woodhead and fellow Buckingham academic Alan Smithers on the current crop of university-based teacher-training courses.

Writing in a study published last year by Politeia, the right-wing think tank, Professor Woodhead said training should take place exclusively in the classroom and that education theory is "at best a distraction and at worst damaging".

Professor Smithers, in the same study, said: "Not only are universities a questionable environment for teacher training, they are also inefficient.

Approaching 30 per cent of those successfully completing the courses are not teaching the following March.

"In some cases, undoubtedly, the shock of the difference between university life and the realities of the classroom will be too great for them to bridge."

Buckingham has been granted official teaching-training status by the Government, but has pledged to run an almost entirely school-based course.

The secondary training course will be an extension of its existing, unaccredited, postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) for private-school teachers.

The existing course is only open to teachers already employed in private schools. But the new PGCE, starting this September, will be open to all students, including those working in the state sector, teaching secondary English, maths, science and history.

Once a term, a subject specialist visits them from Buckingham. Students attend a three-day residential meeting at the university, receiving intensive coaching in the subjects they are to teach.

The university says that while its courses will be similar to those offered by the 24 School Centred Initial Teacher Training programmes in England, they will benefit by being overseen by high-ranking academics such as Professor Woodhead. The school-centred programmes have attracted older students, reluctant to return to university, and applicants seeking a career change later in life.

Buckingham's new status means it will be inspected by the Office for Standards in Education and students can gain Qualified Teacher Status, allowing them to work in state schools.

Buckingham, the only independent university in the country, refused to reveal at this stage whether the Government would pay for the course or if it will be left to schools and students to cover fee costs.

Professor Woodhead said: "The school-based training course, which gives student teachers the opportunity to stand back from contemporary fads and think dispassionately about the nature of education, has the potential to impact hugely on standards."

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