Worries over truncated training

20th March 2009 at 00:00

Martin Thompson, Chair, National Association of School Based Teacher Trainers, Bedford

The National Association of School Based Teacher Trainers, representing more than 60 providers of initial teacher training, is concerned by the proposals to shorten training for some applicants ("Bankers fit for class in just six months?", March 13).

Our experience of the graduate teacher programme, which already allows suitable applicants to complete training within six months, is that very few are successful, and those have usually had significant prior experience in schools. Some hope to complete in less than three terms but find the deep understanding of subject pedagogy and demonstration of real competence in all the standards is too challenging.

Applications from high-quality candidates show a healthy increase, and many with a desire to teach will succeed in changing careers. But experience shows that others, in thinking that teaching is relatively straightforward, struggle with its unpredictability - the need to move between high-order thinking and the more mundane activities, and the constantly evolving nature of classroom and staffroom.

Dr Cristina Devecchi, Research assistant, HANDS project, London South Bank University

Six months' training may not be enough to become a teacher, but it can be argued that some NQTs are not ready or able to teach after a year of training. The issue is not the length of time, but the quality of the training, as well as the knowledge and commitment the trainees have.

The Government's assumption that anybody can teach is predicated on a detrimental belief that all human beings are disposable instruments, and that teaching is just about passing on specific subject content. Those who believe that also believe that some people are better instruments than others, so the "high fliers" deserve better treatment. It is this unfairness, which creates two classes of teacher, that deserves our resentment.

Paul Killen, Senior lecturer in mathematics, Liverpool John Moores University

Many discussing teacher training, including Gordon Brown, seem confused about the nature of Teach First.

All participants do have a six-week training period prior to entering a school, but they are not then recommended for qualified teacher status. First, they must complete successfully a whole year of teaching in their school.

During this year, they are supported through observations of their teaching, completing reflective journals and participating in weekly mentoring sessions by school mentors and university tutors. They also attend six subject-knowledge training days at their university and many weekend and evening professional development courses. It takes 13 months until they are in the same position as a student just completing a PGCE.

Over 10 years, I have taught on many types of teacher-training course, including undergraduate and postgraduate courses, and I can confirm that Teach First is more thorough and challenging than any of them.

Joanne Dwyer, Chelsfield, Kent

The teaching profession has been politicised like no other. It has no protection - and I do not mean this as a criticism of teaching unions. This allows the Government to act with impunity and continually undermine teachers' professionalism and morale.

It is a hugely perverse and troubling state of affairs when everything that concerns us, from training right the way through to the curriculum, has become increasingly teacher-proof.

Certainly, I do not think politicians should be anywhere near teacher training, unless any of them fancies applying for a career change.

Dr Len Parkyn, Senior special needs teacher, Vines Cross, East Sussex

Wanted: Trainee teachers.

Entry criteria: Ideally failed banker or similar.

Time commitment: Six months.

Career prospects: Questionable, but could be a head in four years, or back in banking.

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