Yes to change, but with caveats

3rd June 2005 at 01:00
Elizabeth Buie rounds up the reaction to what the Executive is proposing inits review of initial teacher education

Negative effect of central belt

Colin Dalrymple, general secretary, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland The concentration of student teachers or probationer teachers in the central belt or areas where initial teacher education is taking place has meant that other authorities have experienced a knock-on negative effect when it comes to recruitment.

There are a number of concerns or areas that need further consideration in this context:

* We are not convinced that the review shows any real potential for attracting more men or ethnic minority students.

* We are also concerned that the perception of students in terms of their preparation for teaching is simply glanced over or dismissed in the report.

If students themselves don't feel they are prepared in terms of discipline or curricular areas and they don't see that as being addressed, that could have an impact.

It would be useful to know whether the relationship between the curriculum review and content for training for new teachers has been considered in terms of a move away from subject specific to the different pedagogical ways of delivering training, such as through the increased use of ICT.

It may be that in the longer term we need to consider the position of ITE colleges and wonder if it would not be more appropriate for local authorities to be the lead trainers of teachers. That happens in other professions like law and accountancy, so there is no real reason why it should not happen for teachers.

New paths to the profession

Greg Dempster, general secretary, Association of Headteachers in Scotland

The AHTS believes the distance learning and part-time opportunities mentioned in the review will help bring new people to the profession and will spread the burden of handling students and probationers in schools.

This will mean some schools taking students for the first time, while others will hopefully see a reduction in the number of students coming through their classrooms.

We welcome the focus on mentoring as this will ensure that students and probationers get as much as possible from time spent in schools.

However, the AHTS recognises that effective mentoring is a skill which requires time and training. For every student and probationer entering a classroom we would like to see a trained mentor in place. These mentors would be classroom teachers and they would receive some financial reward for this extra commitment.

The moves to increase teacher numbers to 53,000 are very welcome indeed but have forced a much stronger reliance on the one-year training route.

Teachers who arrive in schools via the one-year course can turn out to be just as good teachers as those who have trained for four years but inevitably have spent considerably less time in school and have had less time to learn the curriculum and how to teach.

It seems unsurprising that HMIE are finding an increased feeling of being unprepared. The AHTS believes that consideration should be given to making the one-year course into a two-year course or at least extending it beyond the current 36-week duration. We also have suggestions for the review of the four-year course.

Quality time for probationers

Bill McGregor, general secretary, Headteachers' Association of Scotland

The HAS acknowledges the work done by the Scottish Executive in striving to recruit more and better teachers for our schools. The association also believes that the required improvement can only be attained if a number of criteria can be met.

The quality of the provision offered as a result of this consultation must match the current high-quality provision for probationer teachers in our schools and must be seen by all stakeholders as the first steps in a continuum of quality training.

The model adopted must be both realistic and operable.

It must not depend on the goodwill of a number of schools, departments or even individual teachers as present. Instead it must be a structured, organised and rationalised process which is managed by the Scottish local authorities in conjunction with the teacher education institutions and schools.

The model must be adequately funded by the Scottish Executive in such as way as to provide sufficient incentive for schools to feel able to actively participate. The model must ensure that the TEIs are able to deliver up-to-date quality input to their students using a range of staff secondments and identified best practice from practitioners. The TEIs should also be able to provide a co-ordinated schedule of placements and support visits to maximise the abilities of schools to deliver quality support.

The model must have sound and acceptable evaluation processes built in to ensure quality provision and ongoing improvement if required.

Numbers aren't everything

Ronnie Smith, general secretary, Educational Institute of Scotland

The context of the review is the exponential rise in the number of student teachers in our universities and also on placement in schools in all of our local authorities. The increase is necessary if the Scottish Executive is to fulfil commitments on class sizes and to implement the 21st century agreement.

But it is not simply a question of quantity. It is vital for the future health of Scottish education and for the profession that teachers of the future are as well equipped as possible to face the challenges of education and of schools in the decades to come.

If there is to be a chance of attracting the ablest of our young people into teaching then teaching has to be seen as an attractive career. There must also be flexibility of approach and much more done to encourage those groups of able graduates who would not previously have considered teaching as an option.

These include male teachers, who are growing increasingly rare in both primary and secondary schools. They also include many from an ethnic minority background who hitherto would not have considered teaching in Scotland as a serious option.

There are implications also for the EIS in that the next generation of teachers -future EIS members - will have very different expectations of teaching, of schools - and of their union - from those of us who entered teaching several years or even decades previously.

For new teachers, the clear professional agenda will mean constant demands placed on them - and also new demands on the system to ensure the availability of quality development throughout their careers.

A different direction

Matthew MacIver, registrar, General Teaching Council for Scotland

For the GTCS there are quite specific challenges posed in the initial teacher education review. We have to review our process of accreditation as well as reviewing the professional standards, that is, initial, full, chartered teacher and headship.

I think, however, that the challenges and the opportunities offered by this report are far more fundamental. In looking at areas like widening access, more flexible pathways to the profession and in appealing to wider sections of the community, I believe that this report is pointing us in a different direction.

Recently, the GTCS has been exploring different ways of delivering courses as well as accrediting courses that are in themselves different from anything we have seen before. We worked very closely with the University of Aberdeen and Highland Council on Aberdeen's ground-breaking PGDE(P) course.

We liaised with the Hunter Foundation and the Scottish Executive Education Department on the Teachers for a New Era project (TESS, last week) which will be delivered by the University of Aberdeen. These are exciting projects which will lead to new ways of preparing teachers and will appeal to candidates who until now may not have considered teaching as a career. There is now, for example, no reason why the geography of the country should be a barrier to pursuing an ITE course. We simply must widen access to the profession.

We have seen the beginnings of that movement in the past couple of years and I am now very confident indeed that this report will give added impetus to that thrust.

Widening the access routes

Iain Smith, dean of education, Strathclyde University

More initial teacher education courses in other than on-campus, full-time traditional provision are clearly being demanded by the minister, and this is a welcome priority. While we have innovated considerably (we currently have our one-year primary course running in full-time mode in Inverness and in Stornoway and in part-time mode both on campus and in Dumfries), we certainly see this as an area for further development, both in the primary and in the secondary sectors.

Addressing the ethnicity imbalance in the Scottish teaching force is a worthy objective. There are at least two ways of progressing this further.

One is working (as we and a number of other organisations are already doing) with the GTCS to facilitate exceptional recognition in Scotland of teachers from overseas countries. The other is to work with local ethnic communities in facilitating access routes into teacher education.

We certainly see, as the minister does, fuller versions of school mentoring of students as a logical step forward. This is, however, not uncontroversial with some schools and some teachers.

More secondments of school staff to teacher education institutions are clearly regarded by the minister as "a good thing". In the last year, we have appointed 10 full-time secondees and many more part-time secondees (what we call "teaching associates"); we have 12 more such appointments in the pipeline.

But if the minister is to achieve a system with more "dynamism" (his word), we need to see more progress in abolishing the set of detailed and restrictive guidelines which presently surround Scottish teacher education.

Together we can work better

Cathy Macaslan, head of the school of education, Aberdeen University

This review is very welcome as it brings together a number of issues which require to be addressed. It clearly states the expectation that they will be addressed in partnership with other stakeholders. The concept of collaborative responsibility for action is an important one which can only strengthen Scottish education as a whole.

On the issues of widening participation, the University of Aberdeen is already well down this path with several new flexible distance learning and part-time routes to teaching as a career. We know very well the additional financial and human resource issues associated with this and welcome the call for a review of funding. In addition, we will be strengthening our strategies to recruit a more diverse range of students, those with disabilities and from ethnic minorities.

In view of the encouragement to treat ITE as an initial phase of training to be extended and complemented in the induction phase and beyond, this will now need to be addressed by ourselves and our partners.

Our plans within the Scottish Teachers for a New Era project (TESS, last week) will do just that.

I particularly welcome the call to work more in "regional groupings" of universities and authorities - this makes a lot of sense to pool expertise and resources for the benefit of the profession. We will now need to look at how we can better develop multi-level and multi-professional strategic planning for ITE.

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