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Tougher challenge faces trainees

Students on primary BEd courses starting next year will have to study English and maths to advanced level. At present, they are only required to take either English or maths.

The Scottish Office Education and Industry Department has initiated a two-month consultation on new guidelines for teacher-training courses, which have not been reviewed since 1993.

The renewed emphasis on literacy and numeracy reflects government policy and is the only important change proposed. The existing guidelines are widely accepted, the department states, and they have not been radically altered.

Ivor Sutherland, registrar of the General Teaching Council, welcomed the department's "light touch". The paper sets out competences which each student teacher is expected to acquire, but it is left up to the training institutions how to handle these in partnership with schools.

The council is less convinced that its proposals for improving the partnership between schools and teacher-training centres are adequately dealt with. The Scottish Office says ministers "do not accept that a case has been made for additional resources".

The council made a strong plea in its report on partnership for funding which would provide cover to allow teachers to spend more time with students on school placements. For postgraduates, placements account for half of their 36-week course.

The Scottish Office has agreed to commission a study jointly with the teaching council to develop a model which would support partnership. "I am confident any study will endorse our view that additional resources are essential," said Mr Sutherland. "The days of the goodwill model are over."

The guidelines continue the generic approach to primary training in which staff teach children from the age of two and a half up to twelve. In contrast, training in England divides primary into specific stages according to age. Mr Sutherland believes the Scottish Office should have "tested the water" by making similar proposals.

Douglas Weir, dean of the education faculty at Strathclyde University, wants to retain broad training for primary teachers because it makes staff deployment easier in Scotland, where such flexibility is particularly important because of the large number of small primary schools.

But he concedes the coverage of such a wide age range poses significant challenges for teacher education, especially when the guidelines are becoming more and more prescriptive, putting strains on staffing and resources.

Professor Weir is worried about the 48 competences listed in the draft guidelines. He argues that the department should make it clearer that teachers are not expected to demonstrate full mastery of these at the outset of their careers.

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