Hey, torpid teacher training colleges, leave those kids alone

Roehampton director calls for bonfire of providers with a sense of entitlement. John Elmes reports

October 18, 2012

The newly appointed head of a UK university's education school has said that there are too many teacher training providers in the sector and that instruction should be delivered by a smaller group of "strong" departments.

Michael Day, who recently took up the position of director of the School of Education at the University of Roehampton, added that institutions that think they have an "automatic right" to provide teacher training were the ones that would "sink".

"I think many people in the sector would acknowledge that we've got too many universities competing for places," he said in an interview with Times Higher Education. "If we could develop a smaller number of really strong university departments with a wider portfolio of expertise and enough staff to generate new ideas and push forward school and pedagogical improvement, I think that would be a big step forward.

"In Roehampton's case, there's a real desire to make sure it is one of the leading players in London and nationally."

Professor Day, previously director of teacher supply and training at the government-run Teaching Agency, said universities will have to work closely in partnership with schools to understand what they require, in line with the advent of the School Direct programme.

He added that the overall effect of the scheme - which allows schools to recruit and select the trainees they want - could be a reduction in the amount of teacher training provided by universities.

"I don't think that will be a bad thing," he said. "The ones left will be much stronger. Schools are asking: 'Who could best help me with my professional development, school improvement and teacher training?' Those universities committed to working with schools will see their businesses grow."

He added that some departments of education would simply not "move fast enough" to keep up with schools' needs, with the schools working instead with universities that were "really investing in what they want to do".

But James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers, said that the removal of university providers could be damaging.

"Schools rely on higher education institutions for the supply of good-quality and well-trained teachers," he said. "Higher education institutions deliver in terms of both quality and quantity. Taking any (of them) out of the system would threaten both.

"There is no evidence to suggest that schools themselves, whether working through School Direct or via entirely school-based provision, could deliver what universities and other providers do at the moment."

Mr Noble-Rogers said that if some universities were forced to withdraw from teacher training, it could bring down high-quality departments. "I can't see, from the point of view of schools, what benefit (that) could bring. But I can see the damage it might do."

He added: "No university thinks that it has a 'right' to train teachers. They are continually reviewing their provision to meet the needs of schools, deliver national priorities and respond to inspection and other quality assurance findings. The view that they think they have a 'right' is incredibly out of date."

john.elmes@tsleducation.com.

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