'Lab school' linkup to boost English teaching standards...

July 11, 1997

Universities will be urged to adopt the best schoolteachers as associate professors and fellows, and to work with them in "laboratory schools" in a bid to raise school standards, writes Phil Baty.

The initiative, launched this week in the white paper, Excellence in Schools, is part of a shake-up of the teacher training system. The Government wants to strengthen partnerships between schools and higher education training institutions, according to the white paper.

Laboratory schools, in which trainee teachers work alongside the best teachers in demonstration classes, will be piloted. Distance-learning facilities will be used to spread "best practice".

"Laboratory schools can also play a part as centres of excellence and experimentation in innovative teaching techniques involving new technologies," the paper proposes. Such centres will be linked with the proposed new University for Industry, via a "virtual teachers' centre on the national grid for learning".

The paper sets the agenda for much closer links between teachers, trainees and university educationists. Key among the initiatives is a new career grade of advanced skills teacher. This will allow the best teachers to contribute to training, and to climb the career ladder, and earn more, without leaving the classroom.

Advanced teachers will be expected to "mentor" trainees and newly qualified teachers during a scholarship term. The Government will "urge higher education institutions that work in partnership with their schools to consider making advanced skills teachers associate fellows or professors to enhance their participation in initial teacher training", the paper says.

"We are offering a new deal for teachers," education secretary David Blunkett said. "A new partnership between government and all those involved in education."

The other main initiatives for teacher training stick closely to previous policy documents: * the national curriculum for initial teacher training is to be revamped to focus more on the teaching of literacy, numeracy and IT, and will be in place by September 1998

* the Office of Standards in Education will continue its inspection regime: "We will ensure that firm action is taken where training fails to match up to new standards", the Government says

* new teachers will be subject to a probationary year and given "career entry profiles" by their institutions

* aspiring headteachers will have to pass a mandatory new headship qualification

* a framework for the continuing professional development for teachers will be devised, with a possible new range of qualifications

* a General Teaching Council will be introduced, the exact remit of which is still not clear but it will be subject to consultation. The Teacher Training Agency will continue to take responsibility for directing public funding to institutions, the paper says. "But we will want to look closely at the relationship between a GTC and the TTA in establishing the professional framework for teachers."

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