'Research hurts teaching'

May 22, 1998

"Useless" educational research in higher education is damaging government attempts to improve teaching standards, a chief government adviser said this week.

At the launch of government reforms to teacher training, David Reynolds, chair of the government's numeracy task force and director of the effectiveness and improvement centre at the University of Newcastle, said British educational research is often "highly damaging" to teacher effectiveness.

He said reforms had failed to lift standards because of the research establishment's "virtual total ignorance" of teacher effectiveness and the sector's failure to view teaching as an "applied science".

"There is a quaint, old-fashioned and ultimately highly damaging British view that teaching is an art," he said. "Higher education carries much of the blame for this view. It is responsible also for the second factor that prevents an applied science of teaching - the low status of applied and practical work in educational research."

His provocative comments came as junior schools minister Estelle Morris launched a raft of measures to improve teacher training, which have been seen as a challenge to academic autonomy.

A national curriculum for teacher training will be introduced in stages in secondary English, mathematics and science and in primary science. New legislative powers for Ofsted schools inspectors to "enter and inspect" higher education institutions will ensure the curriculum is enforced.

Ms Morris also announced the government's intention to publish "performance tables" of initial teacher-training providers in September, based on Ofsted inspections. She said: "We will not shirk from removing accreditation from providers that can't produce good teachers and raise standards."

Ian Kane, chairman of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said the tables, if used "for naming, blaming and shaming", would be resisted and would fail. "And the new curriculum," he said, "is too overcrowded."

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