Schools happy to leave training to institutions

July 19, 1996

Schools are happy to let higher education continue to play the major role in initial teacher training, a national study has found, writes Tony Tysome.

Despite the misgivings of Government agencies over the style and quality of teacher education provided by universities and colleges, most school heads think higher education is a better initial training ground than the classroom.

The findings, to be published in a report by researchers from the Institute of Education, Bristol University and Sheffield University, run counter to suggestions from Government inspectors and the Teacher Training Agency that teacher education in universities and colleges is not up to scratch.

Last week Chris Woodhead, chief inspector of schools, announced that Ofsted was to "keep up the pressure" by following up its recent "sweep" of primary teacher training providers with a more sharply focussed probe.

"Further inspections will provide clear advice to the Secretary of State and the Teacher Training Agency on matters of great current interest. We need to know just how well training courses are equipping students to become fully competent teachers of the basic skills," he said.

The announcement came as Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education and Employment, unveiled plans to publish performance league tables for teacher-training institutions, based largely on Ofsted inspections and on students' success in obtaining posts.

The results of a survey of nearly all teacher-training providers, carried out as part of the Modes of Teacher Education research project, show that few schools would be willing to take on additional responsibilies for teacher education - a move favoured by ministers and the TTA.

The study found that only a very small percentage of teachers are being trained entirely in schools, although most university and college-based courses are now run in partnership with local schools.

All secondary and most primary teacher-training courses have significantly increased the amount of time students spend in school. Very few higher-education programmes were designed to develop trendy "child-centred" or "socially critical" teachers, despite the claims of right-wing critics, a report on the findings says.

Peter Mortimore, head of the Institute, condemned Ofsted's plans for re-inspection. He said there was a danger that the institute's four "excellent" ratings could be discounted by a second sweep.

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