Sector strives to retain teacher-training function

Government reforms challenged as MPs hear all providers face tough times. Sarah Cunnane writes

November 17, 2011

Credit: Stephen Shepherd
Drumming it home: universities will strive to keep their role in training teachers

Universities will "do everything in their power" to retain their role in initial teacher training in the face of reforms that will put the focus on school-based courses.

John Moss, dean of the Faculty of Education at Canterbury Christ Church University, said that the courses, at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, were "so core to the mission and the focus" of the universities that provide them.

He was speaking after the release last week of the government's implementation plan for reforms to initial teacher training. The Department for Education has told universities that only those able to demonstrate "extensive school involvement" in their courses would "continue to have a role" in providing such training.

Stephen Hillier, from the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), also told a hearing of the Commons Education Committee that, regardless of the reforms, teacher training providers would face a "challenging recruitment period" from now until next September.

Despite this, he said, the government would not revisit its revamp of the bursary scheme in the near future: "We've got to see the experience of at least one year before the government looks at the bursary schemes."

Under bursary schemes introduced in the plan, graduates who opt to train in one of the designated "priority subjects" - such as the sciences or modern languages - may be eligible for a bursary of up to £20,000, depending on their degree classification.

Mr Hillier stressed that the language used in the plan was not a "moral judgement" from the government on the value or importance of subjects. "It's simply saying that the recruitment experience is that we are more likely to be able to get the right people into primary than we are into secondary subjects," he said.

In a consultation, also released last week by the Department for Education, it was revealed that there had been a mixed reaction to the introduction of the "school direct" scheme. This would allow schools to select trainees for a specific vacancy, who would then be trained in a partnership with an initial teacher training provider.

Although the implementation plan assuaged fears that the scheme would affect places allocated through the TDA, it did not address another key concern - that the university involved might not be involved in selecting candidates.

Mr Hillier also raised the notion that universities might take on a more "administrative" role, such as arranging bursaries and processing paperwork rather than providing the training itself.

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