Teacher trainers aim high

August 1, 1997

THE BATTLE to bring teacher training funding back in line with the rest of higher education is not yet over, higher education's teacher trainers claimed this week.

Launching a consultation document on the shape of a forthcoming General Teaching Council last week, the Government made it clear that the Teacher Training Agency would maintain control over funding.

"We envisage that the TTA will continue to exercise responsibility for directing public funding to institutions," the consultation document, Teaching: High Status, High Standards, said.

The reassurance was given despite pre-election hints that the promised GTC might engulf the TTA, and despite calls from higher education to reinstate the Higher Education Funding Councils' remit over teacher training cash.

Higher education's hopes rest with Sir Stewart Sutherland's report into teacher education for Sir Ron Dearing's inquiry. Sir Stewart's teacher training study stops short of recommending that teacher training funding be brought back into the higher education fold, but presents clear arguments for the move.

In his report, Sir Stewart found that the funding split had increased the administrative burdens on institutions, and had the "potential to undermine" the development of Sir Stewart's proposed qualifications framework for teacher training, where students would spend parts of their course on HEFCE-funded programmes and others on TTA funded courses.

Sir Stewart also acknowledged complaints that "the establishment of the TTA has disengaged teacher education from the main policy framework for higher education" and that "the policies of the TTA have weakened higher education's contribution towards the training of teachers".

He recommended for the short term that the two bodies cooperated more closely, but that in the longer term, a national committee of inquiry for teacher training be set up.

Mary Russell, secretary of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said that she welcomed Professor Sutherland's report, but was disappointed that he stopped short of recommending that funding be brought back to HEFCE.

"But it is not over yet. The way in which everything has been pushed away from higher education has made things difficult. But there is something in Dearing that made us feel that somebody somewhere has been listening to us. The TTA needs to work more closely with HEFCE," she said.

Stephen Hillier of the TTA said: "We have no anxiety with regard to either the Dearing report or the GTC consultation document." He added that that the TTA had not had the chance to consider the Sutherland report.

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