The wrong league

September 8, 2000

What have students' entry qualifications and graduates' employability to do with the quality of training of effective teachers ("Elite schools rival sector in teacher training", THES, September 1)?

These, and Ofsted inspections, are the evidence on which Liverpool University league tables rate some school-centred initial teacher training (SCITT)as more successful than universities'. The data come from Teacher Training Agency profiles and are a highly unreliable basis for assessing teacher education.

SCITTs involve small numbers of students while universities' postgraduate certificate in education courses can take up to 1,000.

In grading, a low mark for any one student can bring down the Ofsted grade for the whole course. A small cohort has a lower chance of this occurring.

In employability terms, it is obviously desirable for schools with SCITT programmes to employ their trainees as they are familiar with pupils and the school. But is it better for the trainee to have had this limited experience?

As to entry qualifications, the elitist and superficial focus on these will bar many prospective ethnic minority teachers from acceptance on PGCE programmes or will bring the training provider further down the league tables. How interesting it is that SCITTs do less well on Ofsted inspections.

Again the emphasis on league tables reproduces the naive empiricist dependence on the figures speaking for themselves rather than an intelligent interpretation of what they mean.

Now more than ever, we need teachers trained to do what has increasingly been recognised as a highly complex and challenging job. A 2.1 degree is no direct indication of intellectual capacity, or, more important, of what it is to be a resourceful, inspiring and inspired teacher.

Shirley Franklin Middlesex University

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