Training plan may endanger education departments

1994 Group fears proposed changes to teacher training could be devastating, reports Jack Grove

August 11, 2011

Credit: Alamy
Learning on the job: minister wants 'less theoretical' training for teachers

A plan championed by education secretary Michael Gove to make teacher training "less theoretical" could cause education departments to close, universities have warned.

In a response to the reforms outlined in November's education White Paper, the 1994 Group of universities highlights the potentially devastating impact of "school-led" training on teacher-training institutions.

"It could be questionable how economically sustainable a department of education in a university would be if it were to play only an auxiliary role in teacher training," it says.

At present, students typically spend 120 days in a school, learning on the job, combined with 60 days in university - but Mr Gove wants to see more focus on classroom learning.

A network of "teaching schools" could also be created along similar lines to teaching hospitals, with schools taking the lead in recruitment and training.

But the 1994 Group highlights "a lack of clear explanation" over the quality assurance of these schools, adding that "quality might be more difficult to assure if training is spread over many small centres".

The reforms have been proposed at a time of cuts to teacher-training budgets: public funding for the Training and Development Agency for Schools is set to fall by 30 per cent over the next three years.

James Williams, lecturer in education at the University of Sussex and a former science teacher, said an overly school-led system would lower the quality of teaching.

"Schools value the links with universities, with many using them as a source of professional development," he said. "If education departments are not funded or have to close...that will adversely affect the profession and, ultimately, the children."

Learn on site, stay on site

Students who do school- and job-based initial teacher training are much more likely to enter the profession than those who study for an equivalent qualification at a university, a study has found.

The Good Teacher Training Guide 2011 - produced by Alan Smithers and Pamela Robinson of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham - calls the current system "wasteful", stating that at present, only 62 per cent of trainees are in a teaching position in the January after qualifying.

"No matter how good the entry qualifications or how pleased Ofsted is with the provision, teacher training fails if the trainees do not enter teaching," it says.

However, it adds that if more school- and job-based training is to be achieved, the government must to address problems including a lack of funding and a high turnover of schools running such programmes.

The guide, published on 11 August, adds that raising the requirement for funding to a 2:2 degree will further harm already under-served subjects such as modern languages, maths and sciences.

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