Trainee teachers learn basics

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Ministers yesterday postponed for a year the previous Government's plans for a national curriculum for primary teacher training.

The curriculum will for the first time lay down what trainee teachers should be taught and how they should teach. Conservative proposals to insist on instruction in traditional teaching methods such as phonics, mental arithmetic and whole class teaching have been adopted with few changes. However, the Government will also require trainees to show how they will use a daily literacy hour.

Teacher trainers said they were already doing what ministers wanted and accused them of being more Conservative than the Conservatives.

Teacher training colleges have been under attack from right-wingers for encouraging "trendy" teaching methods and for failing to show new teachers how to teach the basics. From September, trainees will need to satisfy new criteria before they qualify as teachers. For instance, they will have to demonstrate that they can maintain discipline and set and mark homework.

But the new primary curriculum, which was to have been compulsory from this autumn, will now be introduced in September next year. Twelve colleges and universities have volunteered to pioneer it this autumn and the Government is inviting others to do so.

Estelle Morris, the school standards minister, said: "We are determined that new teachers know how to teach the three Rs effectively, how to maintain discipline and how to use IT to benefit their teaching and their pupils."

Anthea Millett, chief executive of the Teacher Training Agency, insisted that the proposals would raise teaching standards. While in the past trainees had been taught what to do in theory, they would, for the first time, have to show they could put the principles into practice. To qualify, new teachers will have to show that they can teach whole classes, present lessons clearly, keep order, question pupils effectively, and set homework and targets for their pupils.

Nigel Gates of the Association of University and College Lecturers said: "This is rerun of the same movie produced by the previous government. We are not opposed to a national curriculum for teacher training but most teachers are already doing all these things."

One in three taught in classes of over 30

Rising class sizes were condemned yesterday by ministers as a "shocking indictment" of the last government.

Official statistics show that in January, one in three primary school children - 1.3 million - were being taught in classes of more than 30. The figure is 85,000 more than the year before - which itself showed a similar rise - and officials said the trend looked set to continue. Stephen Byers, the schools standards minister, said the statistics showed the "legacy of inaction" facing education ministers. But it strengthened their resolve to cut class sizes, he added.