Teacher training could be switched to the schools

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The Independent Online
EDUCATION ministers have launched a teacher-training policy review which could lead to all funds and responsibility being switched to schools.

John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, believes that teachers learn their skills on the job, and the organisation of their training should reflect that fact.

Teachers would continue to be taught educational theory at colleges and universities; but their courses would be bought by schools approved to run training. Instead of the trainee going from the teacher-training institution to do 'teaching practice' in schools, the new recruit would take time out from on-the-job training to attend 'block release' courses at a nearby college or university.

Some schools will inevitably be sceptical about taking on more work. A further problem, which head teachers have warned against, is that parents may object to having children taught by trainees.

However, Mr Patten's advisers believe the idea of taking over responsibility for teacher-training may appeal to many schools and teachers. Approval as a training institution would give good schools status, and bring in special incentive and support funding. Similarly, individual classroom teachers who are approved as training 'mentors' for new recruits gain a fresh professional interest, while earning extra pay.

Mr Patten's predecessor, Kenneth Clarke, proposed last January that teacher-training institutions should be required to place trainees in secondary schools for at least 80 per cent of their postgraduate training year.

When Mr Patten took over after the general election, one of his first moves was to reduce the 80 per cent proposal to two-thirds - a gesture interpreted as a toning down of Mr Clarke's more radical approach. But according to government sources, Mr Patten was merely issuing a holding statement, while he undertook a review of training policy.

The minister had been expected to confirm the two-thirds rule for secondary training, and make proposals for primary teacher training, about now. But Mr Patten has decided that the review should be more radical than Mr Clarke's proposals and he is not expecting to decide for several months.

Teaching is virtually an all- graduate profession. But primary teachers differ significantly from secondary teachers because many study for a Bachelor of Education degree. Secondary teachers, by contrast, usually take a degree in their subject, and then spend an additional year on a Postgraduate Certificate of Education course.

One option is to abandon the B Ed degree. Instead, people who wanted to become primary teachers would take a conventional subject degree, or possibly a 'general' degree, and then start training on the job in the same way as secondary school trainees.

Many of the 3,900 state secondary schools are large enough to cope with training teachers - most of the 19,000 primary schools are too small. The probable solution would be to encourage primary schools to form training consortia, banding together to bid for training funds.