Letter: The right way to train new teachers to educate the young

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Secretary of State for Education is proposing that teachers should make a significant contribution to the school-based training of primary teachers. I welcome this development, which should ensure that, as with other professions, established practitioners will contribute to educating new members.

But, if the teaching profession is to be given a measure of responsibility for teacher training, John Patten should attend to its views on the structure of the training programme itself. Teachers rightly reject one-year courses for the so-called 'mums' army'. True, anyone with a bit of worldly experience can child-mind infants.

Effective teaching in the early years, when the crucial foundations for learning are established, demands academically well-qualified, carefully trained and thoughtful teachers. This preparation is necessary if the teacher is to get 'inside the mind' of a five- year-old and ensure that the basic knowledge and concepts that provide the foundations for subsequent learning are acquired correctly.

This is recognised in the rest of the world (including the Third World), where the modal length of primary teacher education courses is three years. Since we are often invited to compare our economic and educational performance with our main international competitors, it is salutary to note that in Germany, for instance, primary teacher training takes a minimum of five years.

Yours sincerely,


Professor of Primary Education

Department of Educational Studies

University of Hull


10 June