Teacher training system attacked
THE GOVERNMENT needs to rethink its strategy on teacher training to prevent a crisis, the Bishop of Winchester has warned.
Bishop Tim Dakin, the bishops’ spokesman on higher and further education, warned current policies risked putting Anglican universities out of business.
In an education debate in the House of Lords, he said: “I am particularly concerned about the School Direct programme. In fact, I suggest there is an urgent case for rethinking arrangements around initial teacher training before a crisis develops.
“School Direct gives individual schools responsibility for running teacher education.
“The school adapts the programme for the local needs and distributes funding as it sees fit, buying in training, sometimes from universities, either as part of a PGCE or as a bespoke qualified teacher status package.”
He said that in some places the policy had worked “very well” but the success was not the rule.
“My first concern is that the takeup of the School Direct programme has been rather disappointing, and raises the danger of a damaging teacher shortage very soon,” he said.
“The move to School Direct has been rapid. This year, the allocation for School Direct will jump from 25 per cent to 37 per cent of all initial teacher training places. However, last year it was widely reported that only two-thirds of School Direct places had been filled.
“This might not be particularly troubling had the core allocations for existing universities not also been reduced. For every School Direct place unfilled there is one less teacher available in the classroom.”
He said the Government should “recognise that this policy is simply not attractive to schools in the numbers they first imagined” and instead to free up surplus places at universities.
Bishop Dakin said the Government was also “jeopardising the financial viability of our teacher training institutions”.
“It is my privilege to be working with the 11 Anglican universities which account for 24 per cent of primary initial teacher training and 12 per cent of secondary,” he said.
“They are enormously valuable institutions for our whole education sector, and they see initial teacher training as core business. The School Direct policy is undermining these institutions and runs the risk of putting them out of business.”
He added: “These universities maintain and develop a mixed ecology of teacher training routes by keeping open the opportunity of university routes for those who are keen to start their career with the benefit of the highest-quality tuition and the widest possible experience of schools.
“To jeopardise these institutions and all that they offer the education system is surely an act of great folly which will not serve a Government committed to improving social mobility, but will rather pull apart the very institutions dedicated to the primary engines of social mobility: excellent teachers.”
He also warned there was a risk of “demoting the academic rigour of teaching”.
“If we are to ask this of our teachers, we must provide them with appropriate training,” he said.
“On-the-job training is good, but not if it focuses too heavily on planning, marking and behaviour management at the expense of developing a confident understanding of pedagogy and child development.”