Training Tomorrow’s Teachers Today

A recent comment on another post has raised important issues about the current provision for initial teacher training. If nothing else, we are certainly going to need a highly capable, committed and motivated workforce to deliver the appropriate and effective educational experiences that we need to start to provide in the 21st century. Which is why it was worrying to read the account of an ITT lecturer’s experiences of preparing tomorrow’s teachers today. Are five A*-C GCSEs and three C grade GCEs enough to qualify someone to train to be a competent teacher?

Here’s what ‘Roberta’ wrote:

“After 35 years in education (secondary and higher), not including my own, I think that perhaps we do need to take a pragmatic stance on primary and secondary education. Perhaps it is for the production of employable people who will be able to take on the roles required by their employers, people who are punctual, civil, creative, responsible, curious, eager to learn new skills and information, who are literate and numerate. I am not talking about ‘factory fodder’ here, but young people who will join the professions.

Universities are now experiencing ‘bad behaviour’ amongst a large proportion of first year undergraduates, these include Primary Teacher trainees, whose antics are those that one might expect from Year 10 and 11 pupils. This inappropriate behaviour is manifesting itself in the lecture room, a situation which has never occurred before this year, with the open use of mobile phones and MP3 players, laughing and talking over the lecturer’s voice and during session tasks, absenteeism, eating and drinking (including alcohol) and complaints when asked to make contributions to teaching sessions.

Admonition is greeted with complaints that lecturers are being patronising and since the students are paying fees, they are able to do as they please.The idea that they may be disrupting the learning of others does not occur to them. Their refusal to carry out tasks, unless they contribute to formal assessment and final degree classifications, is bewildering for those of us who see learning as a continuum. The idea of engaging with learning because that is why they are attending university seems to be beyond their comprehension. This is from people with a minimum of three C grades at A level.

For the most part, these are young people who have chosen this career path, not ‘ended up’ teaching through Clearing, due to unexpectedly poor A Level grades. They are recruited to Initial Teacher Education early in the academic year before they finish secondary school and references and good predicted grades are being given by their schools. What is happening? If this is deemed to be acceptable behaviour by these young people, who are our future educators, what hope is there for those who emerge from the secondary school system barely literate and numerate with a disaffected attitude towards society?

In addition, the government’s QTS tests in English and Maths, taken towards the end of their undergraduate (and postgraduate) teacher training, are proving a really difficult hurdle for many, to the extent that Michael Gove has announced that a Conservative government would limit the number of times that they can be re-taken by trainee teachers. What is this saying about the level of education of our young people, if those with fairly decent A levels are struggling with literacy and numeracy?”

I’m reminded of a recent cartoon in which an excited sixth-former had just opened a letter offering him a place on a teacher-training course. “All I need” he is announcing to his parents ” is an A, a B and a C. And they’ll teach me the rest of the alphabet when I get there…”

So any suggestions as to how this situation needs to be changed that don’t involve the traditional reaction of  the need to get back to the good old days of formal academic education? As always I look forward to your comments…