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Teacher-training plans under fire

28 March 2014


GOVERNMENT initiatives to shift responsibility for training teachers to schools were likely to undermine university education departments, damage the quality of teacher education, and lead to a shortage of teachers, the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Timothy Dakin (above), told the Lords earlier this month.

The 11 Anglican universities - which train one in four of all primary teachers in England and 12 per cent of secondary teachers - would be among the hardest hit, said Bishop Dakin, who is the Church of England's Parliamentary spokesman on higher education. He was speaking during a debate on education and social mobility.

Bishop Dakin focused his criticisms on the Government's Schools Direct programme. "The take-up has been disappointing, and raises the danger of a damaging teacher-shortage very soon," he warned.

While the allocation of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) places to the programme was to rise to 37 per cent this year, the core allocations to universities had been reduced, he said. "For every Schools Direct place left unfilled, there is one less teacher available in the classroom."

Many areas are experiencing high pressure on places, which would soon flow into secondary schools. "This is not the time to pressurise schools to take on training responsibilities, when many are desperate for new teachers," he said.

The move to school-based teacher training was already undermining the Anglican universities, which had almost 200 years' experience of educating teachers; the policy risked "putting them out of business", he said.

While universities were involved to some extent in school-based training, they received reduced funding for each student, and had to negotiate contracts on a yearly basis that made long-term strategic planning almost impossible. Moreover, the policy ran the risk of demoting the academic rigour of teaching that underpinned its practice, Bishop Dakin said.

"Without a strong cohort of excellent teachers, we cannot hope to inspire disadvantaged young people with the confidence to contribute to society. . . It is from this perspective that I question whether the Government's policies for improving the quality of teaching have been fully effective and will enable social mobility."

Responding, the Education Minister in the Lords, Lord Nash, said that 71 per cent of Schools Direct places had been allocated to schools working with a university provider. "We believe that we need to create other training options and that competition will improve the situation."

THE Church of England Central Education Trust (CECET), a new organisation that will take responsibility for the standards and management of 265 church schools in the Midlands, was launched on Tuesday, writes Margaret Holness.

The first of its kind in the country, the joint venture between Birmingham and Lichfield dioceses and the University of Wolverhampton is likely to be the template for similar regional developments.

The two dioceses hope that by pooling resources they can better provide schools with the expertise and support formerly provided by local authorities. Since 2010, the part played by the latter in education has been progressively weakened by government reforms.

The Trust's structure has been designed to allow other Midlands dioceses to join the alliance, the director of education for Lichfield diocese, Colin Hopkins, said. "As CECET grows, its capacity to raise standards will increase."

Seen as a response to the report The Church School of the Future, the initiative has strong backing from the Department for Education, which has made a substantial contribution to start-up costs. Senior civil servants, including the deputy director of the department's academy programme, Colin Diamond, attended Tuesday's launch.

An "umbrella trust", CECET will have overarching accountability for the academies within its remit. It will have strong powers of intervention over all member schools, forcing weaker schools to accept support in raising standards. It will also encourage schools to form close partnerships, and share expertise and facilities.

"Unlike some academy chains, a majority of the Trust's schools are already graded 'outstanding' or 'good'. Our minimum goal is 'good' rating for all our schools," Mr Hopkins said.


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