THE church universities will no doubt be concerned about the
recently announced government review of teacher-preparation
standards, to be chaired by Andrew Carter, a Surrey primary-school
head teacher with 26 years' experience in one school, because of
their significant involvement in the training and development of
The aims of the review, announced at the end of April, are to
define effective practice in initial teacher-training; to assess
the effectiveness of the current system; to recommend how and where
im-provements can be made; and to recommend ways of improving
choice in the system through greater transparency of course content
These aims seem remarkably similar to the task of OFSTED
inspectors when they look at teacher-training provision. So there
seems a real possibility, given the end-of-the-year target date,
that the review team will simply read OFSTED reports, collate the
findings, and publish a report.
It will be interesting to see what more can be achieved. It will
alsobe interesting to see whether the Churches are represented on
the review group. At least the Schools Direct programme, run from
the school led by the chairman of the review, has links with the
University of Roehampton, which is steeped in the preparation of
teachers for church schools.
EVEN before the results of the review of teacher education, the
church universities face an uncertain 12 months over the future
direction of teacher education in England, before the General
Election in May 2015, when teacher training and supply may well
feature in at least some of the manifestos.
The church universities can all trace their history back to the
pre-Robbins-report era, in the 1960s, when the Church of England
and Roman Catholic Churches, as the main employers of teachers,
managed their own training colleges across the country, loosely
supervised from Whitehall by the Ministry of Education. The
pre-paration of new teachers is stillan important part of their
mis-sion, and, importantly, their funding.
Part of the anxiety in the universities - and not just the
church universities - results from the fact that the present
Government has made clear its intention to transfer responsibility
for teacher-training away from higher education, and into the
As a result, it has not only built on the Labour government's
scheme Teach First, but consolidated other employment-based
training opportunities into the School Direct programme, with which
many school governors (especially of church schools) are already
In the future, government policy options range from transferring
all teacher preparation to schools to continuing some form of the
present mixed economy. If the Liberal Democrats remain in
coalition, however, or if the Labour Party forms part of the next
government, the spectre of larger numbers of untrained teachers in
state-funded schools, as hinted at in the past by the present
Secretary of State, will remain nothing more than an aspiration on
the part of some Conservatives.
WHETHER there are enough church schools across the country
involved in offering training places as part of the new School
Direct scheme, I have not been able to determine.
The historical concordat between the Churches and the government
over the preparation of teachers for faith schools, however, would
risk being undermined if no attention was paid to this issue. (It
may not matter where those that teach in faith schools are trained
- or it may be a matter for the Churches, and other faiths, to take
seriously, in the emerging landscape of teacher-preparation.)
Across the country, there are subjects such as history,
chemistry, and English where schools as a whole have already
offered more training places than the sector needs, along with
another group of subjects, such as art, geography, and computer
science, where they probably have the capacity to do so, even if
church schools were not fully to participate in the new training
What is increasingly apparent, however, is that there are a
number of secondary subjects where the new Schools Direct scheme
currently offers too few places to meet the national need. Many
lack the capacity to train specialists in religious education,
design and technology, and certain languages.
For instance, the Government's Teacher Supply model suggests a
need for 545 potential trainees in religious education in the
coming academic year, but so far schools have offered only 308
places. The same shortfall in school-based training places is also
the case for music, and design and technology.
This means that unless some other form of private-sector
initiative, such as using academy chains or charities to replace
universities as the centres for preparing teachers, is developed by
the Government, there will still be a need for universities to
participate in the training of secondary-school teachers. Moreover,
the demand for teachers will hugely increase towards the end of the
decade, as the baby boom reaches secondary-school age.
IN THE primary sector, where the church universities have always
had a strong presence, the current position is very different.
Schools currently offer only about 8500 of the 20,000 training
places that the Government says are needed.
With more than 6000 of the remaining 14,000 places on
undergraduate courses, it seems likely that the church universities
will continue to be heavily involved in preparing primary teachers,
unless the review proposes - and the Government accepts - radical
changes to primary teacher-training.
With so much happening in teacher education, and the preparation
of teachers still so important to the church universities, their
leaders, and those who plan the future of church schools, will need
to pay close attention to the politicians' views on this issue.
The forthcoming General Election manifestos, now in their early
stages, may provide clues.
Professor John Howson is the director of an education
research company, and a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes