WHEN the former Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove,
established an independent review of teacher-training last May,
under the chairmanship of Sir Andrew Carter, many wondered whether
its purpose was to provide Mr Gove with a sanitised excuse to
remove the university sector from the long-standing part it played
in training teachers.
This was clearly the fear of the Cathedral Group of 16
universities with recent church foundations, all but one of which
had started out as institutions for the preparation of teachers -
still a significant area of their work. Between them, they train
one third of all primary teachers, 16 per cent of all secondary
specialists, and 40 per cent of all teachers at Key Stage 2/3.
As the Group's submission to Carter emphasised, university-based
PGCE courses "provide a national system of teacher education,
workforce supply, and training that would be difficult to replicate
within a schools-based system".
The submission suggests, moreover, that those in
university-based training had immediate access to up-to-the-minute
education research, more space to reflect on their classroom
experience and learning with others, experiencing placements in
very different schools, and a wider exposure to ideas and
strategies than those working in one group of schools.
Sir Andrew reported last month to a new Secretary of State for
Education, Nicky Morgan - perhaps in the context of a different
attitude in Government to how we prepare our teachers.
SIR ANDREW and his team have kept to their brief, looking at
what is considered best practice in training and how recruitment
might be improved. (The report, the Carter Review of Initial
Teacher Training (ITT), did not stray into areas such as how
to solve the present recruitment crisis, which caused training
places to be left empty again this year.)
After nine months of deliberations, and informed by a mountain
of documents, including many course programmes, Sir Andrew has come
up with 18 key recommendations. Few of them are a surprise.
Reassuringly for the Cathedral Group, none of them envisages the
closure of university education faculties, or is likely to lead to
another round of mergers.
Sir Andrew, the executive head of a group of primary schools at
the heart of a school-centred ITT programme, emphasises in the
introduction that "partnership is the key" - although he did add
"in a system that is increasingly school-led".
The notion of partnership between schools and higher education
in the training of teachers was developed after reforms set in
train in 1991 by the then Education Secretary, Kenneth Clarke.
Throughout the past 20 years, as OFSTED has consistently made
clear, these partnerships, and especially those between schools and
universities - whoever takes the lead - have delivered a good
SIR ANDREW's recommendations include creating a framework of
core content: what all teachers in training should be taught,
wherever that may be. He wants to see better mentoring, and to
re-establish a repository of resources and guidance and assessment.
Crucially, he also believes that the effectiveness of the tests
used in helping to select trainees should be reviewed. There is
also the inevitable recommendation on behaviour management, a skill
without which no trainee will feel fully prepared, or, indeed,
A welcome surprise is the recommendation that child and
adolescent development should be included within the ITT framework.
Formerly taught under the umbrella of educational psychology, this
has been an unfashionable area of study ever since Sir Keith Joseph
asserted, in the 1980s, that educational philosophy, psychology,
and sociology were an unnecessary part of teacher education.
The suggestion that partnerships use expertise wherever they can
find it may be a nod to the market, but it could also recognise
that, with online learning, traditional patterns of teaching and
learning are changing fast. Teacher education cannot afford to be
THE most surprising section of the report is on subject
knowledge and associated subject pedagogy. Everyone would accept
the importance of these, but space to enhance subject knowledge
disappeared from courses in the 1990s, when courses changed so that
trainees could spend more time in schools.
Sir Andrew does not suggest how subject knowledge can be
reintroduced into an already over-crowded curriculum. He also fails
to explore why, if subject knowledge is important at the training
stage, teachers can still be allowed to teach anything to anyone at
any level, once they have qualified - a loophole that allows many
RE lessons to be taught by an often reluctant teacher with no
Finally, there are recommendations to involve more schools in
ITT - presumably related to his proposed review of selection tests,
and improved recruitment procedures. The review does not mention
the current expensive and time-consuming admissions system for
entry into postgraduate training. But it does recommend clarifying
the difference between qualified teacher status and academic
qualifications, an issue previously considered in 1994 during the
passage of the Bill that established the Teacher Training
Nevertheless, it is good to find it being discussed again.
The Carter report has something to please everyone, but it does
not make clear the longer-term direction of teacher preparation.
Perhaps that is a task for the next government.
Professor John Howson is the director of an education
research company, and a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes