First published on August 11, 2017 by The Herald: http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15466952.Student_teachers_in_class_after_five_weeks_of_training/ (shared byline with Andrew Denholm)
TRAINEE teachers would be allowed to start work in Scotland after a five week summer school under controversial proposals for a new fast-track course.
Documents obtained under freedom of information legislation show the educational charity Teach First has suggested the setting up of a Scottish Summer Institute as part of a briefing to John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary.
Teach First is talking to the Scottish Government after ministers decided to put out to tender a new fast-track teacher training course targeted at plugging vacancies in rural schools and key subjects such as science, technology and maths.
However, the proposal for an intensive summer school will prove controversial because it undermines the traditional model of university teacher education where postgraduate students undertake a year of study – including work placements – before joining a school as a probationer in their second year.
Graduates entering the classroom after just a few weeks of training will also reignite concerns about unqualified teachers working in schools.
The documents state: “Participants would undertake an intensive Scottish summer school prior to commencing work in a school with a phased introduction to responsibility overseen by an experienced Scottish teacher.”
A second paper says: “The Scottish Summer Institute would be focused on providing Teach for Scotland participants with a strong grounding in the key areas of classroom management, assessment and planning.”
The documents also show Teach First is proposing a two-year postgraduate course with trainees being paid in the first year of their course once they complete the summer school and move to “on-the-job” training.
Trainees would then experience a “phased introduction to responsibility” over the course of their first year, during which they would “work towards General Teaching Council Scotland accreditation.”
Such a proposal is likely to be highly controversial as it would mean individuals working in schools, and even teaching classes, before meeting GTCS teacher standards.
Teach for Scotland trainees would also be “paid in accordance with their level of responsibility, which is increased to full pay by the end of the programme.”
In England, Teach First trainees receive “at least the basic salary for an unqualified teacher” during their first year, but no arrangements are currently in place to pay unqualified teachers in Scotland.
It also means paid Teach First participants would be working alongside university-educated students undertaking intensive work placement free of charge.
In addition, a number of “key requirements” are provided which schools must meet in order to receive a Teach for Scotland participant.
These include a commitment to provide individuals with a “significant leadership opportunity in their first year” as well as the chance to “act as the lead class teacher by the end of their first year.”
Scotland is currently facing acute teacher shortages in certain parts of the country and in a number of subject areas including, most notably in key STEM subjects. The Scottish Government is committed to developing new routes into the teaching profession, with the goal of attracting “high-quality graduates in priority areas and subjects.” £1m of funding from the Attainment Scotland Fund has been earmarked for this purpose.
A spokeswoman for the Educational Institute of Scotland said: “We do not believe that handing greater responsibility to unqualified graduates will lead to better outcomes for pupils.
“The Teach First proposal would give such trainees just a few weeks training before putting them into the classroom at the start of the academic year to teach pupils, presumably together with a qualified teacher, and then the trainees would rise to act as the lead class teacher before the end of the first year.
“The EIS believes the teaching responsibilities placed on these trainees would be premature and excessive, and would be to the detriment of the pupils.”
The spokesman said proposal that trainees would be employed by schools meant a school could have two groups of trainee teachers on postgraduate programmes working with pupils – one group being paid whilst the other is not.
She added: “This does not seem like an equitable system and it may deter graduates from entering the current well-regarded route into teaching. The notion of differentiated pay scales is also unlikely to find favour as it would undermine current negotiated pay scales.”
Rueben Moore, director of leadership for Teach First, said the proposals for Teach for Scotland were not yet finalised.
He said: “We’re clear that any new teaching route in Scotland would need to be a bespoke model that was designed and delivered for the Scotland context, with Scottish university and education providers.
“It would need to complement, not compete, with the pathways that already exist, and be befitting of the academic rigour and world class standards of teacher education in Scotland.
“The proposal discussed with the Deputy First Minister was some initial thoughts on an approach, but doesn’t reflect a final model.”
Mr Moore said Teach First would welcome input from the wider Scottish education sector on their ideas.
The General Teaching Council for Scotland, which would have to sign off any new proposal, said they had made it clear to Teach First that standards would have to be maintained.
A spokesman said: “We have had discussions with Teach First on a few occasions and, as Mr Swinney has stated, the principle of meeting our standards before becoming a teacher will continue in Scotland.
“Being properly qualified to teach in Scotland, and meeting the GTCS standards will remain the benchmark for aspiring teachers.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Ministers have made clear that we will always maintain the high standard we expect new recruits to attain before they become fully-fledged teachers.
“This means that any new route into teaching must be accredited by the GTCS and will require a partnership with a university to maintain academic rigour and ensure programmes are of the highest quality.
“We have committed £1 million from the Scottish Attainment Fund to identify and develop new ways for people to come into teaching, and will shortly be putting a new initiative out to tender designed to attract high quality graduates in priority areas and subjects.”