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Initial Teacher Education and subject teaching associations

23 May 2011

I’m writing this on the train as I travel down from Scotland after being at the Region Committee meeting.  The countryside on this train journey is magnificent and it’s a pleasure to ride the train on a sunny evening.

I’m always impressed by the commitment that volunteers on our committees show.  To act professionally in a volunteer context is a remarkable achievement, especially when the volunteer job is very different to the day job.  So we have teachers who double up as conference organisers and at least one former teacher who is a transport supremo.

The most valuable work, arguably, that members do for ASE is in their contribution to the consultations and responses that we present to government and others. Some of this has started to bear fruit as we are invited into the Department and asked to give evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee on Practical Science.  This is valuable and unique to ASE as an organisation.  Well thought out contributions backed up by experience mean that our responses are authentic and constructive.

So when members write to me and ask “what is ASE doing about x.....” and “did you realise that y is going on in schools...” I look out for common themes and try to act upon them appropriately.  A recent issue was initial teacher education.  This is a transitory situation.  Every week the picture is developing, so my first question to the department – when will the quotas be released – was overtaken by events and collating the views of those affected and concerned took a while.  My letter to the Secretary of State finally went off this week.  I concentrated on the following points as it is as well to make such letters brief and to the point:

Initial Teacher Education and subject teaching associations 

We welcome the government recognition of problems in recruiting sufficient well -qualified teachers of physical science, and recommend close monitoring of this situation to ensure a balance of teachers specialising in all aspects of science can be maintained.

I note the drive towards the new “teaching schools” as an additional way to train teachers. Whilst we welcome the opportunities this provides for further professional development of teachers within these institutions we have questions about the quality of science specific training that would be available.

We also note the success of “Teach First”, not only in providing teachers, but also in engaging business in the process of education. 

However, ASE members, who are drawn from across the sciences in primary, secondary and further education are concerned about the details and the implications of the proposals.

The concerns include:

  • Problems recruiting sufficient students to courses caused by this year’s late announcement of ITT quotas.
  • Pressure on university education departments will reduce future science education research and curriculum development.
  • Difficulty in providing high quality science training for primary teachers through the teaching schools route

 The Association for Science Education is eager to work with government to improve teacher education irrespective of route.

So, to continue the discussion, and supposing that the Secretary of State responds with an invitation to go and discuss this, what should I add to these concerns?  As the picture develops, what would truly excellent teacher education look like in the UK? What constructive suggestions can we make to government?


S Howard

Thu. 26/05/11

You mention the secondary TF but not the Primary! Why?
We at xxx 'won' the award for regional provider for the next 3 years, for primary and secondary lot.
Where does science feature in their 6 weeks speed dating style of professional development for primary teachers you may well ask ... Well, only 1 hour until we and another university fought for another slot BUT are we allowed to develop scientific understanding to these 'bright language graduates' by modelling formative practice and getting practical in a manner similar to our PGCE course (Ofsted graded it 1 in 2011)? No, we must teach them how to 'plan' 'and behaviour strategies' not modelling quality learning!
While we are trying to make it all work 2011 (we have to!), we as science tutors feel we are being compromised as professionals and worry about the quality of teacher we will create for our most needy pupils. These eager young 'participants (not allowed to call them students or trainees as its deeming!) are placed in challenging schools as 'paid staff' in charge of a whole class (not extra!) after just 6 weeks of very intensive training (8am to 8pm typical day of input from us! so no quality time to HOT thinks! ).
Surely these children in their schools deserve the very best learning opportunities NOT bright language graduates who can't get a 'real' job in their graduate specialism. Maybe it might work for them, but then we must ask why so few primary TF stayed in teaching following the primary pilot?
Some have left teaching and taken up the promised interview with a real business company like Proctor and Gamble and MANY left the classroom and have become TF staff!!!! Worthwhile business partnership you say Mmmmm maybe not might it be Scientology by another name?
Too many grand claims are being made about TF on very little evidence. There are serious issues of validity and reliability especially for the primary claims, so please ask about this. If we don't deal with this now we can say godbye to quality science education ... those TF participants that do stay in teaching will be the Headteachers in 3-4 years time and will they support practical science or staff cpd ? Doubt it as they won't understand having not had it first hand... please ask about that

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David Stancliffe

Tue. 31/05/11

I would hope that ASE would want to positively endorse the value of having a strong university involvement in initial science teacher education. Christine Harrison has argued the case very clearly in the current edition of Science Teacher Education, available on the ASE website. I would only add that in my experience, the current system of schools and universities working in partnership has the enormous benefit of bringing groups of science teachers from a wide range of schools together for mentor training, development and discussion. The wholesale introduction of independent teaching schools runs the risk of greater fragmentation and isolation of trainers and trainees with respect to individual subjects.
(Newcastle University ITT Partnership)

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