The recent White Paper stated an aim to transfer more teacher training from the University towards school based operations. I do not believe that this necessarily reduces the level of University input – it just relocates it closer to the classroom. However, the key issue is probably the current waste of precious funding, caused by some unhelpful pressures. Under the present system, University departments are under pressure to fill places and to minimise the fail rate. They are also under pressure to make courses financially safe and secure by achieving good OFSTED grades. This can mean that trainees only train in relatively safe, ‘risk free’ schools and this is not always the best preparation, as many final employing schools will not fit this description. This may be one reason why the drop out rate from PGCE courses is high and for school based courses (SCITT and GTP), where the schools involved often come from a broader spectrum, much lower. The school based courses also immerse the training within the school environment, this eliminates the first term ‘culture shock factor’ that can unsettle some University trained teachers. The school based environment also demands and elicits a level of commitment that can greatly improve the chances of successful longer term retention.
Opponents of this point of view will cite the superior OFSTED grades achieved by University PGCE routes. I would challenge this – the real test of the quality of a training programme should come during the first year of teaching, in order to assess how effective a preparation the course was for this. I recently researched the impact of ITT at a school, active with several partnerships offering different routes and with an outstanding reputation for teacher training. The clear message from this school was in favour of the GTP route as the best way to prepare an individual for the classroom.
There is another argument that schools will be unable to cope with an increase in training activity. I think that if we can locate university staff in schools, as is happening is some areas, then this could be a solution. However, an increase in school based training will surely be supported by many schools as they see it as the best way to recruit new staff and the best way to develop and retain their existing staff.