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Teaching the teachers

Brian Taylor | 15:16 UK time, Wednesday, 9 March 2011

It is, I suppose, a comfort that literacy and numeracy will be given greater primacy in selecting students for teacher training.

Is there not, however, something intrinsically depressing in the very fact that such a statement has to be made?

This afternoon at Holyrood, Schools Minister Angela Constance stood in for her boss, Michael Russell, in announcing that the Scottish government broadly accepts recommendations for reform outlined in a review.

These include the gradual phasing out of the B.Ed degree and its replacement by academic studies which do not place sole emphasis upon school teaching.

Further, teachers are to be encouraged to work towards a Masters degree as part of continuing development.

However, I was particularly struck by the recommendation - now endorsed by ministers - that there should be "diagnostic testing" as to the capacity of potential teachers to read, write and count.

In its full response, the government notes the "current high standard" in such fundamental skills displayed by the teaching workforce, stressing only that the objective is to ensure that all teachers "model the highest standards".

Potential pupils

To that end, there will now be further work done to "determine the standard that teachers should meet in both literacy and numeracy."

The trite answer to this might be: "higher than their potential pupils." Semi-advanced skills gaps can be remedied by further training, for example by employers.

But such remedies will be virtually impossible to apply if the basics are absent or lacking.

So it is encouraging, genuinely encouraging, to find a firm stress laid upon these basics in the reform of teacher training.

But still somehow sad.

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