Fighting out of the Fringes: Why is the government not actively and whole-heartedly supporting the future of University-anchored teacher training?

Phil King
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  • Last updated: Monday, 17 January 2011 at 10:50 am

Almost all of us have heard at least one variation of: “Those who can, do.  Those who can’t, teach.  And those who can’t teach, teach teachers.”  Woody Allen’s “Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym” is always fun to place under your favourite PE teacher’s nose.  Hopefully though we know it to be broadly unfair despite the knowledge of the bellicose and upsetting Scottish ex-rugby player who despised having to deal with students of anything less than National quality.  Even though the origin comes from such an auspicious a wit as George Bernard Shaw (He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches) it doesn’t account for those amazing, dedicated professionals we’ve all had the pleasure of knowing for at least a year of our education.  If this is still society’s bitter vision of the profession then we’re in a sad place.  Why wouldn’t we want this country’s children taught by the very best?  And why doesn’t this government want our teachers taught by the very best?

Untitled 1sd 300x176 Fighting out of the Fringes: Why is the government not actively and whole heartedly supporting the future of University anchored teacher training?

This year

I was privileged Friday last to spend a day discussing the Drama GCSE with students on Warwick University’s PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate of Education) course.  In a studio theatre with its practical and functionary plain wood flooring the atmosphere was anything but ordinary.  These people genuinely care and, may I suggest, care a great deal more about their profession than those I came up against working in the City when I foolishly thought money mattered.  And yet these people who are certainly not getting into this career for financial recompense are dealt the severest blow in terms of societal recognition.  The vibrant and passionate debate that took place in that room showed (as if it needed showing) that those training to be teachers are insightful individuals who question in detail the specifics of what they need to do to excel themselves and who want to know how to give their future students the very best experience possible.  They are excellently placed to do this as they have this debate with one another and their tutors.  Yes, as you may have noticed, the treatment of teachers is a long-standing gripe but I have a current and political spur in revisiting this debate: the government is considering leaving teacher training institutions in the cold.  The recent government white paper has announced an intention to increase school-based training in place of University-based training, despite the fact that a recent Times Education Supplement Survey found that:

“A total of 58 per cent of those who responded to the survey said they would prefer to employ a university-trained newly qualified teacher, compared with 42 per cent who said they wanted someone trained in a school.”

This tracks the feel of the majority of people I work with who see a PGCE as a broader training experience.  A training that after my own PGCE and after seeing the way the PGCE is currently being taught I can say creates a truly fantastic atmosphere for creating skilled teachers.

Next year?

Yes, there will be an influx of people who are coming into teaching at the moment because times are tight.  Yes, I too would question the motives of an ex-Banker who suddenly believed that now was the time she just had to become an Economics teacher but in simple terms, when it comes to schools: those who “can’t” after a year’s PGCE simply aren’t welcome.  It is not a sink profession provided by the government to mop up the employment mess.  Playing fast and loose with an idea that might save money and getting schools on their own to attempt to do the excellent job Universities currently do would only confer greater derision on this overly-mocked profession than there already is.  Universities working in partnership with schools currently provide a theoretical and practical base that prepares the teachers of tomorrow.  Shortcutting this learning for cost-saving reasons will only cost this country in the long term.  We cannot afford to be blasé about teacher training.  To call on the simplicity of cliché it is literally our country’s future.  I would be pleased to have anyone I met on Friday enthuse my child about the myriad benefits of the drama GCSE and support their growth as a person en route to their A*.  It is a profession for the very best and if you are the very best and are considering teaching, regardless of that Scottish gentleman who made you do push ups in the snow because he wished he could be scoring his country’s winning try in the Six Nations, you have an moral obligation to at least explore that option.  As the government have an obligation to assist you in getting the best preparation possible.

Friday allowed me see just how amazing the drama teachers of tomorrow will be, guided through their experience by a qualified University base and dedicated in-school mentors – why is the government not actively and whole-heartedly supporting the future of those who will follow them?

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  • Andrew Kyprianou

    I’m with you Phil, I did a PGCE and found it to be broader than a GTP. but there are pros and cons for both. the government shouldn’t be shafting one for the other tho.

  • Mike Gunn

    I’ve found the people coming from the GTP course have been very good, and there’s nothing to say that the PGCE route is any better per se, but if both routes are equally valid, why axe one over the other? There seems to be a government agenda to cut higher education funding for everything but science courses. Too left wing?

  • norbert109

    Sorry to seem petty – yet it matters, and is totemic of what is wrong with much in education today – but you inexplicably use a capital letter in ‘ex-Banker’ and ‘University’/'Universities’ when they are, in context, merely common, not proper, nouns, thus requiring lower case first letters. A child who has done any reading and has any feel for the written word will find you out very quickly. The sad thing is that children all round the world who have studied English properly as a second language would know the difference. Probably through no fault of your own, you do not, and therefore your pupils will lose out. The problem will be perpetuated. Anyway, good luck regardless.

  • stanley1000

    Your comments about capitals are fair enough. However, since you believe it matters, it should be pointed out that you have misused the word ‘totemic’.

  • Midwinter1947

    This government are rapidly creating a reputation for introducing hurried, rash and philistine changes. It will take years (decades maybe?) to repair the damage.

  • Lyndall_Dawkins

    What can you learn about teaching from an university based left-wing ‘educationalist’ who hasn’t seen the inside of a school classooom on a daily basis for over 30 years ? Very little, I would suggest……

  • norbert109

    stanley1000 – you are right. I stand corrected. Replace ‘totemic’ with ‘typical’ or ‘representative’, according to taste.

  • briley habib

    Actually quite a lot. I’m assuming from your post that you haven’t been through this experience. The PGCE I completed was excellent and well worth the money.

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