By Chris Doyle
A controversial fast-track scheme for training teachers in Scotland is not the answer to the shortage of teachers according to former South Lanarkshire Director of education, Larry Forde.
The two-year training course, with a six-week condensed course in the summer, sees graduates paid as unqualified members of staff in year one and as a qualified teacher with a salary of £22,917 in year two.
Teach First, a charity in England and Wales, will implement the new two year route into teaching in Scotland having previously tested the approach down south.
Teaching unions are against the model because it puts unqualified teachers in the classroom instead of using the four-year undergraduate course throughout universities in Scotland that provides teachers with various work placements and a probationary year before they become fully-qualified teachers.
Forde, who was in his South Lanarkshire role between 2006 and 2012 is now a researcher for educational policy at Strathclyde University, believes there are several problems the proposed scheme could encounter.
He said: “There are risks with it. The biggest risk is the quality of the teacher’s profession. I would like to see the data to confirm that graduates who go into the Teach First programme stay with teaching. What proportion stays the course to become a fully qualified and prepared teacher? The jury has to be out on programmes like that.
“The issue is going into a classroom with very brief preparation. There’s a difference going into a placement and going into a fully-fledged teaching role.
“Having a supply of well qualified teachers willing to go into schools all over the country is an important factor. The evidence will tell you teacher standards and the quality of teacher profession improves educational outcomes for all children.”
John Swinney, the Education Secretary, told The Herald: “We want to make a career in teaching more accessible to a wider range of graduates and help address the current recruitment challenges, particularly in priority subjects.
“I am therefore pleased to confirm we are inviting new proposals for routes into teaching. These will support ambitious and innovative routes specifically for high-quality, new graduates or those considering a career change.”
However, Forde believes that there’s no need to resort to a fast-track scheme with its potential downside when there is already a tried and tested method in place for teachers in Scotland.
He said: “The alternative is so straightforward. There is an infrastructure for training teaching in Scotland with a network of universities and schools of education teaching pre-service, there is already a capacity there.
“The four-year degree lets people make an informed decision whether teaching is for them. On the harder edge, it allows a significant period of time for the education system to come to a judgement about whether someone has the quality or not to become a teacher. Why not use the infrastructure that’s already there and with some careful planning that is still possible.”