Scotland’s teacher-induction programme is an internationally recognised system leader. It ensures that those who stand in front of our pupils are fully grounded in the theoretical aspects of pedagogy and children’s development before they assume control of children’s learning experiences.
The Teach First approach, apparently being considered by Scottish Government, which provides 5/6 weeks of "summer school” before placing its candidates in front of classes, is an assault on the high professional standards which operate in Scottish Education.
The concept of "learning on the job”, an approach endorsed by Michael Gove when he was Education Minister south of the border, is fundamentally flawed. No one would deny the importance of classroom exposure in developing initial skills but it is essential that student teachers have more than a set of "lesson plans for beginners” before leading classes.
Teach First is predicated on the mistaken notion that academic success equates to being a good teaching candidate. It does not. Being an effective teacher requires a significant skill set around empathy, and communication combined with a strong sense of values.
In England, around half of the Teach First recruits leave after the compulsory two years of their contract. This has contributed significantly to the churn of teachers in England, landing it in the chronic teacher shortage it now faces.
Promotion of the Teach First approach by UK Governments, has seen it expand to the point where capacity has been cut in the Higher Education sector. It’s a vicious downward spiral which Scottish Education would do well to avoid.
The Teach First proposal could lead to two groups of trainee teachers with pupils – one group being paid whilst the other is not. This would cause significant contractual issues and would undermine the payment of current probationer teachers.
Training on the job approaches also rely heavily on school support. Where is this to come from? School staffing levels are already at minimum and there Is not a single teacher in the country whose workload is not already through the roof. There is no goodwill left.
Frankly, the EIS does not believe that placing unqualified graduates in schools will lead to better outcomes for Scotland’s children. One of the great strengths of our system is that all of Scotland’s pupils are taught by fully qualified teachers. Parents, and pupils, should be concerned about any change to this status.
If the Depute First Minister is concerned about the need to continually attract the best candidates into the profession, he should concern himself with addressing the dual impact of excessive workload and public sector pay restraint on the morale and standing of the profession.