If we were to design a system for training and developing teachers would we end up with anything like we currently have? The Headteachers’ Roundtable meeting, at the Guardian Offices five years on from its inaugural one, thought not.
The current system is increasingly wasteful, incoherent and benefits the already strong schools at the expense of those in greatest need. It’s not just about complaining or even simply identifying an issue; we need to come up with realistic policy alternatives. One of the group’s key advantages, beyond a detail practical wisdom of the school system, is that we don’t have to think in short five years, or less, Parliamentary cycles.
If we were to start from a blank piece of paper what ideas might be at the heart of our design? Firstly, we can’t afford to continue with the wasteful practices we currently have of investing time, effort and funds in training teachers only for many to either not enter the classroom or to leave the profession within the first few years. Our cliff-edged, front end loaded approach to teacher training is a problem. Here are some thoughts; we need to collectively rethink the initial training and early development of our teachers.
Taking cognitive load and mastery thinking into the staff room, there needs to be a far more realistic expectation of teachers when they first enter the profession. Faced with thirty children or young people for the first time is a daunting experience. The point was made, from around the table, of the pitfalls of moving far too quickly to the expectation that the trainee teachers will plan coherent lessons – subject content, delivered in the most effective sequence; appropriate pedagogy – and then deliver them – behaviour management; pace based on feedback from pupils’ responses – rather than taking Goldilocks steps.
The idea of a standardised programme might not be to everyone’s taste but we need to better assure the quality of the experiences and outcomes for initial and early teacher training. Developing a programme based on evidence of what works best practice from around the World is surely better than the current more haphazard approach.
A policy alternative to the current myriad paths through is evolving as are ideas to ensure that schools in the most challenging areas aren’t left with limited choice. Hope you’ll join us for the HTRT Summit in early 2018; date and venue to follow.