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TTA HEAD SAYS SCHOOLS MUST MAKE TEACHING MORE MANAGEABLE

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Anthea Millett, the government's chief adviser on teacher training, and Teacher Training Agency chief executive, ha...
Anthea Millett, the government's chief adviser on teacher training, and Teacher Training Agency chief executive, has highlighted the need for improvements in teacher training in order to secure improvements in the quality of teaching and learning.

Speaking at the third annual education lecture at King's College, London, she said:

'The new national curriculum which secretary of state Gillian Shephard has asked us to develop will provide a new focus for standards in initial teacher training. Standards do need to rise.

'The current OFSTED reports on primary providers show much good and some excellent provision and the TTA will be recognising and rewarding this quality through its funding and student allocations to colleges.

'But 15% of the reports published to date contain one or more unsatisfactory grades, triggering the Teacher Training Agency's procedures for the withdrawal of their accreditation. I hope no-one will seek to defend that rate of failure.'

In a wide-ranging speech about the science, art and craft of teaching, Anthea Millett also called on schools to review their forms of organisation to make good teaching a more manageable proposition:

'We need to be clear that some forms of school organisation put enormous and, I would argue, unnecessary strains on teachers. Diversity can be marvellous as between schools, and as between classes within a school. But lack of common purpose in schools and a diversity within classes brings very great challenges.

'We ought to ask, is teaching not hard enough already? Do our teachers not have enough to cope with? If we want them to be Olympic champions, must we insist on tying their shoelaces together in this way? Teaching is hard enough when the children are all well-behaved and motivated. It is even harder when school policies and organisational patterns reduce the homogeneity - whether of purpose, ability or motivation - needed for successful teaching.'

Setting out her model of what makes for good teaching, Anthea Millett put first the need for a secure command of the material to be taught:

'Effective teachers understand their material at a level well beyond that being taught, in order to ensure that pupils have sound foundations, make appropriate progress, and also make the links between ideas which are so important to effective learning. You cannot begin to teach until you know and understand what you are teaching. So often this statement has been challenged. 'A good primary teacher knows how to ask the right questions - to get pupils learning even though the teacher is only a page ahead of them'. I do not subscribe to this view.'

Anthea Millett concluded her lecture by setting out what teaching would look like if the changes she proposed were made in the approach to pedagogy, to school organisation, and to teacher education. She said:

'I think we would find the following:

-- teachers who are not afraid of criticism, and indeed who see this as a necessary tool for developing their practice;

-- classroom doors that are open, so that teachers can observe each other's practice and talk to each other about what they do in unambiguous, common sense terms;

-- teachers who set out to make sure that they are working on the basis of up to date subject knowledge and constantly renewed strategies for putting to work new knowledge about teaching and learning;

-- teachers who are able to draw on a range of new strategies and goals for continuing professional development, the usefulness of which is measured in terms of its impact on pupils' learning;

-- parents and governors who have a clearer understanding of what the distinctive contribution of schools ought to be, of teaching methods, and of how teaching relates to the contribution they wish to make to their children's learning;

-- legitimate national standards for teaching, at particular stages of development, which are widely understood and through which credit is given to those whose practice progresses from one standard to another;

-- teacher trainers, whether in higher education or school-based, who are clear - thanks not least to the new national curriculum for initial teacher training -about what teachers have to know, understand and be able to do, and what they as teacher trainers need to know, understand and be able to do in order to prepare the teacher-professionals of tomorrow;

-- and, fundamentally, that teaching is always thought about and talked about in relation to whether pupil learning is taking place.'

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