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New teachers ‘lack basic skills’

Headteachers and university staff in Scotland have raised concerns about the ability of some new teachers to teach reading and mathematics.

A report by HM Inspectorate of Education (HMIE) said a minority of school staff thought the skills of some newly qualified teachers (NQTs) were not sufficiently well developed.

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"A number of headteachers and NQTs expressed concern about NQTs’ preparedness to teach the basics of reading," the report states.

"They highlighted deficiencies in the understanding of phonics and how to develop progressively the reading skills of young children."

The report, a submission to a Government-backed inquiry into how to improve teacher training, goes on to highlight concerns of headteachers about weak teacher trainees.

"Headteachers reported that they still encounter a small but significant number of students they consider to be weak," the report says. "They felt the needs of these students should have been identified by university staff at an earlier stage."

Yesterday, Liz Smith, education spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives, said it was essential that teachers had the ability to help children learn basic skills.

"Good literacy and numeracy is the most important key to unlock so many other opportunities within education and the development of life skills," she said.

"It is the quality of teachers that really counts and we would strongly support moves to improve the skills of teachers in teaching the 3Rs."

Margaret Smith, education spokeswoman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, added: "The Scottish Government must ensure that student teachers are given training to teach the essential building blocks of literacy and numeracy."

The watchdog submitted its findings to the formal Review of Teacher Education in Scotland, currently being undertaken by Graham Donaldson, former HM senior chief inspector.

The review was commissioned by the Scottish Government and is expected to report back at the end of the year.

It said headteachers were also "strong in their criticisms of the literacy skills of a few NQTs, highlighting deficiencies in basic spoken grammar".

Many new teachers expressed more confidence in developing literacy skills than numeracy, with a few reporting a lack of confidence about fractions, long division and mental calculation.

The watchdog’s submission said that, although some NQTs expressed confidence about their ability to embed literacy and numeracy into their teaching, "this was sometimes found to be at a superficial level".

However, the watchdog’s view of teacher education was, overall, a positive picture. It acknowledged NQTs’ participation in extra curricular activities such as after-school clubs and the energy and ideas they brought.

New teachers were also seen as experts on the controversial Curriculum for Excellence, a new teaching method to be rolled out in the autumn term.

HMIE praised the continuing development available to new teachers and the role of leadership in schools to inspire and encourage teachers.

But it said school leaders needed to improve their ability to sustain the interest of new teachers and also criticised the lack of opportunity open to teachers for voluntary transfer, which would "refresh their ideas", foregoing the need for a competitive interview process.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The review is under way and ministers will consider all submissions in due course. The review is due to report at the end of 2010."

l Some 35,000 of Scotland’s 160,000 exam candidates will get their results by text and e-mail today -- a day earlier than when paper certificates are delivered through the post.

See full coverage of the Standard Grade, Intermediate, Higher and Advanced Higher results in The Herald tomorrow.

  Fixed-terms for headteachers?


The HMIE report went on to suggest a number of areas  for debate, including whether  or not headteachers should  be appointed for fixed terms  in future. The HMIE report also suggested the possibility of recruiting new teachers from a variety of vocations in an accelerated but thorough programme of teacher  education. The Scottish Government has already tried to expand the pool of teachers by encouraging those from different careers, but a shortage of posts has forced some to leave the profession. The report also suggests enabling education authorities to move teachers across schools without interview, to allow refreshment of ideas.


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