A national curriculum for the education and training of teachers: an english perspective

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1 Journal of In-Service Education ISSN: (Print) (Online) Journal homepage: A national curriculum for the education and training of teachers: an english perspective Hilary Emery To cite this article: Hilary Emery (1998) A national curriculum for the education and training of teachers: an english perspective, Journal of In-Service Education, 24:2, , DOI: / To link to this article: Published online: 19 Dec Submit your article to this journal Article views: 258 View related articles Citing articles: 2 View citing articles Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at Download by: [ ] Date: 03 January 2017, At: 03:41

2 A CURRICULUM FOR TRAINING TEACHERS Journal of In-service Education, Vol. 24, No. 2, 1998 A National Curriculum for the Education and Training of Teachers: an English perspective HILARY EMERY University College Worcester, United Kingdom ABSTRACT This article presents a review of the development and potential impact of National Curricula for Initial Teacher Training (ITT) and draws parallels with the implementation of the National Curriculum for schools. It reviews changes in ITT arising from the development of ITT partnerships between schools and higher education and suggests that some of the collaborative initiatives that have been emerging from joint research and development, partly led by previous government requirements, may not be fully evaluated before they are inhibited by central definition of course content. Specific concerns about the ITT National Curricula requirements for subject specialist teaching in primary schools are discussed in terms of the Teacher Training Agency s (TTA) assumption that greater subject knowledge per se will lead to improved standards of teaching and learning, without taking sufficient account of other pedagogy and management factors. the article suggests that if the quality of ITT is to improve, there needs to be a continued dialogue about the nature of teaching and learning, and the curricula for training to meet the national standards, between school and HEI partners locally, regionally and nationally. Introduction In February 1997 the Teacher Training Agency (TTA) produced proposals for a Training Curriculum and Standards for New Teachers. These proposals set out a new specification of the Standards required for the award of Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), revisions to intake requirements and Initial Teacher Training (ITT) National Curricula for Primary English and Mathematics. The proposals were revised following consultation, and published by the DfEE in July 1997 as Circular 10/97, Teaching: High Status, High Standards. These are being progressively implemented from the 1997/98 academic year onwards. The English and Mathematics 283

3 HILARY EMERY National Curricula for Primary ITT are the main focus of this paper, along with the changes in expectations for primary subject specialism. Anthea Millett, Chief Executive of the TTA, writing to ITT providers about the outcomes of the consultation and circulating the final versions of the papers, described the ITT National Curricula as: The Curricula are not intended to cover everything a trainee needs to be taught, and need to be read in conjunction with the QTS standards. (TTA letter to ITT providers 26 June 1997) The letter went on to note future development of curricula for Secondary Core Subjects, Primary Science and for Information Technology. Anthea Millett explained that the TTA saw the curricula and standards playing a key role in clarifying expectations for QTS and improving the public perception of teaching as a profession (ibid.). The potential development of a National Curriculum for ITT was seen by Ivan Reid (writing in Reid et al, 1994) as desirable in view of the complexity of the system that he saw developing in response to national requirements to develop partnerships in ITT. However, the complexities that he referred to predominantly related to the allocation of responsibilities, and issues of quality and consistency of training, not content of the programmes. Reid questioned what, if anything, was wrong with existing provision which, when the TTA was established, it needed to fix. He noted favourable judgements from a range of contexts, including HMI, that suggested the quality of NQTs in the late 1980s and early 1990s was good. Parallels with the Development of a National Curriculum for Schools These are some parallels to be drawn with the impact on schools of the National Curriculum established under the Education Reform Act in During the 1980s HMI produced the Curriculum Matters series which formed the basis for many schools to review their curricula and to bring a more rigorous approach to planning, teaching and assessment. Eric Bolton, the Senior Chief Inspector in 1985, wrote in the preface to Curriculum Matters 3, Mathematics from 5 to 16: It [Curriculum Matters] sets out a framework within which each school might develop a mathematics programme appropriate to its own pupils. The document focuses on the aims and objectives for the teaching of mathematics between the ages of 5 and 16 and considers the implications for the choice of content, for the teaching approaches, and for the assessment of pupils progress. 284

4 A CURRICULUM FOR TRAINING TEACHERS Like all other papers in this series, Mathematics from 5 to 16 is a discussion document and the Inspectorate would welcome your comments and suggestions on it and the issues it raises. Although not all schools changed their curricula, perhaps because an associated monitoring or inspection process was not established, significant changes in practice occurred in many schools within a national framework led by teachers in schools. This approach has parallels in much of the change that occurred in ITT through the introduction of partnership and the evolution of new patterns of training between higher education institutions (HEIs) and schools within a national framework of Circulars and OFSTED inspection expectations. The National Curriculum for schools overturned much school based curriculum development. The National Curriculum and its assessment was subject to a series of revisions to take account of difficulties in practice over the following six years. Teachers expressed frustration and a sense of a loss of control and ownership of the curriculum. They saw little opportunity for them to engage in a professional dialogue about the changes that were needed and how best they could be implemented. Kelly & Blenkin (1993) described the National Curriculum as one that was based on teachers as technicians involved in the skilled delivery of a nationally defined curriculum that was content centred, taking little account of the development of children s understanding. A prescriptive National Curriculum for ITT may have a similar impact on training partnerships. Changes in Initial Teacher Education and Training In ITT over the past four years there have been two key pressures for change, the first the implementation of the DFE Circulars: 9/92 and 14/93 with their requirement that ITT providers work in partnership with schools, the second the OFSTED inspection arrangements for ITT. The Circulars made expectations of Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) much more explicit, but their greatest impact was to encourage courses to reflect, more closely, practice in schools through joint planning, teaching, assessment and evaluation based on partnerships between HEIs and schools. Reid et al (1994) saw partnership development as causing substantial additional work and suggested that it would be likely to destabilise teacher education in the United Kingdom and could detrimentally affect teacher supply and quality. A prophetic remark in relation to secondary teacher education. In the best examples changes arising from ITT partnerships have generated a synthesis of theory, practice and research from schools and HEIs to the mutual benefit of all partners; resulting in increased standards of teaching and learning for pupils, professional development for teachers and tutors as well as high quality initial training and education of students: Training sessions in schools and HEIs are often good. Most extend students understanding of good classroom practices. The best are 285

5 HILARY EMERY well prepared, informative and challenging, relating work to the students work in the classroom. (para 289, Annual Report of Her Majesty s Chief Inspector of Schools 1994/95, HMSO 1996) However, ensuring consistency of training provision and assessment standards within and between schools has been a substantial challenge for HEIs, which in turn has increased costs and pressures on all providers. The second pressure for change was the Primary (1995) and Secondary (1994) OFSTED Working Papers for Inspection which many ITT providers used as frameworks for evaluation and development, in much the same way as schools used the OFSTED school inspection framework. These Papers included the basis for a curriculum for ITT as well as covering the assessment of students and the quality of partnership. They had an impact on course development through, for example, defining in the Primary Working Papers, Introductory, Intermediate and Specialist levels of subject knowledge and skills, which proved helpful in ensuring consistency between courses, and standardising expectations. Many ITT providers used the expectations and competences set out in the Circulars and the Working Papers as a basis to review practice and curricula. The improvements that these changes brought about affected secondary NQTs from 1994 and primary postgraduate NQTs qualifying from 1995 onwards. However primary undergraduate courses are only now producing NQTs who followed courses which met the requirements of Circular 14/93. There is a danger that the achievements gained may be undermined by the introduction of a National Curriculum for ITT which requires further changes and course amendment without evaluating the impact of 14/93. A concern expressed by teachers and tutors is the danger of ossification that can arise from a tightly defined curriculum. The TTA is committed to making teaching a more research based profession. The findings of research should continue to impact on all aspects of teacher training and education. The advantage of a competences, or standards, based definition of the requirements of NQTs to achieve QTS is that the associated curricula could continue to be responsive to research, evaluation and development both locally and nationally. It is surprising that the proposals make little reference to the research base upon which they are predicated. For example the proposals do not address the problem described by Bramald et al (1994) where, without opportunities for students to critically examine their beliefs and practice, they are likely to adopt practices they remember experiencing themselves which can reinforce potentially poor models of teaching and learning. Bramald et al argue that recent developments in ITT, have led to a narrowing of experience and opportunities for professional development. The National Curricula for ITT may further limit and narrow these experiences in relation to holding a professional dialogue about the nature of effective teaching and learning. Michael Eraut s (1994) research recognised the problem of trainees and newly qualified professionals who adopt coping strategies which 286

6 A CURRICULUM FOR TRAINING TEACHERS relegate valid theoretical ideas to storage and are then not able to return to them. He suggested a key part of the development of professional knowledge is the continued theorising and evaluation of past and current practice to offer a critical analysis and identify implications for future action, including knowledge of alternative courses of action (ibid., p. 72). He cited Lanier who saw the need to do this review continually in relation to formal and practical knowledge. A key driving force behind much of the TTA s reform of ITT has been a concern with subject knowledge and interest in increasing the preparation of subject specialists for primary schools. Consideration of the advertisements in The Times Educational Supplement show few primary schools moving to a predominantly subject led curriculum and teaching model, most continue to require teachers who are able to cover the full curriculum. The National Commission for Education report (1996) on schools who are successful, despite their context, includes four primary examples. None of these outstanding schools adopted a subject specialist teaching approach, rather they used generalist teachers, supported by effective, knowledgeable, curriculum leaders and school managers. The 1995 OFSTED report on the teaching of English identifies the importance of the effective management of the subject in schools for raising standards and the role that subject coordinators can play in this process. The report also notes that early setting, often associated with subject specialist teaching, at Key Stage 3 led to a predominance of boys in lower sets. If subject specialist teaching and setting extend to Key Stage 2 this possibility needs careful monitoring. The TTA model for primary education, set out in Circular 10/97 may therefore not reflect what is required by primary schools, or even what is necessary to offer quality. Alexander, in 1992, noted the tensions facing primary teachers trying to cover the full curriculum. He urged the profession and policy makers not to adopt a quick fix solution to the problems that his research had identified: Yet all we have so far is a sense that the generalist model of primary school staffing has reached its limits: the alternatives are neither clear not proven. Certainly it would be a grave mistake to replace one monolithic model by another. (Alexander, 1992, p. 205) Alexander suggested that what is needed is a combination of generalist and specialist teaching, led by a sufficiently generous staffing model, to allow schools to take account of need and circumstances, investigated through a formal enquiry. It is disappointing that this has not been a task undertaken by the TTA prior to making such fundamental changes to ITT requirements and developing the National Professional qualification framework. Eraut proposed that the methodology, for determining the standards and professional judgements that are established, needs to be made explicit by policy makers and others, to avoid them being seen as arbitrary or ill-informed (Eraut, 1994, p. 212). 287

7 HILARY EMERY Higher standards of subject knowledge of themselves are not associated with better teaching. Sands & Bishop s (1994) research into withdrawals from secondary PGCE courses showed that it was an over-simplification to suggest that subject expertise determines teacher effectiveness. Problems arose from the intensity and complexity of coping with school and classroom settings. They note Lawlor s criticism of PGCE secondary courses as failing to give sufficient attention to subject knowledge, which she suggested was at the heart of effective teaching, but their research suggested this was an inappropriate analysis of the reality of teaching effectiveness. Good subject knowledge is a necessary requirement, but is not of itself sufficient, to make an effective teacher. The Implications and Impact of the National Curricula for ITT The ITT National Curricula for Primary English and Primary Mathematics set out the knowledge and understanding which trainees are required to demonstrate by the end of the course. In determining students own knowledge of these two subjects, teacher educators in HEIs and schools need to take into account the skills and the understanding necessary to interpret and apply knowledge in a variety of contexts. Constable & Norton (1994) refer to this problem in relation to how students are helped to organise their own knowledge so that it can be taught, and recognise that this is a complex and demanding process that is not necessarily straightforward. A definition of professional subject knowledge for English and Mathematics is needed which takes account of these pedagogic issues. Eraut (1994) refers to the need for dialogue to develop professional knowledge. He suggests that a key role for partnership is in undertaking collaborative research, joint seminars around real topics of concern and jointly planned continuing professional education to develop this professional knowledge. The ITT National Curricula set out knowledge and understanding required by trainees to secure pupils progress in English and Mathematics. The definition of the essential core of knowledge, skills and methods given for English is closely allied to particular methods of teaching reading and is partial in its coverage of the range of topics in the English National Curriculum for schools. This is likely to skew the ITT curriculum offered, and assessed in the future by OFSTED ITT inspectors, which in turn will impact on the curriculum and teaching methods offered in schools. In establishing what is required for the effective teaching of mathematics, and in particular numeracy, there is a substantial emphasis on mathematical knowledge, with less consideration of the application of number, analysis of problems and developing knowledge, understanding and transferable use of number bonds and tables in problem solving activities. This will in turn impact on school practice. The curricula set out effective teaching and assessment methods in English and Mathematics, yet there is a need to continue to research 288

8 A CURRICULUM FOR TRAINING TEACHERS effective teaching methods in English, especially in reading, and in Mathematics; and the National curricula for ITT should allow sufficient flexibility to take account of emerging research evidence. The OFSTED Primary Working Papers definition of levels of subject knowledge proved helpful in guiding curriculum development and assessment for many ITT providers in implementing the requirements of 14/93. These definitions referred to the ability to think critically about the nature of the subject; initiative and sustain independent study in the subject (OFSTED, 1995, p. 15). These expectations contrast sharply with the National Curriculum for ITT that sets expectations for specialist subject knowledge in relation to content covered at Key Stages 1 and 2 to a standard equivalent to A level. This is a substantial reduction of expectations from previous development in primary ITT to study subjects, as well as primary teaching, to degree level which has been progressively introduced since the early 1980s (Alexander, 1992). In practice, therefore, the implementation of the National Curricula for ITT and the associated Standards may lower the levels of specialist subject knowledge of those achieving primary QTS and devalue the importance of their ability to analyse and understand their subjects. This may mean NQTs are unable to fulfil the role of the professional teacher, who is able to indicate the implications of the adoption of certain interpretations of the nature of the subject curriculum that is offered to pupils (Kelly & Blenkin, 1993). The Standards allow primary courses to offer some non-core, non-specialist, National Curriculum school subjects at a lower level of study. This is a cause for concern because it is the foundation subjects which are likely to be delivered in this way. The evidence that Campbell (1993) and Alexander (1992) cite of weaknesses of NQTs to teach and assess many foundation subjects suggest these are the ones which need a greater emphasis, not a reduction in the minimum acceptable level of study. The Development of Standards of QTS It was apparent from the assessment of students using Circulars 9/92 and 14/93, that the definitions of competence had some limitations and needed some revision. The revision of the expectations for QTS into the Standards is therefore helpful. However, they set extremely high expectations which able practising teachers in partnership meetings are expressing anxiety as to whether they themselves could meet on a continuous basis. Circulars 9/92 and 14/93 allowed providers individual ITT curricula to reflect a variety of approaches that were responsive to local educational contexts, emerging research findings (which are increasingly collaborative undertakings between schools and HEIs), different and evolving models of partnership, developments in school National Curriculum and assessment demands and the needs and abilities of participating students. From this approach students could be challenged 289

9 HILARY EMERY to reach the highest standards and not limited by a need to meet curriculum requirements which may be inappropriate to local or individual circumstances. The TTA s commitment to a diversity of training routes means that the flexible and responsive approach to curriculum development is very important in getting the best from students in different training contexts and programmes. The specification of National Curricula for ITT may restrict training from taking account of local contexts. For example, in regions where there are a majority of small schools, NQTs are expected to be able to cover effectively and confidently the full primary curriculum, their training curriculum needs to be able to reflect this emphasis. The development of partnership with schools in the provision of ITT at its best leads to shared training curriculum development to meet schools needs, as well as draw on the strengths of schools and HEI partners. The development of National curricula for ITT tend to negate much of this partnership dialogue and development at a professional level to little more than a consideration of how to teach and assess what has to be covered. Training partnerships ought to have responsibility for curriculum development to meet the common national standards. A greater concern from TTA and OFSTED with the achievement of the defined standards by NQTs, allowing provider partnerships to determine the best curriculum to meet these, may give a more effective and efficient approach in terms of financial costs and professional development for all concerned. Postscript By the time this article was published DfEE Circular 10/97 had been replaced by DfEE Circular 4/98 which st out further curricula requirements for primary and secondary ITT. Correspondence Hilary Emery, University College Worcester, Henwick Grove, Worcester WR2 6AJ, United Kingdom. References Alexander, R. (1992) Policy and Practice in Primary Education. London: Routledge. Bramald, R., Hardman, F., Leat, D. & McManus, E. (1994) The importance of bad lessons, in I. Reid, H. Constable & R. Griffiths (Eds) Teacher Education Reform. London: Paul Chapman. Campbell, R. J. (Ed.) (1993) Breadth and Balance in the Primary Curriculum. London: Falmer Press. Constable, H. & Norton, J. (1994) Student teachers and their professional encounters, in I. Reid, H. Constable & R. Griffiths (Eds) Teacher Education Reform. London: Paul Chapman Publishing. 290

10 A CURRICULUM FOR TRAINING TEACHERS Eraut, M. (1994) Developing Professional Knowledge and Competence. London: Falmer Press. HMI (1995) Curriculum Matters 3, Mathematics from 5 to 16. London: HMSO. Kelly, V. & Blenkin, G. (1993) Never mind the quality: feel the breadth and balance, in R. J. Campbell (Ed.) Breadth and Balance in the Primary Curriculum. London: Falmer Press. National Commission for Education (1996) Success Against the Odds. London: Routledge. OFSTED (1994) Secondary OFSTED Working Papers for Inspection. London: HMSO. OFSTED (1995) Primary OFSTED Working Papers for Inspection. London: HMSO. OFSTED (1995) English a review of inspection findings 1993/94. London: HMSO. OFSTED (1996) Annual Report of Her Majesty s Chief Inspector of Schools London: HMSO. Reid, I., Constable, H. & Griffiths, R. (Eds) (1994) Teacher Education Reform. London: Paul Chapman Publishing. Sands, M. & Bishop, P. (1994) Withdrawals from PGCE courses, in I. Reid, H. Constable & R. Griffiths (Eds) Teacher Education Reform. London: Paul Chapman Publishing. Teacher Training Agency (1997) Training curriculum and Standards for New Teachers. London: TTA. 291

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