Principals want an overhaul of initial teacher training

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Principals are calling for an overhaul of initial teacher education as some newly graduated primary teachers are ill-prepared to teach basic subjects like reading and math.

(File image).
Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

The Principals’ Federation, the Pedagogical Institute and the Association of Normal and Model Schools told RNZ that many new graduates had studied how to become a teacher for only one year and that was not enough.

They said recent changes by the Pedagogical Council to the requirements that teacher training courses must meet would help, but more needed to be done.

The Association of Normal and Model Schools represented 29 schools specially funded to work with teacher training providers and their students. Its chairman, Stuart Armistead, said members were concerned about what they were seeing.

“Over the past seven years, we have become increasingly concerned about the quality and decline of initial teacher education,” he said.

“What we are seeing is that we need to work with student teachers and, recently, beginning teachers on the foundations of quality literacy and math programs. They are not given the effective basis for making what we consider to be bread. and the butter of primary education. “

Armistead said schools work with around 1,000 student teachers each year.

He said gaps in teacher training meant schools had to do a lot of work to bring newly graduated teachers up to speed, and that was more than some schools could do.

“For many schools the work involved in recruiting teachers and preparing them for success puts enormous pressure on experienced teachers, on school systems and it is almost the straw that has broken the camel’s back at this point in time. that I am. hear about the profession, ”he said.

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Armistead said there had been an assumption that ranking teaching qualifications at a master’s level would improve the quality of teachers, but this does not appear to be the case.

He said education service providers might also need to be tougher on who they accepted into education classes and who they passed.

“Considering what I’m hearing across the country, you should ask yourself if the entry and exit standards are high enough,” he said.

Armistead said the focus had been on recruiting enough people into teaching courses to meet demand, but it was time to focus on quality.

Council of Deans of Education chairman Mark Barrow said he disagreed that the quality has plummeted in teacher training.

“It’s a misunderstanding,” he said.

“That’s not what individual schools tell us when we work with them, and we work closely with them.”

Barrow said prospective primary teachers could study a three-year bachelor’s degree or a one-year postgraduate course. However, the ideal would be two years of postgraduate study.

“If we look at some of the jurisdictions that we would like to think we could emulate, the Scandinavian countries in particular, that’s the expectation, that it’s actually a five-year preparation to become a teacher, not what we’re doing. here, ”he said.

Barrow said it would require more government funding, which was unlikely in the current climate.

He said the Pedagogical Council’s new standards for teacher training courses should “fit like a glove” with schools’ expectations, as they were developed in consultation with teachers and principals.

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Barrow said new graduating teachers were mentored throughout their first two years on the job before they could get full enrollment and that period should be seen as part of their training.

“Schools are right that the time they spend in universities is not enough, but I think we have to remember that it is a three year program that these students enter and only when the principal or his delegate approves them, at the end of those two years they become registered teachers, so I think the whole process needs to be thought of in total, ”he said.

However, the president of the Pedagogical Institute, Liam Rutherford, said the union constantly hears complaints about initial teacher training.

He said the institute and the Association of Normal and Model Schools held a recent meeting of associations of principals and teacher training providers to discuss the issue.

Rutherford said the NZEI is now consulting on potential areas for change, including stronger partnerships between education providers and schools and early learning centers, better mentoring of new teachers and whether there should be have a national teacher training institute.

He said teaching had become much more difficult and new graduates lacked the skills they needed.

“We are seeing such an increase in the number of students who need additional needs and support and more often than not we find that our new teachers, because they usually have much shorter initial teacher education programs, do not not come out ready to hit the ground running, ”he said.

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“Behavior management is certainly a part of it, but that’s also what we see in the scope of the program and it seems that it falls to the schools themselves in their first two years to do a lot of the work. backfilling that is traditionally done in teacher training. “

He said part of the problem was that many new teachers didn’t spend enough time studying how to teach.

“What we’ve seen happen over the last 10 to 15 years is the evolution of many programs that mean someone can train to be a teacher in 12 months, as opposed to some of the three programs. years longer and I think we are. seeing a lot of people in the industry start to wonder if a year of training is enough. “

Rutherford said schools needed more funding to be able to spend time mentoring and integrating new teachers into the profession.

Directors’ Association president Perry Rush said criticism of teacher education programs has been growing for years.

“We have phased out our colleges of education that were focused on good practice about 20, 25 years ago and during that time we have seen more and more challenges to the capacity of our teaching staff as we move forward. ‘they enter schools,’ he said. .

Rush said many college programs are too theory-oriented and not practical enough.

He said no one expected new graduates to start working as fully trained teachers, but too many graduates with gaps in their knowledge.

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