By: Zoe Hunter
A proposal to train new teachers at both primary and secondary levels to help smooth the transition between schools has been announced.
In what would be a significant shake-up of teacher training, the Education Council has proposed several changes to initial teacher education.
At present most teacher education programmes prepare attendees to teach at a traditional education level such as early childhood, primary or secondary school.
The council has proposed developing programmes to train new teachers to teach across different ranges of year levels.
It said programmes could have a focus on particular years including early childhood/primary, or 9 to 14-year-olds at intermediate school.
The latter would see a person trained to teach at year levels currently spanning primary, intermediate and secondary.
The council said this would let teachers take advantage of more diverse career opportunities within schools and “communities of learning” – local schools that work together and share some staff.
Mount Maunganui College principal Russell Gordon said the theory was pure until it was muddied by practice.
“My wife is a new entrants/Year 1 teacher and the skills she has as a teacher, I shake my head in wonderment.
“But if I was to put my wife in front of my Level 3 accounting class she would struggle.”
Training teachers for primary and secondary levels would mean students could pick up those skills required to close the gaps, but Mr Gordon said secondary teachers were not prepared for that.
“My experience of 20-plus years tells me to be able to teach at that top end, there were specific skills that were required and they had specialists to be able to do that.
“If a teacher had primary and secondary training, they would look at teaching years 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. The problem with that is you need to be in a middle-class environment.
“Looking at the difference between Year 1-13 students, I do not know any teachers who can span that gap. It is too great.”
Other proposed changes included requiring would-be teachers to meet higher literacy and numeracy standards from 2020. “That makes sense to me,” said Mr Gordon.
He applauded the fact the Education Council was looking at teacher training, because he wanted teachers who studied teaching as their first choice.
“We do not want teachers who fall into teaching or saw it for the perceived holidays. We want teachers who are passionate about making a difference and providing the best possible future.”
Papamoa College principal Steve Lindsey said training teachers at both primary and secondary levels was a good idea.
“Having teachers who have a wider range of skills would seamlessly support students in their learning as they progress through their learning journey.”
Mr Lindsey said recently introduced communities of learning were ideal environments for teaching professionals to take a holistic education approach for a student’s learning.
“Therefore any skills that develop teachers will benefit student learning. Increased flexibility and greater possibilities within the teaching profession will make it better able to develop students who achieve greater success.”
Mr Lindsey said future learning would be less about transitioning students though a stage of schooling and more about supporting students along their learning pathway.
Post Primary Teachers’ Association president Jack Boyle said any changes to teacher training needed to be supported by adequate professional development and support.
“If every teacher in New Zealand had access to guaranteed professional learning and support then I think you would see a lot more improvement in what is often called the achievement gap.”
The Education Council outlined the proposal and other possible changes in a discussion document and called for submissions, closing July 7.
Education Minister Nikki Kaye was open to the idea, saying the proposal was part of “an important discussion about flexibility”.
“Once the consultation has been completed, the council has confirmed that it will present its final report to the sector and Government.
“I am advised that some of the proposals could have potential cost implications, so these would need to be considered by the Government as the process develops.”
Source: NZ Herald