Experts want 'fast-track crash course' for teachers

By Elizabeth Binning

Low-decile teachers will need a specialised degree. Photo / Thinkstock
Low-decile teachers will need a specialised degree. Photo / Thinkstock

Teachers who will be running their own classrooms in low-decile schools after just six weeks of training will have to hold a degree specialising in the subject they are teaching.

Concerns have been raised that a University of Auckland and Teach First NZ training programme set to start this year could produce partly-trained teachers being paid while they learn on the job in schools with the most vulnerable students.

The programme has been labelled a "fast-track crash course" by the secondary teachers' union but the organisers are defending it - and education experts say there is merit in the new model.

Graeme Aitken, the dean of education at the University of Auckland, said the aim was to create a pathway into teaching for those who wouldn't usually consider going into teaching, possibly because of how long it would take.

"There are a small number of people, who our experience tells us, are able to begin teaching sooner and to take more responsibility for students sooner and this is who we are targeting this at."

After six weeks of "intensive training" which will include evening classes, the 20 trainees will be placed into low decile schools or schools needing teachers in subjects that are hard to fill, such as science.

They will spend the next two years teaching there with a mentor at their school and 25 visits by university staff who will observe their progress.

"We are confident that after six weeks of intensive work, plus a vigorous selection process that we will have people highly competent to go into classrooms, even the most difficult classrooms."

Teach First NZ chief executive Shaun Sutton said the programme was based on overseas ones that had produced "highly effective teachers".

He dismissed criticisms that six weeks wasn't long enough.

"Yes it is six weeks of initial teacher training but remember they have done a three, if not four-year degree, in the subject they are teaching so they are highly qualified in their subject area.

"If they are teaching maths they have to have a degree with third year papers related to maths - it's not just any old degree."

Chief executive of education consultants Cognition Education Dr John Langley said the concept of trainee teachers having a degree before going into training was a good one - and recommended in a report to the Minister of Education a year ago.

"What this is an attempt to do I think, and a genuine attempt and I think to be applauded in that case, is to try and attract high-quality graduates into schools as teachers and the hope is of course that they will come in, perform well and stay in those schools. If they do, then I think in the long run it will make a huge difference to kids."

MIT director of external relations Stuart Middleton said the programme wouldn't be a silver bullet for attracting teachers to low decile schools, especially given many of the issues faced in such schools often needed teachers with experience.

The training course will start at the end of this year.

- NZ Herald

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