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New diplomas marred by lack of teacher training


Teachers and lecturers have not been given enough training or time to prepare for new diplomas starting this September, according to a survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

Fifty-five percent say they have not been given enough training, and 50 per cent haven’t had enough time to prepare course work. In addition nearly 40 per cent say their school or college doesn’t have enough teaching staff in place to give the courses, and about 40 per cent don’t think they have enough classroom space to teach the diploma courses.

These are the key findings from a survey of 241 ATL members working as teachers or lecturers in state schools, sixth form colleges and further education colleges in England.

One teacher from a Lincolnshire school which will be running two diplomas at all three levels said: “Training has been dreadful and not really relevant." A teacher from a Dorset school which is offering diplomas from September added: “A programme of training should already have been underway - surprise, surprise it has not even started.”

When asked about preparations for diploma courses starting in September 2009 the picture was not much brighter. Just under 40 per cent think they won’t have enough time to prepare, and 45 per cent say they don’t have sufficient information for the diplomas.

ATL general secretary, Dr Mary Bousted, said: “We have long been concerned about diplomas being rushed out without giving teachers and lecturers sufficient time to prepare. This rush is putting a strain on staff and puts pressure on them to work through their weekends and holidays to get everything ready in time, and it is making setting up robust links between schools, colleges and employers problematic. We also continue to be worried about the addition of another qualification to an already crowded market, so are unsurprised to hear some pupils are not interested in getting involved.”

Teachers and lecturers also have concerns about how diplomas will fit with the existing range of qualifications. Tony Osborne from the City of Bristol College, which is offering foundation and higher diplomas in construction and the built environment from September, said: "Sounds like a good idea but it's not suitable for everybody and there are already quite good qualifications in place at a suitable level offering vocational training."

An FE lecturer from a college in Hampshire which is offering diplomas from September 2008 added: “I am concerned that if they do some hospitality in schools with no facilities it will not be truly vocational, and by the time we get them in FE we will be trying to build on shaky foundations and students will think they know it all and we will be repeating work. Students often do not realise when you are going to the next level up and switch off.”

Pupils do not seem convinced about the benefit of the qualifications either. Heather Bunker, from Caistor Yarborough School in Lincolnshire, which is offering diplomas this September in creative and media and information technology, said: “Despite all the training and materials and advertising to pupils, pupils have voted with their feet. At our options evening not one pupil has chosen the diploma. They do not want only to study English, maths, science and ICT or creative arts. They want a broad education at 14 and that is what they have chosen. We have done everything asked of us, but we will not now be running it in September because we have no pupils, but we will offer it again next year.”

Teachers and lecturers were also deeply critical of the links between schools and colleges and employers and the lack of understanding about the qualifications available among employers. A teacher from Tower Hamlets said: “The background seems okay. But the logistic and inter-school co-operation and co-ordination seems too cumbersome.”

An FE lecturer from London added: “There needs to be appropriate communication with the employment sector and higher education so that they understand the value and areas covered by the diplomas. Some employers only just understand GCSE's!”


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