Teacher training and exams face reforms in England

LONDON (Reuters) - Teachers will be trained in schools rather than at universities and pupils will take fewer but tougher exams under plans to reform education in England to be unveiled by the government on Wednesday.

Emily Erskine (L) and her mother Norma react after opening their A-level exam results at Godolphin and Latymer School in London August 19, 2010. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Education Secretary Michael Gove will also detail proposed legislation to give teachers greater powers to discipline unruly students and for headteachers to expel the most troublesome.

His wide-ranging education “white paper” will set the stage for a return to more traditional teaching in schools including what he hopes will be more rigorous testing in exams.

The proposals are likely to win support among Conservative voters who saw their party returned to power in the May election. But teaching unions said Gove wanted to turn back the clock to the days of rote learning.

Gove said Britain’s education system was improving but needed to keep up with other countries.

“Over the last 13 years, teaching as a profession has had the initiative, the fun, the enjoyment squeezed out of it,” Gove told BBC radio.

Gove wants to change the format of GCSE exams taken at age 16 so that pupils are only tested at the end of the two-year courses.

At present the courses are split into a number of modules with students taking separate tests as they progress through the course, a scheme which Gove says makes the exams too easy.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said schools should be left to choose their preferred exam format.

“Relying on performance on one day in an examination room is an outdated model which goes back to an education system which aimed solely to test recall of knowledge,” said ASCL general secretary Brian Lightman.

Gove’s plans include paying the training costs for former officers in the armed forces to become teachers and he also wants more teachers to learn skills in the classroom rather than at university or college lecture halls.

The switch could deal a blow to universities specialising in teacher education, coming on top of a planned 2.9 billion pound cut in government support for all but scientific and medical courses.

To improve discipline in classes teachers will be able to use “reasonable force” to stop fights and will be allowed to search students.

Other reforms include changing league tables so schools are rated on their GSCE results in academic subjects.

He said the aim of the proposals was to make the system more competitive internationally, and more equal.

“We’ve just discovered that the number of children eligible for free school meals going to Oxford and Cambridge has dropped.

“Just 40 of our poorest children going to our top universities and that’s a stunning indictment of a lack of social mobility in this country,” he said.