This aspect review of initial teacher education (ITE) is the first to be carried out by HM Inspectorate under the terms of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 as amended by the Teaching and Higher Education Act, 1998. HM Inspectorate were asked by Scottish Ministers to report on current good practice in the preparation of student teachers to develop the literacy skills of pupils from pre-school to S2 and to make recommendations for improvement.
Concerns about standards of literacy being achieved by pupils in Scottish schools have been highlighted in HM Inspectorate's Standards and Quality reports and the Assessment of Achievement Programme (AAP) findings of 1998. This programme found that the percentages of pupils at P4, P7 and S2 achieving the appropriate level of attainment for writing were all low, and that substantial improvements were also required in reading. The AAP research also criticised the standards of some pupils' work in technical skills such as spelling and punctuation.
This report focuses attention on student teachers' attainment of a key competence in the Guidelines for Initial Teacher Education in Scotland (SOEID, October 1998). This competence requires all student teachers, whether at pre-school, primary or secondary level, to play their full part in developing pupils' skills in literacy. The report evaluates the quality of the ITE curriculum for literacy in terms of its content and how well it is delivered. It also comments on the quality of assessment arrangements, student teachers' attainment and the resources available for ITE programmes. The final section reviews how systems in place for management and quality assurance influence student teachers' preparation to teach reading and writing.
HEIs, the schools and the local authorities all need to play their part in ensuring that all ITE programmes fully address and assess the development of literacy competence in student teachers. This end can only be achieved if effective partnerships among the universities, schools and local authorities are fully in place. The quality of partnerships is being addressed already at a national level and this report makes a number of recommendations for improvement. Quality assurance mechanisms within both schools and HEIs should focus more specifically on evaluating how well all student teachers are prepared to improve pupils' reading and writing skills. In addition, an important priority for continuing professional development must be to consolidate and extend practising teachers' skills in teaching reading and writing.
Douglas A Osler
HM Senior Chief Inspector