|The Effectiveness of Teacher Resource Centre Strategy - Education research paper No. 34 (DFID, 1999, 257 p.)|
|CHAPTER TWO : The British Teachers' Centre - Its Rise and Fall: A Review of the Literature|
In the 1980s, at the same time as a number of surveys had been set up to evaluate a whole range of aspects of the teachers' centre and in-service education in general, major policy changes by central government began to change the climate in which both teachers' centres and inSET were operating. (Kinder and Harland 1991) Lee identifies it as a decade in which 'educational reform has dominated educational policy'. (1997: 12) A national curriculum was proposed, dreaded, piloted and then 'imposed' by the 1988 education act. This included new forms of assessment for pupils at seven, eleven and fourteen, with league tables published, supposedly to make schools more accountable for what they did and give parents more choice. Schools were to receive the majority of their budgets directly (LMS - Local Management of Schools) and this included a portion delegated for in-service training. Initially LEAs could decide how much of the inSET budget to delegate. In the 1992 Education Act, a national framework for the provision of inspection services was introduced to replace the traditional government inspectors. Schools were to be inspected regularly and the inspection reports were to be made public.
The 'centralisation of the power to define and control the priorities' of inSET by the use of grants from central government was introduced in 1986 (Harland et al 1993: 4). The nature of these grants changed quite frequently 'with little advance warning' (Harland and Kinder (1992: 25). In the beginning there was provision for local initiatives by the LEAs in conjunction with schools but later, I understand that these grants could only be used for training in areas which the government specified, with schools also receiving a 'delegated' amount for inSET in their budget. The first type of grant was called GRIST-Grant Related In-service Training, the present one is GEST -Grants for Education Support and Training. Teachers were contracted to spend five days each year on professional development.
1.7.1 Changes in the education service.
All of these initiatives were forcing changes at every level of the education service. However, Harland et al (1993) point to the contrast between the various reforms for education in schools and the continuing absence of a coherent national strategy to give a framework for inSET. They do not mention it, but there does not seem to have been a clear role in these reforms for teachers' centres either. Without 'sustained policies within a predictable structure' Harland et al feel: that the new inspection and appraisal system lacks the necessary support; that teachers, particularly in the primary sector, where each teacher had to come to grips with all the new curriculum subjects, would lack consistent and coordinated training for the new, and then later the revised, curriculum documents; and that the private sector involvement in training envisioned by government was envisioning, and school spending on training, would be very difficult to monitor and evaluate (p1). LEA advisors felt that the nature of discreet short term grants, with frequent changes of focus, made it difficult for schools to plan for, and for agencies to deliver efficient and effective inSET (Harland and Kinder 1992).
As the moves towards centralising control of curriculum came onto the horizon, several writers in the early 80s began to worry about the threat to the notion of 'professionalism' in teaching. Taylor's suspicion (1980: 336), that when concern about cost effectiveness and accountability of in-service provision are considered, authorities are likely to be inclined to be more direct and prescriptive about the 'direction of professional development activities', and that investment in a more systematic and itemisable 'training' was becoming horribly true. Dadds (1997: 32) regrets the type of training which she believes has emerged from the major educational changes of the decade. The 'delivery' or 'empty vessel' model of inSET she believes has treated teachers as technicians and failed to acknowledge the 'crucial role of teachers' understandings about, and experiences of, children'. Kirk (1992: 141) notes the way many writers felt the initiatives "de-skilled teachers", 'whose task is simply to implement government inspired or government-controlled curriculum plans'.
This view is tempered by other writers however, who make the point that class teaching, by its very nature can not be completely prescribed from above. Kirk argues that the interpretation of national aims and the transference of curriculum packages into the classroom still 'requires an extremely diverse range of professional judgments', (ibid) This view which was also taken by Gough (1989: 52) who claimed that 'no matter how centralised the decision making, and the apparent rigidities imposed upon teachers, there is - usually - considerable room for maneuver'. Kirk (op.cit) points out that schemes published for teachers were still regarded as resources not courses, and that teachers were fact criticised by OFSTED for letting schemes influence their teaching too much.
1.7.2 Changes in approaches to in-service training.
In a study of factors that bring about change in the classroom, English (1995) came to the general conclusion that external factors such as national curriculum and exam boards are more significant in bringing about change than is in-service training. He found that the teachers in his sample identified the national curriculum and all its associated assessment procedures as being the single most important factor in bringing about change in their classes, with commercial schemes also bringing about considerable pressure, particularly in secondary schools. InSet in fact was quite low down on their list.
However, although inSET was not found to initiate change, when the avalanche of change arrived, provoked by a range of other factors, the changes certainly created the need for rapid and effective dissemination and training. Kirk (1992: 140) notes that many of the changes could not be effected 'without significant adjustments in the ways in which teachers discharge their professional responsibilities: no curriculum development without teacher development'.
The need for a modified approach to in-service education, at a time when less central funding was available, was found to bring with it a number of problems. Lee (1997: 15) points out that one of the major problems of the more recent curriculum changes, and the system reforms that have taken place, has been the lack of financial support to match the recognition of the importance of in-service education and training to support these developments. The availability of GRIST money, to buy in supply cover for teachers on courses, temporarily resulted in an upsurge in the demand for inSET. The emphasis, however, was on whole staff rather than on individual teachers. Morrison et al (1989: 159) note the 'burgeoning field of externally-led, school-focused in-service courses'. Phipps (1994) claims that individual teacher education had been pushed into the background as schools respond to DFE requirements. Emphasis has shifted to institutional rather than individual needs.
The increase in demand and the change of emphasis for inSET seemed to place too great a burden on teachers' centres. Alternative approaches to training began to be employed. Cascade approaches gained popularity. In the past the amount of feedback to schools from teachers who had attended courses was found to be very 'patchy'. According to Henderson (1977) feedback mechanisms rarely existed. He found feedback tended to be more systematic, and influential to staff behaviour when more than one teacher from a school had attended a course and in particular where the head also attended the course or actively promoted feedback from their staff.
Writing 1989, Morrison et al suggest that the cascade model of training had been found to be a successful way of very quickly training teachers in the use of new curriculum innovations, though they add the proviso 'provided that certain conditions are met' (p.159). They evaluate an externally led course, which was 'complemented and informed' by on-going school based development. They believe that this type of cascaded course, normally involving passive receipt of a 'diet of prescriptions and received wisdoms', could not on its own provide solutions to the implementation of new curriculum. However, if there is provision for 'an admixture of input and discussion, corporate planning, the sharing of experience and the planning of proposals' there is more likelihood of success (ibid). They do acknowledge that there are problems with this model of training and their cascade model is tremendously complex.
A further approach which seems to have been adopted by many LEAs was the appointment of advisory teachers. Stanton 1990 found that the number of advisory teachers had increased and that most of the new appointments were connected with the new education initiatives. He quotes Stillman and Grant's (1989) belief that LEAs saw them as 'an economical way of rapidly promoting change' (op.cit p.53).
One big problem identified with this teacher advisory approach to training, was that the intended continued development did not take place once the advisory teacher no longer worked the school. In the project evaluated by Kinder and Harland (1991), after the teacher advisors had run what seemed to be effective school based courses, the schools were supposed to sustain the project for themselves. They found that schools did not appear to have the time, the resources, the cultural climate or the expertise in delivery of inSET to take up the baton from the advisory teacher. A high school inSET coordinator we interviewed, identified similar problems inhibiting his staff. Phipps also found that the one intensive week of demonstrations in a completely new approach to inSET and teaching was not sufficient. He felt it needed continued follow up. He found that what actually happened after the consultant has left the school depended greatly on the senior management team in school (1994).
With the move to LMS the schools could buy in training from an increasing range of sources. However, they found it increasingly difficult to manage their finances. In a survey of how primary schools used their 'Baker Days', as the training days were called, Newton and Newton (cited in Kirk 1992) found that most of the time available was spent on planning and preparation for work in the classroom, with less than one day being spent on developing knowledge and skills. One-quarter of this was spent on concerns about OFSTED and one-half on an some aspect of the national curriculum. An inSET coordinator from one large high school said that this pattern was also true of his school. He claimed that, while it probably was not strictly what the days had been established for, 'custom and practice' had gradually taken over. He explained that schools still received grants for staff training but government specifies the focus for this training, and this money (GEST) cannot be used for anything else. Last year's focus was school effectiveness. However, the money which is delegated for inSET in the school budget from the LEA can be used for other expenditures. He claimed that his school had not used any of this money for inSET in the last three years; that it had always been used for more pressing and essential things. He maintained that although the teachers' centre still advertised courses these were often canceled because of low up-take.
Many teachers' centres have now closed. In some LEAs training centres have been established e.g. the Heath Training and Development Centre in Calderdale. The emphasis at this centre is on training and this is training for a wider clientele than just teachers. As it can include support and clerical staff, lunch time supervisors and any one else involved with schools, it certainly is not of and for the teacher anymore. Like other centres in Yorkshire, it serves a very wide area and so can not really be considered 'local'. Rather than there being a 'Jack of all trades' warden, the inSET is organised and coordinated by one of the senior advisers, and the advisory team is based there. It does not house any sort of resource centre for teachers.