I draw the member’s attention to my statement’s emphasis on partnership working. Universities are indeed autonomous institutions, but it is in the interests of Scotland’s children that we get the right people into teacher training. Mr Donaldson’s report addressed the issue of how some institutions select teachers, and I confess that I was somewhat surprised that some institutions make that selection primarily on the basis of applicants’ academic attainment and not always on the basis of a face-to-face interview.
The academic standards of those who wish to become teachers are crucial, but so are their skills. I would have thought that the means by which we select those people would provide us with the best way of ensuring that we get the right people. I would never underestimate the importance of teachers’ academic abilities, but we need people who also have the skills and potential to develop positive relationships with children; who have good communication skills; who are, at heart, lifelong learners; and who have an understanding of the fact that today’s children have many varied needs. In our schools, we have many children who have many barriers to learning to overcome, so we need extremely rounded and skilled people to become teachers. In saying that, I do not for one minute diminish the academic abilities that Scotland’s teachers need.