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The University of Sussex

 6 Sept 2001 

New scheme to plug the reality gap for trainee teachers

A new initiative for the training of science teachers aims to narrow the gap between the fantasy of being a teacher with the reality of working in a classroom.

For the new school term some 50 students studying for a science postgraduate certificate of education (PGCE) at the University of Sussex will be based at the new Peacehaven Community School in Peacehaven, East Sussex, which opened on September 3. In the past, the students would have spent time studying at the University's Falmer campus alongside their work placements.

University pro-vice-chancellor, Dr Mary Stuart, says the benefits of the new scheme to both the students and the school will be significant. "One of the biggest problems in teacher education is the retention of staff. New teachers go into a job and find it harder than they expected. This scheme, whereby they are working in schools all the time, will give them very realistic expectations."

The initiative, which borrows ideas from how medical schools operate in training doctors in hospitals, also involves education researchers from Sussex being based at the school to support staff in developing their professional practice.

Although this method of training teachers is well established in the United States, Dr Stuart believes Sussex is the first British university to adopt the method with its own students. "We want to see how it goes, but we see it as a potential model for the future," she says.

The move to Peacehaven arose from the introduction of new National Curriculum targets in training secondary school science teachers. The University wanted to develop its regional reputation as a high- quality provider in initial teacher training in a national shortage subject and identified the need for fully refurbished premises. The Peacehaven Community School, funded by the Private Finance Initiative and built by East Sussex County Council, is a modern facility with new science laboratories.

Fiona Wright, head of Peacehaven Community School, says the scheme will be of enormous benefit to her staff and pupils. "The student teachers are valuable role models for our young people in terms of showing them how they can progress in their education."

She adds: "As a school we have placed high emphasis on research and new practice. We have worked closely with the University of Sussex and this will strengthen that link."

 Notes for editors 

For further information, please contact Pat Drake, director of initial teacher education, University of Sussex. Tel. 01273 877043.

Or Jacqui Bealing, or Alison Field, University of Sussex Press Office, Tel. 01273 678888, Fax 01273 877456, or

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