The most important commitment of Skills for Life is to professionalise the teaching workforce for literacy, numeracy and ESOL; teacher education for the whole learning and skills sector is now in the midst of a major reform. The DfES agenda for this reform was set out in Equipping our teachers for the future published in November 2004; you may be participating in the Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK) consultations as part of the development process.
In a complementary strand of the reform the Skills for Life Strategy Unit are revising the subject specifications for teachers of adult literacy, numeracy and ESOL, and have commissioned work to define the specialist pedagogies.
Helen Casey's article in this edition reflects on some of the challenges and opportunities the reform agenda brings. There is a need to move towards a system of initial teacher education (ITE) capable of producing the supply of new skilled and qualified literacy, numeracy and ESOL teachers the sector needs. Helen argues that in Skills for Life we need more pre-service, subject-specific ITE, in contrast to the in service generic ITE that prevails in the sector.
In the recently published Ofsted report Skills for Life in colleges: one year on, it was noted that 'The lack of skilled teachers is at the heart of the continuing difficulties with effective implementation of the Skills for Life strategy.' While the report goes on to describe the successful introduction of the new specialist teacher training courses, it is critical of the short-term and uncertain funding arrangements.
Nora Hughes, Anne Paton and Irene Schwab from the Institute of Education discuss their experience of working closely with the subject specifications and argue that the specialist nature of ESOL and adult literacy methodology makes any separation of pedagogy from subject knowledge artificial. Olivia Sagan shares the views of some of the 300 or so trainee teachers on the Skills for Life teacher education programmes as part of the soon-to-be-published NRDC research.
A secondary theme in this edition is a focus on Scotland, where Juliet Merrifield reports 'For the last five years, Scotland has been developing a remarkable adult literacy and numeracy strategy'. Taking a social practices approach, not just within the classroom but at a national policy level, this is a very different approach from that taken in England and there is much for us to learn and reflect upon. In the next issue of reflect we will explore social practices in England in more depth.