I'm still wondering that, but I think that there's a series of more specific questions that need answering.
- How is the entrance criteria going to be determined? It's all very well claiming only the most talented will be chosen, but how does one determine how well, say, a chemical engineer will do in the classroom purely based on his job performance to date? Moreover, why can't this litmus test, whatever it is, be applied to graduates fresh out of university?
- What evidence is there that to suggest that there a significant (or even non-zero) number of professionals whose only reason for not going into teaching is that the training course is a full year? Low wages, high stress, and poisonous children are the reasons I've most often been given by those who have left teaching or who don't want to even try it. The latter two won't be changed by this new scheme, and if the pay structure is different for those who go through this alternate route, then that's going to cause real problems with regard to teacher morale. The unions would shit out their own heads, too.
- Following on from the above, is the implication here really that half a standard PGCE course is designed to professionalise graduates and permit crappy applicants to get up to speed? Is there any evidence that either of these things is necessary in any case? In other words, what is it that prevents the current standard course from being truncated, other than the nebulous idea of talent?
With regard to that final question, I am of course willing to grant that there are plenty of crappy candidates that get on PGCE courses. I trained with some of them, and far more of them passed than were failed. It seems obvious to me that you have to be a pretty fucking awful teacher before you're worse than no teacher at all, which is why these people get through (and why anyone ever who starts wittering about kicking out failing teachers without changing any other aspect of the status quo is talking out of their arse).
So in theory I can get on board with the idea that you could tighten up entry requirements and then shorten the course without the worst graduates from your new course being any poorer than those of the original PGCE. As I say, though, how well can any set of entry requirements filter out those who aren't particularly talented at teaching? As a job it requires a pretty unique mix of skills, that are difficult to test in isolation and as far as I know impossible to test in combination, except by practice. Which is why it took me a year to qualify, because there's only so fast anyone can read up on educational theory, discuss it, and put it into action, no matter how awesome an accountant they used to be.
All of which is to say nothing of the inherent problems with running two simultaneous training courses, saying one is for more talented people, and then letting the graduates from both into the same job market. It's pretty worrying that the government's answer to PGCE's being insufficiently attractive is to tempt the best and brightest into an alternative scheme. If this goes forward, applicants for PGCEs will be those either rejected by the brand new uber-teacher scheme (now with 50% less actual fucking work) or be ineligible to enter it in the first place; why else sign up for six months you don't need? So on top of all the reasons people don't like the idea of teacher training to begin with, now you've got people with a chip on their shoulder and in some cases a priori evidence of being sub-optimal candidates, who have to work twice as long to get to the same place, and then compete against those who are coming down from the shining city on the hill for the same positions.
In summary, I'm far from convinced many people would want to take advantage of this scheme, and I'm even less convinced that it proving popular would be an even remotely good thing for the profession as a whole.
Update: I mentioned this to a friend of mine still in the profession whilst at the quiz this evening. We agreed that as far as we could see, training someone to be an effective teacher in six months would be impossible, though perhaps one could spend that time building a robot to do the job.
I should have guessed that the Japanese would be one step ahead...