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What it means to be a school-based teacher educator

What is the day about?

On 4 December 2013, colleagues from HEIs and schools across England came together to discuss ‘What it means to be a school-based teacher educator’. Schools in England are taking an increasing role in the training of teachers, both of beginning and experienced staff. Teacher educators in HEIs are engaging in an increased role in schools. Crossing the perceived boundaries between two linked but potentially discontinuous cultures – that of the school and that of the HEI – compels members of those cultures to reflect, to reconsider their assumptions. What does it mean to be a school-based teacher educator, whether as a school colleague or university colleague? What are the day to day realities? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities? This event offered the opportunity to reflect on new landscapes in teacher education in schools, to work together to share good practice and make a significant and high quality contribution to the training of teachers.

William Stow

TEAN was delighted to welcome William Stow, Head of Postgraduate Initial Teacher Education in the Faculty of Education at Canterbury Christ Church University to give the keynote on the day. William addressed issues for both school and HEI colleagues in his address: ‘Blurring the boundaries; enhanced partnership for teacher development’. He took us through an overview of recent history from the 1990s onwards to illustrate the fact that change in partnership relationships between HEIs and schools is not that new, what is new is the destructive rapidity of the change. He spoke of the importance of the Third Space concept (see Burch and Jackson’s paper in the TEAN journal which also explored this concept) and spoke of the common commitment between schools and HEIs, urging us to work together in true collaboration in the times ahead.

Claire Scott

Delegates then had the benefit of a range of differing perspectives from colleagues. Claire Scott from the University of Derby gave us an interesting glimpse into ‘what the students say’. Claire is Module leader (levels 6 and 7) and University Link Tutor on the PGCE University-based (Core) and PGCE School Direct (SD) programmes; Alliance Tutor on PGCE SD. She gave some fascinating references, indicating both sides of the school/university provision of teacher training. Although learning ‘on the job’ is excellent preparation, does this lead to too much focus on classroom experience which may not open up possibilities? TEAN looks forward to learning more from Claire’s fascinating research.

Rebecca Dunne

Rebecca Dunne, Director of Teaching School, Deputy Head of Prestolee Primary School and Programme Lead for ITT posed a question for us: Whose responsibility is it to train teachers? She spoke of the fundamental purpose of us all; ‘we want really good teachers in front of our children, it’s as simple as that’. Although the purpose is simple, the process is complex. Like William, Rebecca thought that collaboration is key and the answer to her question was ‘all of us’.

Download Rebecca's PowerPoint presentation

Julie Bostock

Julie Bostock from Ripley Teaching School Alliance explained that she had been at Edge Hill University before joining the Ripley Alliance and so had seen the situation from both ‘sides’. She was anxious to point out that they are not sides at all and just part of the same endeavour as Rebecca and William had hinted. She felt that mentor training was very important and suggested that the professional mentor role in schools has been enhanced by the introduction of School Direct.

Download Julie's PowerPoint presentation

Alison Chapman

Alison Chapman, Teaching School Coordinator from Queen Katherine School, an academy school and Technology College in Kendal had also seen both ‘sides’ as she had, until recently, been at the University of Cumbria. She spoke convincingly about the benefits that ITT can bring to a school: new teaching ideas and resources; a feeling of invigoration for teaching staff; opportunities for greater reflection on mentoring and professional practice. Mentoring, she suggested, gives a teacher a greater understanding of teaching and learning; the very act of articulating what you do enables this.

Download Alison's PowerPoint presentation

Group discussions

Group sessions as usual afforded some excellent ideas and inspirations. Firstly, here are some inspirational thoughts offered to you by delegates:

Inspirations from the day

We are excited by what we have heard; it bodes well for the future. Everyone is responsible, a blend of learning.

We need joint planning and more dialogue.

It is an opportunity to understand one another’s cultures. The role of the HEI is to facilitate.

We are philosophical: you can’t cross the ocean until you have the courage to leave the shore.

School partnerships suggest greater professionalism. School-led is not HEI fled.

Involve the admin in both schools and HEIs in your discussions

In the group discussions, delegates were asked to discuss 4 questions. Their suggestions are both interesting and useful. Click on any question to open up the bullet points.

What are the opportunities for innovative practice between schools and HEIs?

Group 1

  • Threats of competitive market dividing and destroying.
  • Can be instigated by use of known relationships and trust – these can then be developed, invested in for future benefit.
  • Facilitated reflection
  • Greater focus on ‘life of the school’ – meet with parents, extra-curricular clubs, residentials

Group 2

  • School perspective: Learning about each others’ culture. Understanding and respecting different ways of working. Also, understanding the different priorities of each establishment.
  • CPD opportunities. Staff from alliances as well as staff from the universities.
  • Opportunity for school staff to participate in training (led by tutors) is in school.
  • Ensuring dialogue is central to providing examples of best practice.
  • Opportunity for mentor training bespoke to needs. Discussion around expectation to attend yearly. Working with mentors to see the purpose of e.g. paperwork.
  • Teachers report that having opportunity to work in this way encourages them to ‘up their game’ (even if already outstanding).
  • It is important that schools and HEI have a shared understanding.

Group 4

  • Joint appointments, these lead to a closer dialogue over issues like terminology and quality.
  • Changing dynamic as schools become more central to the process – ‘deep partnership’, ‘wider dialogue’
  • Different expectations between university based and school based student teachers – these expectations need to be managed especially about when sessions happen.
  • Develop a game view of ITE, rather than a consumer attitude to the cause.
  • Use schools as hubs for discussions where students are able to arrive in significant numbers for discussions of specific disciplinary issues or whole school issues like SEN.

Other Groups

  • Developing trust
  • Developing a whole school approach to teacher education
  • Lifelong development
  • Joint exchange – university tutors into schools/school tutors into universities
  • Plan jointly with the university some training events that bring key people together
  • Audit expertise
  • Joint appointments with established parameters
  • Joint CPD
  • Joint delivery of national qualifications
  • Opportunities to share expertise across alliances may broker additional experiences for core trainees
  • Developing the interest in research and theorising professional practice
  • Ability to be successful in bids schools and universities is a strong combination
  • Researcher in residence
  • Need to use umbrella organisation which can pull together competing alliances e.g. HEA, TEAN, NCTL
  • Opportunities for mentor development
  • Potential of powerful partnerships
  • Partnership between placement schools is a big advantage for promotion of greater professional development across the whole teaching profession

Opportunities for Greater Ownership and Engagement of Schools with Trainees?

Group 1

  • Better engagement will emerge from notions of research champions
  • Fluidity of movement between the two contexts for shared objectives.
  • Student teachers attending pupil progress meetings
  • Really good examples of the creation of teaching and learning communities in schools – teachers getting together regularly to reflect on their work.

Group 2

  • Importance of QA and quality. Accrediting school staff.
  • Giving mentors opportunity to think about their own outstanding practice and how to support/model for a trainee.

Group 4

  • Emphasis on the methods and practices of supporting ITE students rather than on the relationships between various institutions. Practice focus rather than structural.
  • Explicit agreement over the technical term-research, quality assurance; explicit articulation needed here.
  • Co-ordination of different routes – so the SENCO doesn’t have to run a session several times. This will highlight the logistical issues that exist with schools.
  • Co-ordination between a variety of partners and their ‘demands’

Other Groups

  • Select – train – appoint – develop
  • Greater ownership of trainees can be advantageous in terms of continuity and coaching but disadvantageous in terms of intensity of preparation and breadth
  • Build school based teacher educators – Key strategic and associate partners
  • Working in partnership to deliver programmes
  • CPD for staff and trainees
  • Schools have more opportunity to have enhancement places
  • Interview and selection process is improved from schools’ perspective – whole school involved (mini teaching for all applicants involves all school)
  • Potential for new, richer partnerships between schools as well as schools and universities not really new – expertise as previously untapped
  • Influence on Master/professional development
  • Creation of new Masters routes that engage and exploit / meet needs of school

Share examples of good practice with each other and the sector

Group 1

  • Administrative crossover schools – HEI. Benefits of real collaboration potential for lead administrators. Finance and other central, key tasks.
  • Embedded students working with peers enables a supportive team approach initially to be followed by independent progress. So timing and immersion benefits co construction
  • Rural school experience can be contrasted for students with city experience. The clone trap pre-supposes a school is not receptive to the influence of external newcomer – student/partner etc.
  • Lesson study is linked to development plan
  • 3 year good practice and reflection on process very successful – co – planned sessions and observation of children – 4 teachers participating, used for CPD too.

Group 2

  • Shared development of programmes especially where all partner schools have been involved (rather than just the lead school)

Group 4

  • Using schools as hubs for discussion where large numbers of students can be collected.
  • A school that has a cohort of student teachers coming in en masse to experience school life.
  • Joint appointments.

Other Groups

  • Schools interview providers
  • Using SLEs across an alliance
  • A science co-ordinator collapses timetable for a day and uses trainees to work with the whole school on the theme
  • Designated member of staff at the university for each school
  • Developing a coaching model
  • Involving NQTs in the ITE programme
  • Schools delivering in HEIs – joint planning
  • Richness and diversity of the offer SD can make
  • HEIs offering bespoke sessions to graduates
  • School led research to benefit schools/alliance /HEIS
  • Placement?

What really is the unique contribution of HEIs and schools?

Group 1

  • Is moulding within schools a real advantage? Intercompetitiveness is not necessarily an appropriate way to define the close relationship ‘in-school’
  • Support for research processes and skilled facilitation/coaching for investigation and capture of long term view.
  • Big culture shifts needed in some school to see the value in ITE
  • Focussing together more on the pupil at the heart of this teacher development
  • Getting the bigger picture – how can schools working with universities ensure that teachers have these opportunities?
  • What are we trying to achieve?

Group 2


  • Theory, research, further study, academic rigour, QA overview, critical thinking.
  • Collaborative learning journey (core PG students spend a lot of time as a personal tutor group)


  • Ownership. Supporting students who have problems – there is a real incentive to support and develop.

Group 4


  • Research informed practice
  • Philosophical understanding of education
  • Academic platform and debate
  • International perspective on Education


  • Experience of seeing teaching done as something to reflect with
  • Schools show variety in the ways teaching is planned and experienced


  • Sharing experiences and reflection in big school partnership
  • Dialogue

Other Groups

  • Has to be a two way process
  • Best of both
  • An unapologetically academic focus on education has its place
  • Validation of masters level and research
  • Real flexibility
  • Professional discussion
  • The PGCE
  • Broad research by joining HEIs and schools in the endeavour
  • HEIs expertise in pastoral care, time and knowledge
  • Theorising of practice
  • Universities key in mentor development
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