Schools and university partnerships and school-based only frameworks characterize the present teacher education and training environment in England. This new tapestry presents opportunities and challenges for those pursuing training in teaching and has implications for University Teacher Education Professional Tutors saddled with the task of guiding participants.
Opportunities for participants
There are a number of opportunities afforded to participants in this new teacher education and training environment. For example, they can work towards a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) (Qualified Teacher Status) and a Master’s degree and study teaching in their preferred specialization (Secondary) or at a preferred level (Early Year Studies, Primary or Secondary). This new environment also affords participants the opportunity to: contribute to the ‘move’ to improve the education of young people from less privileged background; engage in research in education, more specific urban education; participate in university training which develops skills and knowledge in key teaching components for example curriculum development, education theory and practice and classroom management; spend time in school taking on real responsibilities from ‘day one’; attend summer sessions which enables the building of a network of like-minded people; develop skills of reflection-on-practice, portfolio development and reflective journaling techniques; develop transferable skills thus facilitating transitions from teaching to other careers; develop academic writing skills via assignments at PGCE and Master’s level and being paid during training along with the potential for additional financial support to off-set cost for travel to specific training sessions.
Challenges for participants
Given the new teacher education and training environment challenges for participants may include (but not limited to): demotivated students in regular schools and the need to raise their aspiration; students’ disruptive behaviours and addressing these; balancing various demands: administrative and other responsibilities (lunch and yard duty, meetings, detention and monitoring students during or after school, special parent meeting and reporting evenings); completing university and partners’ requirements; researching and writing at PGCE and Master’s level; interpersonal relational issues (mentor/trainees relationship) and deciding whether to address students’ non-learning needs.
Given these opportunities and challenges, ‘What are the implications for the University teacher education professional tutor saddled with the task of seeing the participants through to a successful completion?’
At the philosophical level, the university teacher education professional tutor needs to be clear about the mission, goals and policies of the programme and partnership existing between the university and schools allowing these to guide thoughts and actions.
At the ‘grass root’ level, the tutor should have current experience working in challenging learning environments to fully empathize with participants placed in such situations. It would be a ‘bonus’ if she or he had the experience of being, or working with the ‘student type’ represented in such challenging schools and is able to bring an ‘insiders’ perspective to bear on advice given to participants under her or his care. Being armed with experience and knowledge in reflective practice to effectively aid participants in this now integral area of teachers’ professional development and supporting researching in education and academic writing at master’s level and above is also critical.
The tutor should be familiar with appropriate strategies for addressing school students’ disruptive behaviours thus becoming an additional source of information for participants and how to motivate school students who have become demotivated.
The tutor is also required to give advice to participants on balancing various demands for example: prioritising workload; keeping a diary and saying ‘No’ to some school committee or steering group; give guidance on the issue of addressing students’ non learning-needs and use skills required to mediate between participants and school-based mentor when there has been a break down in professional relations.