If masters and mistresses of method represented a physical embodiment of the unification of theory and practice in the training of teachers, then the model or demonstration schools in which they practised their craft must also be viewed as a tangible institutional commitment to this ideal. The history of schools attached to training institutions, variously referred to as 'model', 'normal', 'practising' and 'demonstration' schools is limited and largely negative. 1 These operated to provide a ready-made teaching environment in which to test trainees' competence, mainly through the medium of individual criticism lessons. They were, however, subsequently condemned for offering a narrow, limited and unrealistic practical experience and were later replaced with teaching practice in a wider range of local schools. Nevertheless, a fundamental part of teacher training throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth century rested on the belief that effective teaching methods should be transmitted to students through some kind of modelling process in schools organized for this purpose. There were flaws in the practical application of this belief, and various models were developed over the period.
This chapter will analyse the function of model and demonstration schools in the training of teachers with particular reference to the demonstration school initiative in the period 1896-1932. First, there is a broad historical overview of the development and use of college-based schools. Secondly, there is a detailed consideration of the ideal of the demonstration school and its implementation in the Manchester Fielden Demonstration Schools and other places. Thirdly, the weaknesses of the demonstration school ideal will be reviewed. Finally, current policy regarding the role of specially designated training schools in the initial training of teachers will be considered in the light of earlier historical developments.