The State of Initial Teacher Education in England and What's Happening in Business and Economics

By Brant, Jacek | Teaching Business & Economics, Spring 2014 | Go to article overview

The State of Initial Teacher Education in England and What's Happening in Business and Economics


Brant, Jacek, Teaching Business & Economics


Subject degrees and teaching qualifications

It may be hard to believe, but teaching has been an all-graduate affair only since the 1970s. In many respects what is deemed necessary to become a good teacher echoes the debate of knowledge versus process in the school curriculum and reflects the tension between traditional and progressive education. In days gone by, top private schools demanded high-calibre graduates from Oxbridge (or at least a red-brick university) but with no requirement for a formal teaching qualification as strong subject knowledge was deemed sufficient preparation for life in the classroom. The need for well qualified teachers is now almost universally accepted within the teaching profession and it has been the norm until recently for teachers to complete a first degree in their subject and then take a one-year (master's-level since 2007) PGCE in the process of gaining qualified teacher status (QTS). However, we are now in a period of unprecedented change in the realm of teacher preparation and it is once again possible to teach in the state sector (in a Free School or an Academy) with no recognisable teaching qualification.

What's in a name: ITT or ITE?

Initial teacher training Implies a conceptualisation of teaching as a craft. The apprentice teacher can learn the skills of the classroom from an experienced 'old hand' and one can see the important school role of passing on 'best practice'. Initial teacher education, however, implies the role of theory and research and a unique role for university in developing a critical approach that enables the teacher to understanding his or her classroom and to be able to realise learning opportunities as they arise. I am sure most readers will be familiar with the concept of the reflective practitioner or even the reflexive teacher. Conceptualising teaching as a craft or science creates a false dichotomy; it seems reasonable to me that a combination of substantial practical experience with university study of pedagogy and research is an excellent grounding for a career in teaching. Yet, the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, has argued for a return to "learning the craft". This does signal a move away from the established School-University Partnership model to a much more school-focused approach to ITT with a target of "50% of ITE becoming school-led" in the next few years.

Routes into teaching

Teacher supply and retention is now the responsibility of the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) which is part of the Department for Education (DfE). The NCTL issues strict targets for ITT (to both HEIs and direct to schools) with the aim of matching teacher supply with teacher demand. In addition to the proven PGCE, Teach First (TF) and School Direct (SD) offer alternative routes into teaching and it is also possible to gain QTS via School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT). Teach First (loosely based on Teach for America) was established in England in 2002 and designed to attract high calibre graduates who otherwise might not have considered teaching. In 2002 there were just 200 participants (the TF name for apprentice teachers). By 2013 there were 1260 participants with a target of 2000 for July 2015 intake. Teach First is characterised by a six-week 'summer school' in a Higher Education Institution (HEI) prior to taking up a position in a school with participants gaining QTS at the end of their first year and additionally a master's level PGCE awarded by the host university at the end of the second year of teaching. …

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