School-based teacher training – yes?

As the debate about the White Paper moves into the frenetic stage, I was pondering about the training teachers in school bit. Now, this post is not about the rights and wrongs of such a policy. That is for the many other commentators out there. No, I wanted to think about what the implications may be. What training would be better delivered in school. After all, apprenticeships have been with us for a long time and often highly regarded. I’ve thought about some of the things that teachers need to know and where they may be best to learn them. The lists are not exhaustive by any means but may direct your thinking.

In-school Learning (in no particular order)

  • Behaviour management – can only be practiced and therefore developed with a group to manage. The theory of possible strategies is useful but I suspect many able practitioners will swear by ‘I developed that approach myself’
  • Parents – a breed apart in many schools and they have to be seen and interacted with to be believed! Seriously, building a relationship0 with parents can be a very scary thing and can only be done within a school environment.
  • Special Educational Needs – again the theory is useful but it is only by working with a wide range of abilities and needs that a teacher will learn how to organize and differentiate the children’s learning
  • Teaching styles – I am sure that those teachers who have been in the profession for two years or more would see a change in their teaching style for those first tentative lessons. You don’t know what you style is going to be until you are faced with a group of youngsters who are dependent on you, not only for their learning but their whole educational experience.
  • Curriculum management – by that I mean coping with the various groups of ability (not necessarily SEN). Grouping children correctly for that lesson is often key to its success. It is not always top, middle and bottom!

College-based learning:

  • Educational Psychology – knowing about the stages of development both physically and emotionally is a good grounding for understanding the children in your class
  • Learning Styles – key to making the best use of each child’s potential and understanding that one size does not fit all.
  • Legal and administrative procedures – these are the contracts, Health and Safety, risk assessment type things that new teachers need to have some understanding of.

 Problems with school-based learning

  • TIME – I have put this in capitals because for me this will be one of the major draw-backs to increased training in school. Students and their mentors will need time to discuss, plan, prepare and importantly review and reflect what is happening. This within an already jam-packed timetable will be difficult and will be closely linked to…
  • Money – to release staff to support students will need additional funds.
  • Pressure on schools – having students in school at the moment is not always an answer to staff shortages; it is not always an extra pair of hands. If students are going to come straight to school , they are not going to be able to make any sort of a contribution for a while which will put additional pressure on all staff throughout the school.
  • Attitude of school – this is not a criticism as I have been in this position myself but sometimes school forget that NQTs are not fully fledged teachers who have been there, seen it, done and have the T-shirt. We don’t do it intentionally but we just forget. If the new approach brings in student who have even less knowledge this will cause quite a few problems.

 So… there are few thoughts about the possible changes to teacher training. Does the present system provide NQTs with enough understanding to do a good job? Do NQTs fall into the trap that school may unwittingly set of thinking they know everything? Would more school based training help schools to become learning places for the grown-ups as well as the children? Leave me a comment with your thoughts

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  • As someone who is currently on a PGCE course, I struggle to see how this will work. There are many ways to become a teacher now without going to university such as GTP and TeachFirst. I specifically chose not to train this way because I didn’t think I get the same level of support. If you only train in one school, what will happen when you get a job and the other school is completely different? By the end of my PGCE I will have taught in 4 school and have 16 other people in my position on my course with whom I can share experiences. This simply will not happen if initial teacher training is done in schools.
    Even if your mentor is the most amazing teacher ever, it doesn’t mean they will be able to make you a good teacher. Will there be any training for teachers to pass on their skills without trying to make a carbon copy?
    There are many skilled people in universities who have lots of experience both teaching and training teachers. Why lose out on these expertise by sending all trainee teachers to schools?

    • Julia

      Welcome to THO Laura! Great to see you here. Thank you so much for your comment. It is so good to have the views of someone who is directly affected by this part of the White Paper.

  • Many schools already are learning places for adults with huge amounts of NVQ TA training taking place. It’s already very hard for schools to provide adequate support and mentoring for TAs without adding total responsibility for new graduates to the mix.

    • Julia

      Hello Linda! Yes you are so right about the amount of adult learning that is going on. We need to make sure we support the ‘grown ups’ and take advantage of that training. That does mean support within the school which can be a money problem sadly.

      • Hi Julia, some interesting comments here. I’m starting to think trainee teachers may become the new, unpaid, teaching assistants in some schools. It’s not the same job though. TAs focus is usually on one child or a group of children, teachers need to balance the needs of the whole class.
        If they are not taught subjects like child development, psychology or behaviour management formally then how will they ever learn to think strategically about what’s going on rather than just responding to situations.
        As for money, well, yes, that’s the problem isn’t it? Schools will be tempted to go for teaching status as it will bring extra funding but will they use it to deliver quality tuition?

  • Andysmith701

    How about the knowledge base in schools? Generally. the majority of teachers do not have the specialist knowledge (or skills at training adults/students) that HE lecturers have (the vast majority of them coming into HE in order to put to use their many years of experience of working in, and leading, schools in order to give something back to the profession – notice the use of the word profession rather than ‘craft’ or ‘apprenticeship. Until ALL schools can provide a consistently high quality of NQT support and support of ITE trainees then the preferred model of initial teacher training should stay within the remit of HE departments of education (the recent report on their effectiveness has been published…it is VERY complimentary).

    • Julia

      Many thanks Andy. It is good to see that HE is keen & vital to advancing the profession. I totally agree about schools not always providing the appropriate support to NQTs. It needs to be robust if school based training is to be extended.

  • Nicki

    Was interested to read your post and the subsequent comments. I am an NQT having trained via the GTP route. Having trained alongside PGCE placements I can see some of the positives and pitfalls to both training methods.
    As one of 4 NQTs in my school, 2 of us are far more prepared for the practical aspects of teaching than the other 2. My other colleague came through the part time BEd having been a TA so was hugely experienced anyway, the other two were PGCE students. But are all the on the job issues, such as parent relationships etc something that comes quickly to any NQT but will the academic elements be harder to claim back?
    From experience, I agree that time and expertise is the biggest and hugest issue. Schools need to be trained to train! Experienced teachers who do undertake training also have to realise that they are not creating clones and that new (young or career-changer) trainees have new and potential valuable ideas too.

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  • Anonymous

    Another great post. I was really interested to read this section of the white paper. I have to say that teachers I know that have grown up via SCITT / GTP which are school based seem to really land running, though as you say, time is a huge issue and I wonder whether some of the theory which must inevitably be skimmed over is something they will miss later on?
    I highlighted your post in my Daily Digest of Education related blogs today as I thought other teachers would find it of interest. You can see it here:

  • Julie C

    This has been sort of helpful – to someone who is trying to enter ITT as a mature student with a career behind her, but a degree 20 years old and negligible schools experience as yet. I am wrestling over whether to go the PGCE university route, which seems more “protected” and “safe” (though am mildly anxious about feeling out of place with lots of younger applicants); or via the Open University where it sounds comprehensive, but slightly more exposed/lonely and more heavily dependent on good school mentoring (though flexible enough to allow some additional working to keep family commitments under control). Any suggestions gratefully received about the route to secondary science!

  • jfb57

    Apologies for delay in getting back Julie. It is difficult whichever way you choose I think. A lot depends on the sort of learner you are & where you could be placed. My advice would be to use twitter as well for support. Some excellent CPD out there! Thanks for visiting & I hope to see you again!

  • jfb57

    As usual Pooky, we won’t know until we’ve tried! Interesting times though! Thanks for the promotion!

  • jfb57

    Great to see you Nicki! You are so right about not wanting to create clones! NQTs bring freshness as well as new ideas. I worry about the amount of pressure PGCE students are under. They have to cram so much into such a short period of time. Good luck for the rest of the year!

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  • Simon McLoughlin

    This post has really made me think (something I’m not used to doing during the holidays!). I trained last year by doing the GTP. If I could go back and start all over again, would I do the GTP rather than the PGCE? Yes, without any question. There are upsides and downsides to each route, but I definitely feel that when September came, I was much more prepared than others I know who did the PGCE. The GTP suited me though, because that is how I learn. I can imagine nothing worse than sitting down to learn theory: I’d much rather be out on the front line, which is what the GTP allowed me to do. I felt that I had the freedom to design my own training based around my needs, rather than receiving a booklet which dictated that on day 5 of placement 1 I should be observing SEN children etc etc (which is what the PGCE students in my school get from their university.). I was lucky though that I had the support from my school to be able to base my learning around my own needs and to do a lot of my training independently, rather than being watched and guided 24/7. By being in a classroom for 95% of the year, I was able to learn from my many mistakes whilst I was a student, rather than when I’m wholly responsible for my own class. This worked because my school was an excellent trainer. If all schools are trained to train, in-school training will hopefully be a success for our education system.

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