School-Led Programs of Teacher Training in England Versus Northern Europe
- Alaster DouglasAlaster DouglasUniversity of Roehampton
Models of teacher education that involve close links between teachers in schools and teacher educators in universities have become commonplace, developed in response to changing educational-policy contexts of many governments worldwide. Reforms to teacher education in the U.K. since the late 20th century, and especially in England since 2010, have shifted control and content of pre-service teacher learning from the university to the school classroom. The process of increasingly centralized control of initial teacher education in England has been mirrored only partially elsewhere in the U.K. and Europe. Teacher-education policy in England has become more school-focused, while many European countries and other nations have extended the process of placing teacher education under the auspices of universities.
The findings of a 2015 national review on teacher education in England reflect the contested place of universities in teacher education and proffer a view of the dominant constructions of knowledge for teaching being practical and focused around the immediate demands of contemporary practice in schools. In England a fragmentation of the school system and of the numerous routes into teaching further weakens the conditions through which teacher knowledge is constituted. Changes in school governance, for example, have meant that some schools are no longer required to employ teachers with qualified teacher status. This makes school leaders and school governors crucially placed to facilitate alternative experiences for new teachers learning how to teach, and significantly changes the landscape of teacher education. For example, a former head teacher quoted on the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers website has dedicated her career to “growing your own” when it comes to educating new teachers.
Influences from the continental European policy of countries such as Finland and Portugal, where all teacher education is at Masters’ degree level, and Norway and the Netherlands, which have made significant policy moves in this direction, have not impacted on current teacher-education policy in England. In England teaching remains a graduate profession. However, it is the differences in teacher-education processes which are the main focus of this article. The Department for Education in England has increased school-led provision in teacher education because, according to the Department, it wants schools to have greater autonomy over how they deliver teacher education. Perhaps most attractive to schools is the possibility of educating teachers “on the job,” as this helps to fill teaching positions in a climate of growing teacher shortage. However, little research has been undertaken on the new role of the school-based teacher educator and how their work is being enacted in schools. The complexity of demands and expectations on school-based teacher educators signals the need for clarity on what this role involves. Such concerns drive new research and raise questions about the nature of teacher education in England and the role of the academy within it.