Establishing effective School Based Training Partnerships for over 400 trainees during the pandemic has been a considerable challenge for all ITE providers! Nevertheless, through a creative approach to securing placements in a shrinking number of partner schools at BCU we have been able to develop an approach, which will drive and sustain our partnerships beyond the pandemic.
Firstly, we adopted a clear decision to ‘attach’ all our trainee teachers to one school for the full academic year – this has meant that when schools closed in January all our trainees were able to sustain their teaching practice with their partner schools. Moreover, they learned to adopt new and innovative online pedagogies in the process. This has meant that as a university we can confidently validate the professional behaviours, flexibility and creative talent of the BCU graduates of 2021.
In addition, we approached supportive schools to develop a number of subject hubs for trainees, wherein core departments offered up to 4 ‘attachments’ to BCU trainees. This initiative was born out of a scarcity of School Based Training Placements in what was clearly going to be a challenging year, but has since become a powerful operational arrangement in terms of providing capacity for focussed mentor support through regular contact with the university and a community of reflective practice for trainees.
Finally, one local school was willing to invest heavily by providing 20 School Based Training Placements across a broad range of subjects. In evaluation with the school, they felt that the model had been so successful that they committed to expand the partnership across their local education trust – which will provide a guarantee of 50 School Based Training Placements for future BCU cohorts – and expand a reflective community of practice further for their staff.
Here at BCU, many of our teachers are local and this ensures that local schools and colleges have the opportunity to support beginning teachers from within their own communities. Culturally, socially and politically it is really important that pupils learn from teachers who look and sound like them and who know what it is like to grow up in their streets.
In addition, through a broad, balanced and research-led curriculum BCU teachers are well prepared to work in a range of contexts and use research-informed practice to develop independent professional identities.
To secure great School Based Training Placements we have to develop a strong stream of communication with schools, who thereby get to know our curriculum and the aspirations we have for BCU teachers across our region.
Communication is two way – and meaningful consultation is at the heart of effective ITE practice. Working online during the pandemic has actually opened opportunities to do this with greater impact through online forums.
By developing meaningful partnerships with school and college partners, we are in a strong position to identify and respond to regional priorities. The communities of practice that are emerging within our provision will ensure that we are involved in relevant local discourse around our training curriculum.
The DfE needs to ensure that ITE can respond to regional priorities – and this is best achieved through regional experts in the field. Moreover, ITE should be informed by a holistic approach to research and not favour any specific pedagogical approach over another – this will ensure that beginning teachers have the tools to lead learning in a range of contexts.