Chris Aitkin, Director of Campus Stockton Teaching Alliance (York St John University)

Campus Stockton has a 50:50 partnership with York St John University School Direct PGCE Programme, which ensures that both the expertise of staff at YSJU and partnership schools is capitalised on. This year we have 49 student teachers training with us in our partnership.

Our programmes are research-informed with university and school staff drawing on up to date research and evidence for sessions – with a view to developing critical and reflective student teachers. Our aim is to create excellent teachers of the future and through our successful partnership we feel that this goal is more than being achieved.

We have very high completion rates on the programme and students achieve good or outstanding final grades. We also have high employment and retention rates in Stockton. Students from previous year’s feedback shows that they thrived on the positive partnership and the blend between theory and most importantly the application of this in real life teaching.

Regular strategic planning group meetings are held in the partnership (for both primary and secondary) involving school and university staff – this has led to us been highly involved in all elements of the programmes from curriculum design to team teaching on academic sessions. Our YSJ ITE partnership is a community of practice.

The ITE Steering group (which reflects University and School Direct partners in ITE) focusses on regional and national policy/initiatives that might impact on our partnership provision and this in recent years has invariably led to discussions on the value of university provision – we recognise the value of our partnership with YSJ and have continued to work with them due to the quality of ITE provision and wider structures that support the student experience.

There are opportunities for us as partners to be involved in research and CPD with YSJ – an example of research will be the collaborative research we are about to undertake around assessment and feedback.  An example of CPD for all is the Teacher Education Seminar Series that will involve university staff from ITE and other areas of the university (e.g. subject specialists) and school staff leading sessions that will enrich the programme for students and provide CPD opportunities for university and school staff.  School staff are engaged in research programmes at YSJ too, for example the Masters in Education programme.

Our ITE partnership has adapted superbly to the Covid-19 pandemic, with student teachers still being in school at every opportunity – they have adapted to an online teaching experience with children being at the forefront. Whilst the year has been challenging, our partnership has managed to give students a full and detailed (although different) training programme.

Our ITE partnership gives our student teachers the practical skills they need to be able to teach to good and outstanding levels. This practical ability is underpinned by a thorough understanding of theoretical principles and up to date research. We utilise local knowledge of partner schools and through well established relationships with York St John University, we are able to tailor our training programme to meet the current needs of schools and the communities they serve.

Going forward, the Department for Education’s priority should be to maintain and develop the excellent network of programmes that currently exist. Local providers should be allowed to continue to work as they do now, bringing excellent training in a bespoke way to student teachers so that they can best serve schools and their particular needs. Ultimately we want to supply the best teachers to teach our children and that is what we feel the current training arrangements bring.