Dr Claire Ball-Smith, Director of ITT at the University of York

I am the Director of Initial Teacher Training at the University of York, but I have worked in initial teacher training for the last 20 years, following a successful career as a serving teacher of History and English. While I was a teacher, I served as a mentor for several universities in the south west and in the north of England. As a teacher educator I have also worked in North America and seen the ways in which teachers are educated in other countries. I have sat on SCITT boards and overseen ITT provision in universities, and so I know there to be good in varied approaches to teacher education with superb ITT practitioners in both alike.

We should be justifiably proud of the quality of the teacher education that happens in England. The thorough, robust nature of the training alongside the essential close knit partnerships between providers is second to none that I have seen in 30 years of an educational career. I have worked with hundreds of brilliant mentors in many different settings and schools across the last 20 years.

What makes the current system of ITT work so well is the recognition of often complex local and regional recruitment needs, as well as careful teacher education pedagogic planning alongside partner schools to make the journey of a trainee work best. Drawing on the expertise and the experience of school partners alongside that of provider educators is the hallmark of making the training journey tangible and realistic for any trainee.

Whilst I agree that any sector which pulls down on public budgets must be accountable for its judicious use of state money, I am very concerned about the nature of any ITT review that attaches itself to a “market” philosophy. Alongside teacher, doctors, nurses, midwives and social workers do not work in an environment which is dependent on “market forces”. The public sector professional in England works for the common good of society in organisations that drive forward the health, wellbeing, and education of all.

Notably, the word “market” comes from the Latin word “marcatus” suggesting buying, selling, trading and dealing. And that’s the issue here. We don’t deal with humans when they are educated. Parents of state school pupils don’t buy their children’s education. We don’t sell our work when the foremost aim of mentors, tutors, coordinators and senior managers is to carefully prepare and support our trainees into a life of service in the classroom for our nation’s next generation.

Equally no public sector profession in health, social care or education buys in its careful training of others. Our training programmes are not commodities or wares to narrow down to a simplified, efficient, one-size-fits-all market. If we are to preserve the brilliance that is initial teacher education in the UK, we have to ensure that the goodwill of all parties is recognised for its current levels of excellence, and not denigrated down to some sort of market-led provision of bought ‘badged’ merchandise.

It is my hope that the DfE’s ITT Review Panel (please note the deliberate dropping of the term “market”) is listening carefully to experts in the field of teacher education, both in school and in university settings, who currently run a landscape of brilliant localised pedagogy in how to become an effective teacher. Those same experts know the landscape needs of their region and ground all of their pedagogic thinking very carefully in what will work best in that hinterland. Listening enables recognition. Conversation enables dialogue. Acceptance of what already works well allows teacher educators to continue to strive to attain for the good of our future teacher generations.