Jo Wheldon, Initial Teacher Education Lead at Polaris Teaching School Alliance

Having been involved in ITE across several routes, I believe the best outcomes for trainees, schools and children happen when there is an equally shared responsibility for delivering ITE between schools and universities. In my experience, School Direct is a superb route that achieves this balance.

Being a School Direct partner with York St John University has greatly improved the quality of our programme; together we can share expertise and offer more flexibility and support for our trainees. Working closely as partners we provide a curriculum that ensures rigour and breadth, maximising opportunities for our trainees to learn and apply theory into practice throughout their PGCE year.

The Covid 19 pandemic is a compelling example of how strong partnership benefits all stakeholders in times of uncertainty and crisis.   As a group of School Direct partners, meeting together regularly with York St John to discuss and share expertise on how best to meet the challenges we have all faced has ensured a stronger, more effective response than if each of us was acting in isolation.

Trainee teachers need to learn about great practice and pedagogy whilst on placement. The best class-based experiences enable them to observe, teach, reflect and develop alongside passionate, expert colleagues. However, as novice teachers it is also vital for them to develop knowledge, understanding and critical skills beyond the immediate classroom.

The education they receive from York St John University whilst on our School Direct programme sustains them for a whole career, not just their first teaching job. The partnership of School Direct has had a direct and positive impact on teacher retention within our schools: for example at St Mary’s, 50 per cent of the teaching staff qualified through our School Direct programme. One is now SENDco and another is mentoring this year’s trainees.

Our School Direct partnership with York St John University will ensure that we can continue to attract and retain teaching talent in rural Ryedale, along the East Coast and other areas. We offer quality assured local training, tailored to the needs of our schools, underpinned by York St John’s 180 years of Teacher Training experience!  The benefit to children who, in a post-pandemic world, need and deserve access to the best teachers more than ever before, is incalculable.

I would like the Department for Education to prioritise the continuation and further development of partnership work between School and University providers. I am so proud of ours I would like them to come and meet our trainees, tutors, head teachers and children in order to experience first-hand the excellence of our ITE partnership.