Lisa Panford – Lead Practitioner, Professional Coordinating Mentor and PGCE Lecturer at St Mary’s University

In my role as Professional Coordinating Mentor at a large Training School in London I experience, first-hand, the life that trainees breathe into our communities with their innovative approaches and energy. Their development and positive impact in schools rely upon the bespoke professional support provided by the HEI school partnership model which equips each of them with the most relevant knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes so that they can meet the academic, cognitive, physical, emotional, spiritual, moral, social and aesthetic needs of our young people in the specific context in which we teach.

The PGCE course is a period of time spent learning in a subject-specialist cohort from subject specialists and surrounded by a community of peers, teachers, mentors and tutors. In my roles as PGCE Lecturer at university and mentor in school, I have observed that our future teachers benefit from having pedagogical approaches modelled, the professional space and support to engage critically with the theory that underpins them and the many often lasting relationships with colleagues who are knowledgeable about, and passionately committed to, improving the experiences of young people in the local (London) context. These factors are the foundations for understanding best how to help the young people in our schools learn to their potential.

When first appointed as a teacher in a large secondary school in one of the most diverse boroughs in London it became apparent that I needed a deeper understanding of the context in which I taught and specifically, the working knowledge necessary to educate minority language learners with the goal of developing proficiency in more than one language effectively. My PGCE tutors who maintained contact with us all during those initial years encouraged me to build on the Master’s level assignments completed during my PGCE year and return to university to complete an MA in Bilingual Learners in Urban Educational Settings. Continued academic engagement not only stimulated my intellectual curiosity but through the research aspect of the course it enabled me to interrogate the most recent educational developments within my specific area of focus for practical application in my own classroom and positive impact on my students.

Thanks to the emphasis placed upon evidence informed practice during my PGCE year, my engagement with research has been ongoing and I am currently researching issues around race and racism in my subject area in the hope that I will be able to make a small contribution to the research community from which I have taken so much. The opportunity for Early Careers Teachers to return to university to deepen their understanding of issues of particular interest through the completion of an MA not only retains their interest and improves the quality of that individual teacher but is vital if we wish to have a dynamic and relevant research base for our whole profession.

The dedicated reflective time at university afforded to trainees during their PGCE course provides them with the opportunity to develop skills to reflect upon and consolidate their learning in school. This reflective process is of paramount importance; arguably one of the most powerful forms of continued professional development because, by observing and identifying our own areas for improvement, we shift our focus from simply fulfilling minimum requirements to continually improving our standards. In my role as Lead Practitioner I have the privilege of supporting teachers at all stages of their career to build on the reflective skills we all gained during our PGCE years and contribute to a culture of reflective practice across the whole school. The best outcomes for the students we teach rely upon sustaining the collaborative and reflective approaches to our development as classroom practitioners which are taught during the PGCE training year and which are underpinned by the schools partnership model.