Marc North, Assistant Professor Primary Education (Primary PGCE Tutor), University of Nottingham

I only started working as an ITE tutor at the start of the 2020-21 academic year. Prior to this I worked as an Associate Headteacher in a local trust of Primary Schools and was involved in various local partnership professional development initiatives. Since joining the ITE team at the University of Nottingham I have been astounded by the commitment of both this ITE team and the wider partnership for providing supportive and high-quality learning experiences for trainee teachers. The onset of Covid has made what is an already demanding teacher-training experience even more so, and it is an ever-increasing challenge to ensure equity of experience for all trainees.  

However, partnership schools have risen fully to this challenge and, rather than shy away from offering placement experiences and opportunities due to potential risk issues, they have fully embraced our trainees and have worked unbelievably hard to provide innovate training experiences. The result is that all of our trainees are being afforded unique teaching experiences that will stand them in good stead to become effective, innovative and resilience professionals.    

The trainees themselves also need to be celebrated for demonstrating ongoing enthusiasm and resilience despite a hugely disruptive and challenging year – which speaks volumes about their commitment to this profession and their motivations for making a difference to the lives of others. 

As a team we pride ourselves on giving trainees academic and practical experiences that will equip them to not only teach effective learning experiences, but also to challenge and question their own practices and institutionalised practices – to be critically reflective. The current education climate constantly bombards teachers with ‘what works’ messages and tries to convince teachers that there are recipe’s to be followed for teaching effectively. If only this were true!  

As such, we strive to give our trainees the confidence to question and challenge what they see around them constantly, to be critical of the messages that they are bombarded with, so that the children’s best interests are always held at the foreground of their practice. It is such a privilege to be able to work in a space where I am able to influence in such significant way the personal and professional development of young teachers.   

If anything, Covid has highlighted in no uncertain terms some of the deficits of the current education system – for example, reliance on a single set of assessments as the definitive marker of students’ understanding. The necessary shift to online education has also had significant consequences for certain groups of children who either don’t have access to technology or who don’t respond positively to online-learning environments. The potential impact of lost learning for certain groups might be felt for several years to come. The tradition role of the teacher in the classroom has also been challenged, with the necessity for online learning prompting some reconsideration of the responsibilities of both teachers and students in the learning process.  

I believe that the post-Covid space provides a unique opportunity for ITE partnerships to reshape, redefine and influence how teaching and learning is reformulated. The disruption caused by Covid provides us all with a significant opportunity to embrace new technologies and new ways of thinking and interacting with teaching and learning experiences. This is about more than just curriculum change – this is an opportunity for all involved in ITE partnerships to completely rethink teaching and learning, and roles and responsibilities within the classroom space; and ultimately to equip future teachers with the knowledge, skills, flexibility and resilience to excel.   

 I long for an education terrain where the DfE trust teachers fully to look after the children in their care and to deliver high quality learning experiences. The current accountability framework is so prevalent in the schooling system, and this has such a strong and detrimental impact on teacher’s well-being and mental health and on priorities within some schools. Many long-standing in-service teachers are completely worn down by constant scrutiny, having to demonstrate their competence over and over again. This leads to resentment, stress, and ongoing loss of significant expertise from the profession.  

I’m convinced that if teachers were trusted more and if there was less scrutiny over their practices, this would lead to happier teachers in the system and far less issues with recruitment and retention. This would also impact on ITE provision and recruitment – happier teachers in the system would lead to more positive messages about the profession, which would inspire even more young people to consider teaching as an option.