Paul Hopkins, Lecturer and Researcher in Education at the University of Hull

I have been lucky enough to have spent most of my working life in education after a short spell working in industry and living abroad. In that time I have been a teacher in secondary schools, a governor and chair of governors in primary schools, a consultant and inspector across the education sector, and advisor, a tutor and mentor and for the last about 15 years and academic and researcher. I have seen the education sector from a wide variety of facets.

I remember very fondly my own time as a PGCE student being crafted and shaped by the tutors at the University and by the mentors in my placement schools. Both of these had a vital but quite different effect on my development. The placement in schools very much gave me the opportunity to craft skills, to learn from peers and from experts in practice, to be gently guided and supported in my own development, and of course most importantly to spend time with children. However, the time in university was equally vital giving a space away from the more frenetic atmosphere of the classroom to reflect, consider, and critique my classroom experiences against the wider academic discourse. My tutors at the University were a vital part of that.

A few years after I started teaching I became a mentor, drawing on both my own academic experiences and also on my teaching expertise. I found myself offering similar advice to the young student teachers in my care. I was then asked to do some sessions at a local university working with students in that situation. Again, both of these experiences, though different, were seminal in my own development. Mentoring young student teachers in the classroom was quite different to engaging in critical dialogue in the University but both equally stimulating and developing for my own career – and I hope for the young students.

I’ve progressed to being the senior mentor in a school exploring and developing the program that we could offer the trainees who are working in our school. Again, this was a partnership between us and the universities where the students are studying. After some time working as an advisor and an inspector I found myself in the shoes of the University lecturer running a PGCE. At first it was quite daunting as the change from the school practice to university practice took some adjusting. Even though I have been engaged and involved in research for a number of years, the chance to work in the University and developing student teachers in partnership with local schools but very much being on the “other side of the fence” in the partnership was again developmental and exhilarating.

Initial teacher education has changed a lot in the last 10 years most notably the huge increase in school-based teacher training, rather than education. At my university I run the links to support a more academic facet to enhance and develop the teacher training that these young people get in their SCITTs. The postgraduate qualification that we offer gives a more critical slant to the work that they will do rooted in their schools. Again, this is rooted in partnership. I believe very strongly that teacher education needs to have the academic critical facet alongside the vocational facet – in many countries around the world teachers are required to have a Masters degree. It is vital that universities are involved in teacher education to ensure that this remains a critical academic profession and not an apprenticeship.