Rachel Lofthouse, Professor of Teacher Education at Leeds Beckett University

In 1990 I started my teacher education journey with a PGCE in Geography at Newcastle University. Thirty-one years later I am a Professor of Teacher Education at Leeds Beckett University and Director of CollectivED The Centre for Coaching, Mentoring and Professional Learning. In every year of those three decades my working life has been shaped by a constant and evolving interaction between student teachers and their mentors, between universities and schools, between teachers and researchers. My formation as an educator has been a journey of growth and transition, and I am fortunate to have supported, worked alongside, taught, and been taught by, many others in a range of teacher education partnerships.

At the heart of teacher education is the knowledge that we are all present as learners and that our expertise is built on a dynamic relationship between practice and research. As a teacher I took responsibility for my students’ learning, teaching hundreds of young people undertaking GCSE and A Levels. I also took responsibility for the initial professional learning of student teachers, both as a mentor and a visiting tutor.

As a PGCE tutor and course leader I designed programmes of study which blended practical and academic learning and enabled new teachers to start their careers with confidence as reflective, informed and skilled practitioners. I developed modules for post-graduate professional study which allowed serving teachers and school leaders to gain further expertise and supervised their unique professional dissertations. As a researcher and specialist in coaching and mentoring I have contributed to the knowledge base that the profession draws on to continue to grow, and built international networks of professionals and academics with a shared commitment to supporting professional learning.

My professional biography and contribution were forged from the choices I was able to make because of the strength of the partnerships between schools and universities. My experiences are not unique; the teaching profession has been sustained over decades through these partnerships. The conversations and opportunities that exist in the work between academics and teachers create the capacity that we need to meet the needs of pupils and students in all of our schools, early years settings and colleges.

We build intelligence into the profession. We are always learning. We will continue to evolve and serve communities. We must ensure that these partnerships grow for decades to come. We are not a market that needs review. We are an essential, creative and productive infrastructure that should be celebrated.