HEIs play a fundamental role in providing subject specialist input to support trainee teachers on their journey towards becoming effective practitioners. The Middlesex University ITE Partnership has always been at the forefront of recruiting and training subject specialist teachers, especially in shortage subjects. In this way, the recently validated PGCE humanities programme was created in response to shortages within geography, that a number of our partner schools were facing. As a HEI we have been able to create a route to teaching which ensures trainee teachers have a solid grounding and appreciation of the particular aspects and disciplines of their own subject specialism, whether that is history or geography, whilst also enabling them to develop their confidence in teaching across all areas of the humanities spectrum. The course is designed to effectively mix both the subject knowledge and subject-specific pedagogical expertise of university tutors alongside the practical teaching skills offered by expert practitioners within school settings. In this way, we are preparing humanities teachers with the subject knowledge and skills to teach their specialism, but with the wider knowledge and skills to teach across the broader humanities, which is becoming an increasing reality for many trainees as they enter the teaching profession.
The PGCE humanities at Middlesex University carefully sequences theory and practice but allows for flexibility in adapting to suit the needs of trainees or changing circumstances. This has allowed us to quickly respond to the recent withdrawal of SKE funding for geography. We recognise that a fundamental part of effective teaching is grounded upon a secure subject knowledge base, and we have always worked with new recruits to ensure they engage effectively with a range of subject development tasks prior to the start of their ITE year. In particular, the structured and funded pre-course SKE courses were an effective tool towards supporting geography applicants without the breadth or depth of subject knowledge that would be required to ensure they were able to successfully complete their teacher training. In response to their ending, we have used the strong subject expertise within the department to develop structured guidance to support and offer direction towards applicants who have gaps in areas of their geographical subject knowledge. Applicants are supported in developing a ‘Subject Knowledge- Eportfolio’ of evidence to identify and demonstrate how they have addressed particular gaps in their subject knowledge prior to starting the PGCE course.
The pandemic has created an opportunity for all HEIs to build upon the successful adaption of teaching, which has become a necessity from the lockdowns. In particular, virtual learning provides an opportunity, where it is undertaken effectively, to really contribute to an ITE curriculum, without devaluing face to face teaching. Our own ITE partnership will no doubt look to continue some virtual synchronous sessions, which can support theory input, as well as building a base of asynchronous sessions, to allow for a more adaptable curriculum, to suit the individual needs of trainee teachers. Similarly, the use of virtual visits also provides flexibility and will continue to be used, in an ad hoc fashion, to support students on placement.
It would be good to see a further commitment to funding measures which support the recruitment and retention of high-quality applicants e.g. SKE for all subjects. They need to also look at the long-term journey of teachers to keep them supported and engaged with CPD beyond their ITT & NQT years.