Sarah Hand, Head of System Leadership and Teaching School, Two Mile Ash ITT Partnership

‘The best teacher educators create the best teachers…and we want the best for our children’.

This is a message I brought home with me from a short visit to the Netherlands to explore school-based Initial Teacher Training (ITT) policy and practice in the country. It could be a tweet, but it was in fact a grounded, confident aspiration from one of our generous hosts.

Of course, it’s true and I doubt that many, if any of us, would deny its sense and accuracy. I also suspect many of us aspire to this, and create opportunities for CPD for our teams working in teacher education as well as the school-based mentor and trainer. But could we do more?

The Netherlands train all primary teachers for four years through school-based ITT. The course is the same whether you are studying as an undergraduate or a postgraduate, although postgraduate training may be reduced to two years where a student has relevant experience.

In the Netherlands, the link between children-school-partnership-HEI is woven in aspiration and, increasingly, practice. Of course, there are partnerships at varying points on the journey towards the goal, but the intention that ITT partnerships of schools link between HEI (including the SCITT equivalent) expertise and schools has power and rigour blended with respect of the value each organisation brings to school improvement.

In the model the Netherlands is working towards, the partnerships use teacher educators in the equivalent of our SCITTs and HEIs to add expertise and capacity to the work of school leadership teams to raise standards for children in their schools. These ‘circles of knowledge’ can lead to powerful learning for all members and impact on the school’s self-improvement.

In this model, the role of the students or trainees and the teacher educators in the partnership becomes critical. I was inspired by the practice of trainee teachers completing research and a dissertation on something from the school improvement plan of their host school and presenting their findings to the staff team.

The students can see their work has an impact and that is a powerful motivator. In this model, trainees and mentors work in collaboration, alongside each other with both benefiting from the professional learning, and this might include both trainee and mentor attending workshops or training provided by the partnership together.

In the model of trainee research and collaborative learning, skilled expert teacher educators are required who stand with a foot in each camp. The recognition of this quiet but dedicated workforce is important and it makes me think about our teams in schools and ITT partnerships and about how we develop their skills and expertise.

The Dutch Association for Teacher Educators (VELON) has designed criteria for registration for teacher educators. To be registered, teacher educators must demonstrate certain skills, knowledge and behaviour and commit to several hours professional learning a year related to their role as a teacher educator and expert in this field.

For me personally, the role and value of teacher educator in a school, multi-academy trust or partnership is not limited to training student teachers but is central to the career-long learning and development of teachers.

Through CPD in various forms, teachers can develop the knowledge, skills and understanding to teach in the shifting landscape of education with resilience, and this may support retention in the profession. What might happen if the role of teacher educator had the same status attached to it as SENDCo for example, with training and remuneration offered to that role?

There is food for thought here for our partnership and I am looking forward to the discussion, plans and development the future holds for us.

Sarah Hand is Head of System Leadership and Teaching School at Two Mile Ash ITT Partnership


Twitter: @TMAITTP

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