Policy and practice within the United Kingdom
Working paper published by British Educational Research Association
Across the four jurisdictions of the United Kingdom (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) initial teacher education (ITE) is under active development, with its content, location, control and quality often the focuses of sustained debate. Statutory and professional requirements for the sector inevitably reﬂect differing assumptions about teaching, teacher knowledge and governance. In exploring ITE across the four jurisdictions, this paper reviews policies and practices through two major focuses: ﬁrst, the relationships between the declared teacher Standards (competencies/competences) and research-informed teacher education provision; second, the ‘turn or (re)turn to the practical’ in teacher education, including policy declarations, changes in practices, and emphases and effects of the
discourse(s) of relevance. Across the UK, the paper argues that the knowledge bases of teaching are contested and reﬂected in the resultant teacher Standards. In Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, schooling is clearly important in the construction of development and/or re-afﬁrmation of national identities. Teacher education policy then assumes strategic importance in devolved Governments’ educational policies. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, and less explicitly in Wales, research-informed provision is a declared part of the Standards and the expectations of teacher education programmes and providers. In England, although there has been debate about national identity and values within the Standards and the ITE curriculum, a more generic stance has been adopted in recent policy-making, superﬁcially less inﬂuenced by cultural beliefs and more by ideological agendas. The English Standards and current Government policy now indicate a decisive shift away from the idea of teaching as a research-based profession and towards the construction of teaching as a craft. As part of the (re)turn to the practical in ITE across the UK, all provision places considerable importance on ‘practicality’ and ‘relevance’. Within this debate, this paper argues that the discourse of relevance is a powerful part of the (re)turn to the practical. We suggest that there are many manifestations of this discourse across the UK, but an emphasis on the experiential skills and knowledge necessary for new teachers to
be ‘classroom-ready’ is a common and often central feature. In England the (re)turn to the practical has been intensiﬁed by speciﬁc structural and political factors and by a dominating culture of compliance and regulation. Despite some similarities and differences across the four jurisdictions, forms of the discourse of relevance currently found in England are creating a model of ITE which privileges performativity and ‘practical’ and experiential knowledge over theoretical, pedagogical and subject knowledge. The paper identiﬁes past and present areas of similarity in ITE across the four jurisdictions, but it also argues that there is now some marked divergence, with England emerging as the exception or outlier. But in the absence of clear evidence on the effectiveness and lived realities of research-informed ITE provision across the UK, the paper concludes that opportunities for maintaining research-rich and enquiry-led ITE are welcome, alongside debates on the educational research undertaken in universities in partnership with and for the teachers, schools and communities they serve.