Guest post: School-led teacher training compared to university teacher education

Professor Michael Bassey looks at research that has just been published by academics from Manchester Metropolitan University comparing school-led teacher training with university teacher education.

Michael Bassey

Michael Bassey

Research comparing school-led teacher training with university teacher education has just been published by Professor Tony Brown, Dr Harriet Rowley and Kim Smith at Manchester Metropolitan University.  It focuses on these two approaches to providing a one-year post-graduate preparation for teaching.

Partnerships between schools in England and university departments of education are long established:  in recent years students have spent longer periods in schools with teachers having increasing influence on the training. 

However, in 2012 there started a new initiative for post-graduates, School Direct, as an alternative to post-graduate university-based teacher education.  This is school-led and school-based, with only about 30 days in the year spent on university study and the rest of the school year in classrooms. but still to be accredited by the university.  The researchers found that these new courses have a very different relationship between theory and practice, to the detriment of theory and analysis as taught on the university-based courses. 

“Increasingly, teaching is conceived in craft-based, technicist terms strengthened by increasing prescription and performativity measures, which require teachers to present and shape knowledge in particular ways.”

Also, whereas university-based courses spend time on developing ways of teaching the subject(s) of the student’s first degree and critically examining how the pedagogy is changing, the researchers found that in the School Direct training the emphasis was on the current legislative frameworks of the subject(s).

“[P]edagogical knowledge is increasingly shaped by demands of the regulative policies and highly structured frameworks [of the] schools where trainees spend the majority of their time. In this [approach to training] teachers craft their understandings according to the legislative framework in which their practices have become ever more strictly articulated, rather than being educated in universities to engage critically with evolving demands.”

Moreover, they found considerable diversity in these courses.

“[T]he content and structure of School Direct courses varies greatly between different partnership arrangements across the country, leading to greater fragmentation within the system as a whole”.

The report notes that this new approach is in sharp contrast to the teacher education model in most European countries where substantial academic study with a pedagogical dimension linked to school experience is deemed the best way “to raise teacher quality and respond to the challenges of lifelong learning in a knowledge-based society”.


Read or download the report in full:

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Do you find the suggested move towards what sounds like a more prescriptive, conformist approach a cause for concern?

Please let us know why/why not in the comments or via Twitter…


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  1. Evidence of the continued move towards a de-professionalised, compliance-driven teaching cohort. I tutor LSA’s doing their foundation degrees at college, and recently sat in when a Teach Direct recruiting agent visited to tout for business amongst them. I hadn’t realised how little time they spend at university and how much time they spend in class in this programme. 90% class time in their third term! Not only are they effectively cheap labour for schools while studying but will never be invited to step outside the box and examine the profession critically from different view points. This report is important.

  2. Tanya Ovenden Hope

    The OECD have reported that teacher professionalism can only enhance learning. A fully praxis based preparation for teaching, engaging subject specialists in a critical understanding of pedagogy – their new specialism – can only be beneficial to education.

  3. amirshah316

    SchoolsImprove how can we build the profession into other vocations if the theory and practice from academia is routinely ignored

  4. mfordhamhistory

    zudensachen greg_ashman though I would say that the average schools direct programme is weaker than the average university programme.

  5. TeaLadyJune

    SchoolsImprove Fashionable to bash University-led ITT – Govt. driven. Tories want all money in schools to be siphoned off to their cronies

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