The changing face of teacher education

Newer postgraduate routes into teaching, such as School Direct, mean there’s more choice – but how do you choose the right option for you? In partnership with Sheffield Hallam University

Russ Thorne
Friday 23 October 2015 15:33 BST

School Direct is still a relatively new kid on the teacher education block, but since its introduction in 2011 it has changed students’ options by offering a new way into the profession. Depending on where you study, paid and unpaid routes are available and many (but not all) courses offer a PGCE on completion, as well as training in a school that can then go on to employ you.

But how does it stack up against other established routes? Professor Sam Twiselton, director of the Sheffield Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University, explains that one difference is the fact that as a School Direct candidate you are – in theory – not just choosing where you train, but where your first job will be. “It doesn’t always work out like that, but the concept is that the school that trains you will then employ you,” she says. “For some that’s an attraction – but others might not want to be employed by the place where they cut their teeth.”

From speaking to newly qualified teachers Twiselton has found that School Direct can appeal to more experienced students, perhaps looking to change careers. “They may have had an existing connection with a school, perhaps as parents, or they may have liked the idea of being part of the staff from day one.” School Direct candidates do indeed tend to enter the classroom earlier than their ‘traditional’ PGCE counterparts, often at the very beginning of the academic year – although their total amount of time spent in the classroom isn’t necessarily more overall.

The key to deciding what’s right for you might lie in the details. Alison Hardman is a senior lecturer in Postgraduate Initial Teacher Education and School Direct at the University of Derby and explains that the differences in terms of the university’s input to their Core PGCE and School Direct PGCE programmes are “marginal” and that the expectations are the same for both. “How the programmes are constructed may determine any prospective candidate’s choice,” she says, “depending on their personal starting points for their studies and their respective professional and academic needs.”

Given the sometimes small but important differences between routes, it’s helpful to get further advice before making a decision. Sean Cavan, head of strategic business engagement in the Department of Teacher Education at Sheffield Hallam, suggests attending Train to Teach events (organised by the Department for Education) and thinking about the costs and location of your training. “Find out as much as you can, and explore whether teaching is something you’d really be keen to do.”

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. “The onus is on schools and universities to give a clear picture of the diversity of routes into teaching so candidates can make the best decision,” concludes Cavan. “Our role is to provide as much guidance as we can.”

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