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We train dogs – we must educate teachers (part 2)

Updated: Jul 12, 2021

Catherine Carden is a Senior Lecturer in Education and Director of Learning and Teaching at Canterbury Christ Church University. She is also a Chair of Governors at a Canterbury primary school. Prior to moving to HE, Catherine worked within secondary and further education. Catherine is the co-founder of Bowden Education.

In this blog, Catherine considers the importance of teachers’ ‘education’ as opposed to ‘training’, and the importance of continued learning and development for early career teachers as they move from their education into the classroom.

Over the past 10 years the politically driven directive to move teacher education into an apprenticeship model (DfE, 2011) has bumbled along but failed to reach the intended governmental ideological goal set out by Michael Gove in his 2010 White Paper, The Importance of Teaching and subsequent 2011 paper Training the Next Generation of Outstanding Teachers of moving all teacher training into a school-led model.

This has left the landscape of teacher education with a mixed and confused economy of school based, school-centred and university based ITE with a fragmented market of many small providers, leaving those wishing to enter the profession bewildered as to which is the ‘best’ route for them.

Something that took traction from the 2010 paper and is now firmly embedded into the teaching profession glossary are the terms ‘training’ and ‘trainee’ based upon the ‘teaching as a craft’ (Gove, 2010) notion. Underpinning this is the idea that hands on contact in lessons is the key to developing future generations of highly effective teachers.

Nine years down the line from the initial 2010 paper it seems that the teaching profession is in no better position (perhaps worse?), with recruitment to the profession and retention within it a significant national challenge. I believe that pushing teaching as a craft and something you ‘train’ to do was a flawed model based upon desperation to get people into schools, move those who worked within schools into teaching positions and to fill vacancies that were standing empty. I reflected upon this in my original blog ‘We train dogs we must educate teachers’ 6 years ago, where I argued that a move in quite the opposite direction was required. I have never, however, argued for teacher education to return solely to Universities, nor have I put forward an argument against school centred teacher education. My argument was and remains two-fold: ‘firstly, that the term initial teacher education must replace the idea of training’ (Carden, 2013) and secondly, the requirement for a stronger, equal partnership between schools and Universities in the teacher education process from initial teacher education through into the early years of a teacher’s career.I still believe this to be true and resurrect my key argument below.

Effective teaching must be based on the ability of teachers to think critically. Teachers need, not only to reconstruct and copy others’ practice, as in an apprenticeship model, but must then be able to deconstruct, critique and reflect upon their practice. Teachers need to understand the reasons for their decisions, question their approaches and to critically evaluate the impact they are having on the learning. This reflective capacity is key to student and beginner teachers’ own learning (Tarrant, 2013) and builds agency, autonomy and resilience. These skills do not develop naturally; they need to be taught, reinforced by access to relevant literature and discussed. And this is where the use of the terms ‘training’ and ‘education’ are not merely a matter of semantics. Training suggests a practice and craft based model of teaching whereby teachers learn by being trained to perform specific actions and tasks. Education suggests, on the other hand, that teachers undergo a period of investigation, academic reading and exploration of theory in order to develop the skills and critical understanding required to become an effective teacher.

A teacher education experience affords student teachers the opportunity to explore ideas, philosophies and theories to support their own practice; a chance to understand their own pedagogy and practice and that of others. The time in school (a minimum of 120 days) is also vital to enable pedagogy and practice to develop but it is equally important to explore the evidence and research that underpin decisions, by asking why? and to have space to critically reflect. The balance of teaching and research engaged activity which I believe to be so important in developing the teacher often only lasts for the duration of their teacher education programme. I would argue that this engagement needs to extend into the NQT year and beyond, in order to ensure quality, research-informed teachers are having the best possible impact on children’s learning.

How can this short -term education process be extended?

Since writing my 2013 blog, I am delighted with the decision to develop an Early Career Framework (2019) (ECF) that ensures a minimum entitlement to research engaged professional development for those in their first and second years of teaching as well as additional (5%) release time for those in their second year of teaching. The focus of the ECF is on 5 core areas: behaviour management, pedagogy, curriculum, assessment and professional behaviours (DfE, 2019). This is currently being piloted for intended national roll out for those entering their NQT year in 2021.

The provision of the CPD associated with the ECF has been awarded by tender to groups, although schools can decide to offer their own CPD. Unfortunately, I feel there has been a missed opportunity here, to elongate the school and University partnership and afford those entering the profession a smooth transition and the best possible support. Would it not have been preferable to explore in greater depth ( and I am aware that some conversations did take place), an approach that would allow NQTs and NQTs +1 to remain in contact with their provider through accessing mentoring and development? A partnership between the school and University/provider akin to the ITE experience but in reverse whereby mentors could be provider-based, for example.

How will this link to ITE?

Now that the ECF has been established, an ‘ITT Core Content Framework’ has followed, aligning the minimum entitlement within ITE to the minimum entitlement of early career teachers. There is expected to be little change to the ITE curriculum for the majority of providers as most of the guidance will already be embedded within the programmes on offer but what may change is the emphasis on these areas, especially as Ofsted are building the new ITT inspection framework around the core content.

Concluding thoughts

So, 6 years on from my blog and nearing 10 years on from the initial White Paper (2010):

· the radical ideology of a school-led teacher training model has not emerged. In its place - a mixed economy, confusing landscape of provision - which I expect will stay with us for some time to come;

· An unsolved teacher recruitment and retention crisis, which remains a critical challenge;

· Teacher training rather than education has become the diet of the day - a damaging professional compromise.

There remains however, the potential for early career teachers to have the support and development they need as they enter into a highly pressurised profession. For success, this support and development must be research engaged and not simply a ‘watered down’ mechanistic and procedural process. Schools must consider how best to embed the ECF within their setting and commit to providing a robust and high-quality induction for those in the early years of the best ever profession.


Carden, C. (2013) We train dogs we must educate teachers Considered Blog Canterbury Christ Church University

DfE (2010): The Importance of Teaching: the schools white paper 2010.

DfE (2011): Training Our Next Generation of Outstanding Teachers: Implementation Plan.

DfE (2019) Early Career Framework

Gove, M. (2010): National College Annual Conference Speech. Birmingham: 16 June 2010. Available at:

House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts (2016) Training new teachers Available at:

Paton, G. (2011) Leadership shortage as schools struggle to recruit new Head teachers. The Telegraph 13 December 2011. Available at:

Schon, D. (1983): The Reflective Practitioner: how professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books

Tarrant, P. (2013): Reflective Practice and Professional Development. London: Sage.

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