ITE – just one picture.


When I was growing up we lived not far from a well thought of Teacher Training College at Caerleon in South Wales. I harboured no desire whatsoever to become a teacher and had little or no interest in what went on there. I assumed it was mainly to do with learning to write nicely on the board. I think I must have been ahead of my time in my “philosophy”  because as far as I could see there would be nothing else to learn if you wanted to be a teacher.  “Just Tell ‘Em” I believe it is now called. Teachers were clever people, they knew things. All they had to do was tell others about these things e.g. dates in history, maps in geography or explain how to do things e.g. sums. Just tell the children what to do and they will do it and they will enjoy doing it. I did.  Sometimes the teachers from school went on training days and this led to exciting things like curved stitching in maths and Jackdaw packs in history. Life was very straightforward. Sometimes we even had student teachers who were so clever that they could teach science as well as the recorder.

I taught English as a Foreign Language for a year in Dakar Senegal. I was untrained but had classes of motivated adults, desperate to learn English and we had some hilarious times. There was a textbook. We followed it. I was a native speaker of English and who cared about my abominable board work. They thought I said one day that Joan of Arc was burned as a steak! Lots of laughing. I tied myself in knots teaching phrasal verbs. To cut up, to cut down. Easy. To get on a bus. To get off a bus. Easy. To get on with someone. To get off with someone! More laughing. Language really is fascinating.

Fast forward to the IoE (UCL) early eighties and my wonderful MFL PGCE tutors. If only I had known all that they taught me when I was trying to teach EFL…the rest is history and enough of me.

So why, I have been asking myself for some time, has the term PGCE tutor seemingly been used almost as a term of abuse by some Tweeters and Bloggers?

I decided that we needed some positive memories of ITE. So I sent out a tweet.

“I would love to hear some memories of things people found inspiring and replicable on their PGCE courses. Apparently only bad things happen.”

Now I know that the way you phrase a question will to a large extent govern the replies. But I am not a researcher and neither are some much louder voices on Twitter who ask a loaded question, get the answers they like and then hope that these may influence government policy. I am unashamed in saying that I just wanted some good news to share – particularly with ITE tutors whatever phase they teach and in whatever structure; HE PGCE, SCITT, undergraduate level, Schools Direct, Schools Direct Salaried, GTP…all were free to comment. I thought I might, if lucky, get about 25 replies. I deliberately avoided asking the wonderful #MFLtwitterati coordinated by @joedale as I know lots of them and they know me so I thought this might seem a bit overloaded in favour of MFL.

Well…I received, and in rapid time, over 150 replies including on the main thread and by DM. Overwhelming. All positive and all so warm and many extremely tender in talking about the level of gratitude they owe to ITE tutors, school based mentors and to the schools who let them make mistakes. And many showing such respect for the children and young people who have supported them along the way in their desire to get better.

I am not attempting deep analysis or data processing. That is not my forte. Just feel good factor for me. Call me an intellectual lightweight but I leave the hard stuff to the experts.

ITE was only ever a part of my professional life and I stuck to what I know – primary and secondary languages. This is why I have, I think, a more detached view and at first did not realise that anyone was referring to me when they vilified PGCE tutors. Moi? What did and continues to strike to me is that ITE people spend so much more time than we would ever know out of hours in developing teachers – working with schools, counselling trainees, their own research, evenings spent counselling trainees and mentors by phone and email from home. Early morning coffees with struggling trainees, wobbly trainees, trainees supporting young families or with sick parents, trainees who have just lost their confidence a bit. And all the time maintaining a professional and adult relationship with those in their charge. As for the diplomacy involved – ITE tutors could offer training to the UN.

At the heart of it all is subject knowledge, phase expertise, knowledge of the deeper issues of education and society and in abundance humanity and emotional intelligence. And of course established, professional, open and supportive relationships between ITE institutions and schools.

Thank you to the following from me: David Harris, MFL lecturer, IoE (now UCL) Peter Saunders, MFL lecturer and wonderful colleague and partner in crime at Roehampton University. Sue Short – the  most decent and the most creative MFL person to work with at Roehampton University. Ali Messer, Head of Secondary PGCE at Roehampton University with whom I had many a run-in about structures but never about values and who so often brought me a coffee when I was looking grumpy, Marilyn Holness at Roehampton who despite being so senior and so clever was always up for a laugh. And finally Jane Jones MFL PGCE  at Kings College London – simply the best. There are many, many more…sorry to the anonymous. You are no less highly thought of.

And thank you to the marvellous @sdupp for putting in to one picture so many words

I cannot share all the replies but here are some. I could have used them all and have saved them all if anyone is interested. What is significant for me is that they do not focus solely on activities but on subject knowledge, underpinning principles of education, values and impact. Thank you everyone who contributed.  Read them all at once. Read them a few at a time. It’s up to you but above all just feel good. And sorry about the formatting in places but sometimes ok just has to be good enough. and I need to share this before it is old news.

So in no particular order…

My SCITT training SEND mentor was inspirational – he taught me that the best teaching comes from getting it wrong sometimes. Learn always.

B.Ed instilled imp of giving children voice. Morag Styles taught this through poetry -amazing lecturer & beautiful results using her methods.

If it weren’t for the PGCE, I’d be a really rubbish teacher. It wasn’t until I got my first job that I had to perform for tick lists.

Best thing about PGCE was having the space to reflect at uni with people who’d been through the exact same thing. I trained at Sunderland.

My first mentor was the best. Gave critique in a positive way from which you grow from and gave me so much that I use in my teaching

Mine was absolutely brilliant at Roehampton with Peter Saunders (2002) Focus on creative ideas, behaviour support…and so much more

My tutor the late Barry Canham was inspirational. Honed my skills thru a shared passion for Spanish/LatAm music. Good guitarist too!

Dad died during PGCE. Tutor Alison Taylor (hero) supported in dark days & even got me sharing my ‘lively learning’ ideas with 80 teachers!

Really enjoyed (after the fact) being left with a drama studio for a science lesson with one hour notice. Drama teacher & I thrashed out great lesson.

Went on residential with Y6 placement class. 1st time at the sea or sleep in a bed for some of the kids. Shaped every teaching encounter since.

I loved Sussex_ITE Such a range of support. Our History tutor/course Director utterly inspiring with content, style, humour, significance.  

I had the most amazing #music course from Rod Paton at West Sussex Institute of HE.

I did team teaching with an English PGCE who taught same class. So great to plan together and teach two X-curricular lessons.   PGCE secondary maths at Chichester. Fab experience. Learned that attitude is everything. Adrian Pinel great tutor. Helped with MA too.

The Rose and Crown, Knights Hill, next to our hostel, proud of successes, putting perceived failures into perspective.The start of lifelong CPD

It was a great privilege and helped crystalise the understanding of what I was teaching for. Educating for fairness ever since.
She (the mentor) never realised I was struggling as much as I was. She just kept being kind and firm and resolute. Exactly what I didn’t know I needed.
Team teaching with another student. Planning together and then observing the impact – brilliant learning experience.
I had a great PGCE year at Newcastle University in the late 80s. David Westgate was the MFL tutor, he was excellent. Good placements too, with some amazing teachers. Owe them so much.
Mine was great, learned loads about delivering English knowledge and skills, great placements too. 2007/8
I loved being able to discuss lessons with a wide variety of fellow trainees all at different schools with diff experience
Visit to Linden Lodge school. Inspiring. (Linden Lodge is a school for visually impaired pupils 2 – 19 in Wandsworth)
Lots of facilitated discussion – and sometimes friendly disagreement! – amongst the cohort. Forced me to sharpen my sense of purpose
It’s where I met my wife so they’re not all bad!

Great mentoring and inspiration 2. At time great thinking and practice 3. Fieldwork research to Conwy and battlefields

We did a whoosh (performance) of The Tempest as a class seeing what active learning strategies could do for kids studying shakespeare

Having my ideas/resources taken seriously as well as giving some brilliant advice and ideas. Nothing was ever off limits.

I had heard so many horror stories about PGCEs before applying. I’m still grateful to this day that I listened to the positive!

It inspired me to become an SEN teacher! Without that freedom to explore my interests I might not have done it.
The opportunity to deliver CPD to whole staff cohort whilst on my second placement. One of the most daunting, yet valuable things I’ve done. Great experience that has helped me enormously in my albeit short teaching career so far
Loved my BEd at Nottingham Trent.. Inspired me and gave me my ed philosophy…

My tutor Patrick McCormack, quietly instructive and supportive. Museums and Galleries as a resource in education specialism. Fabulous year.

Taught in quite a challenging school in my first placement. Was dreading it. Turned out to the making of me

Mine was great. Geoff Hayward made me think: challenged loads of preconceptions about science ed & education generally

I had a wonderful time . Brilliant tutors (inc Andy Hudson – where is he now?) and schools that broadened my mind and experience.

An induction into the pure and unadulterated love for physics education. There are too many things to name but I’m a better teacher …because I have what feels like the continuing  support of the camp pgce. People like Mark, James and showed me different facets of what is a good person and teacher.

Great mentoring from Ros Ashby, Adrian Berger and Stuart Foster at .

Primary PGCE at Goldsmiths 10 years ago was so creative, lots of practical knowledge and support, and rigorous testing of our literacy and numeracy skills.

Inspirational teachers, great ideas, confidence boosters, critical thinkers, reflective practitioners, cheerleaders for one another, still great friends!

The importance of underpinning my teaching with theory. Thanks !
Have to say I’m grateful for mine. Exposure to bold intellects and outstanding classroom practitioners. Gave me the confidence to teach…

Would love to describe the occasional inanity that there was for you, but that would be cheap.

My tutor was the wonderful Barry Jones at Homerton who made every lesson magic, also Ann Swarbrick came and did great sessions

I loved my PGCE. I enjoyed the reading esp & we were expected to undertake quality research. Met lovely people & no daft tasks at all.

Was challenging/hard work. Big emphasis on subject knowledge & addressing gaps. Broadened my reading & knowledge of lit from other cultures.

Having my creativity encouraged. When will I get the time to do a 5-lesson medieval French l literature project with SEN year 7s again? It inspired me to become an SEN teacher! Without that freedom to explore my interests I might not have done it.

Learning is not linear & differentiation includes ensuring the students

I really enjoyed mine – having the space to try risks/ideas I’d seen on Twitter & felt supported by every1, even in a non-specialist dept.

At IOE early 80s. Gave me a confident voice, taught me to analyse effectiveness and a placement at the BM! It was the best start possible.

Visiting places of worship for different faiths in London as part of our enrichment half term brilliant experience. Fab at Chester 2004

Being able to spend time understanding pedagogy behind teaching was also inspiring. Thinking about how to help students learn effectively. 

Inspired by Jenny Henderson at Sheffield Uni 91/92. -1st observation feedback “I saw you set your jaw and knew you could do it”. Still counts

My PGCE was eons ago but it was a great year! Ian Gathercole & Elis Lazarus were fab tutors

My PGCE was one of the best educational experiences of my life


One thought on “ITE – just one picture.

  1. Good to read this, Carmel! I managed to miss the discussion but would just like to say that my PGCE at Edge Hill (then a College, now a University) was a positive experience & much of what I learnt I still remember and applied throughout my 30 year teaching career. So thanks to them, retrospectively!

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