Partnership, Policy and Politics: Initial Teacher Education in England under New Labour

Aug. 28, 2008

Source: Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, Volume 14, Issue 4, August 2008 , pages 307 - 318
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Over the last 15 years, initial teacher education in England has been established as a national system, closely controlled by the government. One of the consequences of this move is that teacher education is now intimately bound up with changing national politics and policy priorities which reach down into the finest of detail of provision. In this article, the authors focus on the way in which politics and policy have impacted on one of the defining features of teacher education provision in England - that of 'partnership'. In particular the authors examine the way in which the concept and practice of partnership has been transformed in line with New Labour's 'Third Way' politics. In order to do this, the authors reflect on their recent evaluation of the National Partnership Project (NPP). This is an initiative established by the Training and Development Agency for Schools to increase the quality and quantity of schools' involvement in initial teacher education.

In conclusion, the authors ask what the contribution of the NPP was to the development of They assume that the NPP increase the quality and certainly commitment of large numbers of schools and teachers to contribute to the training process. The rapidly increasing numbers of trainees in the system in the early and mid-2000s were accommodated, with no apparent reduction in the quality of the training provided; NPP must have had some contribution to this achievement, but in their evaluation they found that hard to quantify.

At the same time, it is also important to recognize that, for all of its achievements, initial teacher education in England, at least in terms of its formal requirements, is now almost entirely practically oriented. The essential contributions of higher education to professional formation - the consideration of research, of theory and of critique - all of these have been expunged as important components of professional education. While they may and do exist in some university-based courses, they are no longer seen as essential and growing numbers of trainees now enter the profession with no engagement with these more complex and challenging forms of professional knowledge at all. The NPP did not, nor was intended to, address these issues. Indeed, by helping to redefine partnership as a concept of governance rather than as a concept of professional education, whatever its other benefits the NPP served further to simplify the complexities involved in the professional education of teachers.

Updated: Feb. 12, 2009