Could do better

November 21, 2013

Susan Bassnett’s account of the inadequacies of universities’ contribution to initial teacher training provoked much debate among my teacher educator colleagues – mostly about which of her assertions were the most patronising and ill-informed (“Teaching turn-offs”, Opinion, 14 November). For me, her assumption that we have not considered canvassing the views of recent PGCE graduates about their training (together with her apparent belief that talking to two family members is a reliable sampling method) was a strong contender. For others, it was the fact that despite apparently listening to “hours of debate…about how to train teachers”, Bassnett has no idea about the realities of teacher education today.

Her claim that teacher training has “begun to move out of universities” is misleading: PGCEs have been delivered in partnership with schools for decades, and schools (and Ofsted) continue to be overwhelmingly positive about the quality of teachers emerging from these partnerships. As “school-led” reforms gather pace, there is every indication that schools value universities’ distinctive contribution even more. They clearly understand, as Bassnett appears not to, that preparing teachers for the complexity of the classroom involves both education and training, and that the best PGCEs are the result of strong university-school partnerships.

I feel sorry for the mathematician in Bassnett’s family who has left the profession, and believe that schools of education could play a more significant role in providing early career support for their PGCE graduates. However, I have opted to work constructively on this important matter with our school partners rather than carp from the sidelines.

Chris Wilkins
Director of teacher education
School of Education
University of Leicester


Dear Times Higher Education, please could I have a page in the magazine devoted to my analysis of comparative literature and translation studies? I read Susan Bassnett’s article on teacher education and I guess that she knows as little about that subject as I do about her discipline. However, I have read some books and compared them, so perhaps I’m overqualified. I promise to refer only to the views of friends or relatives, rather than to anything about which I have first-hand knowledge.

Julian Stern
Dean of education and theology
York St John University

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