The “New” Teacher Education Environment in England: Opportunities, Challenges and Implications

Schools and university partnerships and school-based only frameworks characterize the present teacher education and training environment in England. This new tapestry presents opportunities and challenges for those pursuing training in teaching and has implications for University Teacher Education Professional Tutors saddled with the task of guiding participants.

Opportunities for participants

There are a number of opportunities afforded to participants in this new teacher education and training environment. For example, they can work towards a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) (Qualified Teacher Status) and a Master’s degree and study teaching in their preferred specialization (Secondary) or at a preferred level (Early Year Studies, Primary or Secondary). This new environment also affords participants the opportunity to: contribute to the ‘move’ to improve the education of young people from less privileged background; engage in research in education, more specific urban education; participate in university training which develops skills and knowledge in key teaching components for example curriculum development, education theory and practice and classroom management; spend time in school taking on real responsibilities from ‘day one’; attend summer sessions which enables the building of a network of like-minded people; develop skills of reflection-on-practice, portfolio development and reflective journaling techniques; develop transferable skills thus facilitating transitions from teaching to other careers; develop academic writing skills via assignments at PGCE and Master’s level and being paid during training along with the potential for additional financial support to off-set cost for travel to specific training sessions.

Challenges for participants

Given the new teacher education and training environment challenges for participants may include (but not limited to): demotivated students in regular schools and the need to raise their aspiration; students’ disruptive behaviours and addressing these; balancing various demands: administrative and other responsibilities (lunch and yard duty, meetings, detention and monitoring students during or after school, special parent meeting and reporting evenings); completing university and partners’ requirements; researching and writing at PGCE and Master’s level; interpersonal relational issues (mentor/trainees relationship) and deciding whether to address students’ non-learning needs.

Given these opportunities and challenges, ‘What are the implications for the University teacher education professional tutor saddled with the task of seeing the participants through to a successful completion?’

At the philosophical level, the university teacher education professional tutor needs to be clear about the mission, goals and policies of the programme and partnership existing between the university and schools allowing these to guide thoughts and actions.

At the ‘grass root’ level, the tutor should have current experience working in challenging learning environments to fully empathize with participants placed in such situations. It would be a ‘bonus’ if she or he had the experience of being, or working with the ‘student type’ represented in such challenging schools and is able to bring an ‘insiders’ perspective to bear on advice given to participants under her or his care. Being armed with experience and knowledge in reflective practice to effectively aid participants in this now integral area of teachers’ professional development and supporting researching in education and academic writing at master’s level and above is also critical.

The tutor should be familiar with appropriate strategies for addressing school students’ disruptive behaviours thus becoming an additional source of information for participants and how to motivate school students who have become demotivated.

The tutor is also required to give advice to participants on balancing various demands for example: prioritising workload; keeping a diary and saying ‘No’ to some school committee or steering group; give guidance on the issue of addressing students’ non learning-needs and use skills required to mediate between participants and school-based mentor when there has been a break down in professional relations.

UK Falls Behind in Further Education League

As the world becomes economically smaller and smaller, the world job and trade markets are becoming more and more competitive. In this type of market, it is imperative for a country to have a superb school system in order to produce competitive workers for the top fields.

England Steps Down

In recent years, England has stepped down in educational rankings when compared to other countries around the world. South Korea and Finland scored in the top positions for writing ability whereas Taiwan and Finland achieved the highest scores in maths.

Were do these numbers come from?

The figures that back this information up come from the International Student Assessment, (otherwise known as Pisa) performance tables. These tables are based on tests that are taken by children fifteen years of age. They are aimed at assessing their ability to apply their school gained knowledge to real world situations. These tests are performed every three years. Pisa ratings are based on tests that are given to 400,000 students within 57 countries. These tests are an attempt to measure the attainment of different students within different educational systems.

How is England’s progress?

In the latest report, the UK’s performance has declined in reading and in maths compared to other international competitors. The UK is the only group to have placed in the top performing group of the year 2000, to have slipped down into the lower group. The UK has also lost ground in the area of sciences.

In the year 2000, the UK placed eighth in maths and seventh in reading. From there they have slipped down to 24th place in maths and into seventeenth place in reading, Finland, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and Korea, the other countries that rounded out the upper group and are still placed within that group.

Passed By

The UK was passed up by Slovenia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Austria in the area of maths. The UK is still declining in science and reading skills also. A reading performance test was given to ten year old children in England and it was found that they had fallen from third place all the way down to nineteenth place according to the ‘Progress in International Reading Literacy Study’.

Urgent Need

The UK government has recognized the issues facing them with declining marks in an ever increasingly competitive world. Great efforts are being put together in order to intervene where students may be struggling. The ‘Every Child Counts’ program promises personalized learning so that no student falls behind. Schools are still concerned, they complain that every year the government boasts about improvements it is making to the educational system, yet every year the country falls further behind.

Student Group Travel To Boston: Performance Trips That Are Educational!

If you are looking for a great performance destination with a historical twist, then Boston is an ideal choice for your student group trip. Bands, choruses, orchestras and dance ensembles have fantastic performance options from which to choose, where audiences are in abundance. Plus, your students will gain a real and vivid life education of the history of America and where it began. Known to many as the birthplace of the United States, Boston is one of America’s oldest cities steeped in history beginning with the Puritans who, in 1630, founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony to the Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution. Known as the “Walking City,” student groups will have fun learning about American history in Boston. This vibrant, thriving city is renowned for its world-class museums, historical sites, monuments, educational institutions, delicious food, signature shopping, fantastic entertainment and professional sports. Boston not only retells the powerful stories of our nation’s past, but is willing to accommodate and entertain student groups as few other cities can. Student group travel to Boston is educational, both musically and historically!

Performance Opportunities in Boston

Three of the most popular performance sites in Boston include the Boston Conservatory, Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market and Six Flags® New England.

The Boston Conservatory, the oldest performing arts conservatory in the nation, offers student performance groups an award-winning theater that is newly renovated. The Conservatory just recently completed a $32 million, 16-month-long renovation and expansion project that effectively adds 16,000 new square feet of rehearsal and performance space to the building, as well as a completely renovated, state-of-the-art 300-seat theater with new orchestra pit, air conditioning and a host of technical upgrades and accoutrements. Conductors are constantly raving about the incredible acoustics within this theater.

At Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market, there are numerous locations for your school band, orchestra, choir or dance ensemble to perform in the most historic location in Boston. Your ensemble can perform outdoors where thousands of people shop and dine each day, giving you a large audience. Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market is one of the most visited historical attractions in Boston.

Just an hour and a half outside of Boston is Six Flags® New England. Like all Six Flags®, this theme park is exciting and has some of the fastest, tallest, wildest, gut-wrenching rides in the country including rollercoasters like Batman – The Dark Night, Bizarro, voted the #2 steel rollercoaster in the country, and the Cyclone, one of the largest wooden rollercoasters in the U.S. New to Six Flags® New England this year is Goliath, a heart-pounding roller coaster. With over 40 exciting amusement rides, an exhilarating water park and fantastic entertainment, Six Flags® New England will surely provide thrills and exciting times your student group will always remember. Six Flags® New England provides marching bands, concert bands, jazz bands, choirs, orchestras and dance ensembles an opportunity to perform in front of thousands of spectators at various sites throughout the park as well.

Historical Sites in Boston

The historical aspects of Boston are fascinating. Boston is both an indoor and outdoor museum of history and architecture. As part of your itinerary, you and your student group should include the Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail is 2.5 mile walking tour through Boston that takes groups around 16 significant historical sites including:

U.S.S. Constitution
Bunker Hill Monument
Copp’s Hill Burial Ground
Old North Church
Paul Revere House
Faneuil Hall
Boston Massacre Site
Old State House
Old South Meeting House
Former Site of the Old Corner Bookstore
First Public School Site and Ben Franklin Statue
King’s Chapel and Burying Ground
Granary Burying Ground
Park Street Church
Massachusetts State House
Boston Commons

Guided tours are available for student groups. However, the Freedom Trail is well-marked and can be self-guided. To obtain guides for your group, The Freedom Trail Foundation offers maps and other resources for educators at http://www.thefreedomtrail.org.

Opening Soon: Scheduled to open June 25 in Boston is the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. Most of the museum will be located on a barge anchored next to the museum pier on the Fort Point Channel. In addition to state-of-the-art technology, the museum will have actors dressed in period clothing and the original Robinson Tea Chest that was thrown into the Boston Harbor on Dec. 16, 1773. Students will have the opportunity to throw a tea chest over the sides of the Beaver, Eleanor and Dartmouth, replicas of the original ships involved in the Boston Tea Party.

Other Historical Sites in the Boston Area

Don’t forget to include historical sites around Boston including Lexington and Concord, where the great patriot Paul Revere is best remembered for his ride through the countryside warning the Minute Men that “The British are Coming!” Lexington and Concord are also known as the first sites of battle in the American Revolution as well as the site of the Old North Bridge where the American militia defeated the British soon after the “shot heard ’round the world” was fired.

Just north of Boston is Salem, a town known for the Salem Witch Trials, one of the darkest episodes in American History. Salem is a fascinating town that features The Salem Witch Museum which takes students back to Salem in 1692. The museum offers a dramatic history of the Witch Trials and witchcraft, bringing the past into a present day perspective. In addition to the museum, a tour of the House of the Seven Gables, complete with a hidden staircase and history of Nathaniel Hawthorn, will inspire students’ imaginations.

Lastly, a trip to Boston wouldn’t be complete without a short jaunt south along the coast to Plymouth. Here students can view Plymouth Rock where the Pilgrims first landed in 1620, experience the Mayflower II, and visit the living outdoor history museum, Plimoth Plantation. Known as the site of the first colony, Plimoth plantation recreates life in a Wampanoag Indian village and a 1627 English settlement and how they co-habitated. Students will gain a fantastic education of Native American and Colonial history.

Overall, Boston provides performance groups with fantastic performance options and a historical education about the American Revolution. In addition and not even mentioned in this article are other fantastic attractions like the New England Aquarium, the Museum of Science and whale watching excursions. Unlike any other city, Boston provides student groups with unlimited attractions, museums, historical sites, monuments and performance sites. As one can see, Boston has it all!