Why students still choose university-led routes into teaching


At the annual conference of the Universities’ Council for the Education Teachers (UCET), held in Leeds recently, Ed Podesta, Associate Professor in Professional Practice from the School of Education at Leeds Trinity University, and I presented a well-received seminar on the key findings from our research named Why Students Still Choose University Led Routes into Teaching.

We have both been active members of UCET since 2019, when we began contributing to the work streams during the ITT Education Market Review by the Department for Education (DfE).

Here at Leeds Trinity University, we are part of a team with a reputation for providing exceptional initial teacher education (ITE). In recent years, we have become a leading regional provider of high-quality professional learning and development for qualified teachers at all stages of their careers. At the heart of everything we do, as teachers and educators, is a commitment to social justice, and the impact of our work can be seen in classrooms, senior leadership teams and Multi-Academy Trusts regionally and nationally.

However, recent reforms, including reducing the number of providers operating within the teacher education field, have increased the uncertainty felt by those thinking about entering the profession. This has resulted in a national teacher recruitment and retention crisis (Whittaker, 2023). This year, only half the number of secondary trainee teachers required by the government started training courses in the UK (Weale, 2023).

In response, colleagues from the School of Education at Leeds Trinity, in collaboration with our school partners, have been working hard to reform our programmes in line with renewed requirements. Despite the challenges, enthusiastic and motivated people choose to apply for university-led teacher education programmes at Leeds Trinity every year and we want to ensure that continues. Therefore, we decided to find out why our students chose university-led teacher education, and designed research to discover the factors that motivated our trainees.

Our findings revealed how students had been motivated to choose Leeds Trinity once they had met the academic tutors themselves, recognising the value of the subject specialism held amongst the team and the wealth of knowledge they had for teacher education.

The research revealed that university-led routes were highly commended and recommended by our students and alumni because of the established reputation for academic integrity. Many of our academic team work collegiately on knowledge exchange and research projects with other academics and teacher experts in the region.

One important finding from the research so far is that students’ experience of university programmes did not reflect the stereotype of theory without practical insight or application. Participants found the teaching experience and expert subject-teaching knowledge of tutors to be engaging and valuable in their teaching-practice in school.

We’ll be taking this research beyond Leeds Trinity and working with partner academics in other universities to see if the results are replicated. Long term, the aim is to illuminate the issues raised nationally and continue to champion the cause for high quality ITT and Teacher Education designed, developed and delivered using the expertise held across the Higher Education Industry.

Megan Stephenson is an Associate Professor in Professional Practice from the School of Education at Leeds Trinity University.

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