An Invitation: help write a new curriculum for teacher training

So this is something a bit different for me. I’ve decided to see just how far I can mobilise teachers online to work together on a project. In part this follows the Carter Review which placed a strong emphasis on teacher knowledge. There is currently a wide variety of routes into teaching, and, increasingly, training is being provided at a relatively small scale by organisations that might have limited access to curriculum materials for teacher education. I would like to see how far a community of teachers (the term broadly defined) might go in creating a curriculum for teacher education that might be of help to such organisations. I am hoping, too, that we might be able to begin a bit more of a debate about what exactly it is that we expect teachers to know.

I am using this post, therefore, to introduce the project. I have only vague ideas at the moment regarding how this might develop and it might come to nothing, but then again it might result in something! Please do email me ( or contact me via Twitter (@mfordhamhistory) if you would like to be involved on some level.


This project aims to get a variety of people involved in producing a freely-available, open-access curriculum for teacher education. It might also involve producing some resources for this curriculum. An additional aim is to spur some debate about what teachers ought to know.

Defining the Problem

The problem as I see it is as follows:

(1) There are a wide variety of routes into teaching in England and this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

(2) There is currently no agreed curriculum for initial teacher education and the variation between courses providers is generally seen as a weakness rather than a strength of the system.

(3) The Government has tended to be interested only in setting out ‘competence’ criteria for the teaching profession. As a profession, teachers need more than a skills-based curriculum based on competences.

What can you volunteer to do?

(a) Contribute to the overall framework and design of the curriculum

(b) Write a particular section of the curriculum

(c) Prepare reading lists

(d) Review materials and critique them

(e) Test-run curriculum materials in your school / programme

 Project Stage 1 – Produce a curriculum framework

This framework will need to set out the key knowledge areas that teachers need to develop through their training. This is likely to involve generic and subject-specific sections. The precise framework used is to be discussed, but I am keen to keep this simple – a starting point for people to adapt, rather than a finished product.

 Project Stage 2 – Produce curriculum materials

The precise form the curriculum takes is up for negotiation (I have some ideas ready to be critiqued…) but I want to think in terms of the knowledge we expect trainee teachers to have and to develop. I am not interested in creating a set of competences – we already have one in QTS. I am thinking that a curriculum for ITT/E will set out broad knowledge areas and then provide specific details in each of these areas, along with (at the very least) annotated reading lists.

Project Stage 3 – Produce resources to accompany curriculum

It may be possible to get some resources created for the curriculum. I am thinking here particularly of those doing things like schools direct where they may not be quality resources available for schools to use.

Project Stage 4 – Trialling the curriculum

This would be well in the future, but I would be very keen to hear from anyone who runs a ITT/E programme who would be interested in trialling a curriculum model.


The aim will be to have a curriculum ready to go by the end of the summer holidays, preferable with something available for the 2015-2016/7 cohort at the start of the summer holiday.

Other blog posts

I’ve written quite a bit about teacher education on this blog. See the following posts:

Developing trainee teacher knowledge: the Cambridge History PGCE model

What does an expert teacher need to know?

Teaching and subject expertise: let’s not fall for genericism again

90% of teacher training should be subject-specific

Subject knowledge and ITT

What does a teacher need to know?

Universities may be the problem, but they might well be the solution



4 Comments on An Invitation: help write a new curriculum for teacher training

  1. Interesting initiative! Are you mainly interest in the English curriculum, or would you also be interested to implement this curriculum on a European level?

  2. Ian Phillips // 6 February 2015 at 00:32 // Reply

    An interesting idea but might curriculum be too prescriptive a concept. Just wondering if we might be witnessing a generational divide as the number of teachers who remember the days (but not the good old days) before the security blanket of the National Curriculum.
    I can see some advantages of recognised and agreed standards with the Balkanisation of Teacher Education and the very real risks of a system where subject specificity is downgraded the the expense of generic teaching tips. If proposals for national mentor standards do materialise this would be welcome but I worry about its policing and enforcing.
    It might be worthwhile reflecting upon the difference between a series of agreed standards and an agreed, or a statutory, or a regulated Teacher Education Curriculum. My worry is that a curriculum implies agreed content but could also mean an agreed or preferred means of delivery. As a former History PGCE course leader I recognised that there are common and identifiable stages of teacher development, that their individual and group conceptual understandings develop in quite particular ways and that each cohort developed a very different and distinctive identity. A fixed or defined curriculum might therefore not serve the needs of beginning teachers well. Equally part of my professional role was to review and develop the programme each year, this resulted sometimes in minor modifications to the content and direction of taught sessions, always it took account of new ‘knowledge’ usually from having time to incorporate ideas from Teaching History or the SHP conference. I like to think that the History PGCE was dynamic and ever changing – and my experience as an external examiner showed that there was always on-going professional dialogue and reflection. It could well be unintended consequences but might a curriculum actually stifle innovation and creativity.
    The alternative: a series of standards or competences (anyone from ITT circa the early 1990s might remember the latter) might work but the problem with Standards is that they represent the worst of current Teacher Education practice, particularly where they are used in a rigid, formulaic manner.
    Rather than a prescribed curriculum could we perhaps think about what we might want a history teacher to look like; this might then allow or enable the Teacher Education Community to devise the most appropriate or suitable road map to help beginning teachers to develop their own confident professional identity and become the best teacher possible.

  3. Interesting and inspiring – interesting as this raises again the ideas and values of there being a professional ‘core’ to teaching which unites us as a body; inspiring as it will inevitable lead to all sorts of discussions (arguments?) about what MUST be in that core. My questions are as follows:
    Are you thinking about all teachers from all key stages? So, is there an absolute core that needs to be shared by teachers of early years right through to FE? But then, aren’t there also ‘musts’ that teachers of particular age groups need to know?
    Does your notion of a curriculum include knowing ‘how to’ as well as ‘knowing that’? And given that this more open to debate, would you focus on a selected few proponents of teaching methodologies? And where do you see use of ‘research’/’evidence’ in this?
    Once they have this core knowledge, what do they do with it? And how will they be judged in terms of their competence as a teacher? Do you envisage a practical element to this core – or is it enough to demonstrate the acquisition of this knowledge on paper?
    As a project, even as a broad discussion, post Carter review, I think this is a very worthy venture. I’d like to be involved.

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