What is a School of Education for?
So what is the point of a School of Education? There are those that position themselves first and foremost as providers of teacher training, but we believe we should be about more than this.
Every so often in the education press, you’ll come across an article asking what the point is of Business Schools, often in pejorative terms like this one. Authors often point out that business is best taught by those in business, that academics are too removed from the sector and that all they do is produce corporate clones. While these are fairly common about Schools of Business, few people ask about the purpose of a university School of Education.
So what is the point of a School of Education? There are those that position themselves first and foremost as providers of teacher training, but we believe we should be about more than this. Don’t get me wrong, teacher training is important and it’s something we do really well at Leeds Beckett, as part of a partnership with schools who are extremely skilled in developing outstanding teachers. But we have to be about more than this otherwise we’re just a passive part of an education system that fails too many children.
A School of Education shouldn’t just accept every change to policy; it shouldn’t jump on every bandwagon in an attempt to remain relevant and court favour; it shouldn’t pander to those who are comfortable with the disproportionate failure of children of colour, those with disabilities, those who are LGBTQ+ or those will mental health difficulties. A School of Education should not produce professionals who are unable to apply a critical lens to the education system nor should it align itself with any association or institution that does not place diversity and inclusion at the heart of its practice.
A School of Education should be doing the difficult work of challenging inequality in education and that work should run through everything: the curriculum, the pedagogy, the research and the leadership. It should work with schools and teachers as full partners and research with rather than research on. It should enable teachers and other colleagues in the sector to co-create knowledge and practice, and it should be comfortable with teachers and senior leaders challenging our thinking and our ideologies as much as we should challenge theirs. A School of Education should be involved in the messiness of learning, the politics of the sector, the inherent contradictions, oppositions and conflict because this is the context that determines the life chances of children. If a School of Education cannot do all of this, then something is dreadfully wrong.
Professor Damien Page is Dean of The Carnegie School of Education. He began his career as a lecturer of English in further education and he was also a manager in a number of subject areas including humanities, finance and construction.