Our host organisation for this meeting was the Tübingen Seminar for Education and Training of Teachers where future grammar school (gymnasium) teachers are prepared for their job after their university studies, and prior to becoming fully qualified teachers. The strength of sunshine and heat outside was matched by the intensity of the dialogue which emerged during the two days, during which we were kept cool by the blinds and shutters of the Seminar building and the air conditioning tower that also acted like the ubiquitous office water cooler as a hub for conversations. There was also a chance to take a lunchtime picnic onto a punting boat on the River Neckar which provided both a perfect view of the old town and a chance to continue our conversations.
Leeds Beckett University is the lead organisation for this European partnership project and our partners are from The Netherlands, Germany, Slovenia, England, Scotland and Hungary. At the end of year 1 it was fascinating to hear about the progress being made in each country and the plans for the next two years of the project. The programme of work will mean that in each country novel approaches to teacher development, which focus on supporting teachers to work positively in response to the challenges and opportunities created by our diverse societies, are designed and trialled. In Leeds our work will allow school-based practitioners to engage in a short sequence of CPD sessions to consider how their underlying values, attitudes and beliefs that influence professional decision making. There will be two CPD pathways, one based on theatre-based work (led by Tom Dobson and Lisa Stephenson) and one based on learning through dilemma based professional conversations (led by Mhairi Beaton and Rachel Lofthouse). The schools which we work in will be representative of the diversity of schools in the region and include primary, secondary and alternative provision.
Between the partners there is a focus on teachers and other key practitioners working with children and young people in schools at all career stages, including those in initial teacher education. There is an acknowledgement that professional dilemmas emerge throughout the career-span of teachers and in their multiple roles. The strength of the Erasmus project is that the new Leeds Beckett CPD programme will be shared with European partners, and theirs with us. The partners will host learning events throughout the three-year programmes and these alongside the final project conference, website and book will allow the ideas and practices to be accumulated and made available to a wide practitioner and policy-maker audience.
To draw this short blog to a close it feels important to reflect on the wider policy context. In the UK there is no doubt that teachers and school leaders are experiencing challenges in supporting learning which is inclusive and responsive to dynamic and diverse communities and societal expectations. Austerity based policies have led to tensions in creating sustainable provision for all, teachers’ workload continues to rise and there is a significant churn in the teaching population. Many of these issues are common across Europe, and while each of our partner countries has its own unique combination of policy and practice contexts there is much to be learned from each other in terms of how we can continue to support the professional learning of teachers. As our future in Europe remains in the balance we remain committed to European partnerships and convinced of their value.