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The Initial Teacher Education Environment in a COVID-19 World- Hope is at Hand

Published: Dec 8, 2020 5 min read

STEM learning

The closure of schools and society with the lockdown in March impacted Initial Teacher Education( ITE) in several ways.

One of which was all ITE training went online. Most trainees, unless they were already working as a training teacher on school-based routes, like many teachers, were left to work from home. 

The ability to access training courses via the STEM Science Learning Partnerships (SLPs) and National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) Computer Hubs was well received. Our Lower Key stage 2 and early years training, as well as the bespoke sessions that were run, were attended by student teachers as well as qualified teachers.

At the start of lockdown, there was a hope that this changed society would be a couple of months and then we would go back to normal. It is now clear that the new normal is not going to be like the old normal.   ITE students were positive in their evaluation of the courses they attended suggesting:

“It provided great insight into new ways of learning and investigating. It was fantastic to share ideas with other course attendees. It has made me think of different ways to incorporate Science into everyday classwork and have specific focus at the same time” - Teaching EYFS Science

“Gaining insight to online resources which could be used to engage students and facilitate online learning” - Teaching Forces at GCSE

“All the practical ideas were great and I will certainly be using them in the classroom as soon as I can! It was great to share ideas using the shared resource area too. I will most certainly be using Explorify as a resource within the classroom too” (Teaching Lower KS2 Science).

A second change was the weekly celebration of the NHS with the resulting new term of key workers, raised the profile of teachers as the key workers, and the numbers of applicants applying to become teachers (and nurses) rose. The influx of postgraduates into teaching does seem to correlate to times when the other graduate roles are threatened, but this time I believe there was a rise in the profile of the role of the teaching profession which also played a part.

These new ITE students have entered training at a time of challenge, where practical science can now only be taught to groups a third of the size of the old normal. The equipment they use must be individually provided and cleaned afterwards and spacing and distance requirements have required new approaches from the shared group practical tasks of the past. 

Online training is the norm for 80% of the Initial teacher trainees’ time and my teaching colleagues are being creative and innovative. As they know what the students need to learn they are adapting their methods to ensure this is still achieved. However, each face to face practical session now must be repeated three times and the overall numbers are larger than they have worked with for the past few years. This means there is less time for lecturing staff. 

These students will be placed within a school in November however, twenty per cent of secondary schools and 14% of primary schools in the Kent and Medway region have had young people sent home because of COVID since September. This is a number that is increasing weekly and again challenges the training opportunities of next year’s NQTs.

So what can we do to help? We are working together with the local SLPs across the South East to provide additional sessions for student teachers. There has been planning with local higher education institutes and School-based training providers to find out what cannot be delivered in the new normal and filling these courses aim to fill these gaps. These ITE students will have their classes next year and will hopefully become part of our larger network of SLP teachers. 

This initiative is subsidized through the STEM Learning Innovation Fund, providing supported places for ITE students. This is another support mechanism for ITE students that we hope will help to ensure these new key workers will feel valued and supported as they try new approaches with young people in their first teaching placements and beyond.

The SLPs are funded through DFE and managed by STEM Learning, the UK’s leading provider of education, careers and enrichment support in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), reaching into every secondary school and post-16 institution, and over 80% of primary schools. We support over 170,000 teachers, benefiting more than two million young people every year.  We are therefore ideally placed to support trainee teachers prepare for the classroom and then provide ongoing support to them throughout their careers. 

We are here to support teachers and technicians at all stages of their careers and can help you with a package of extensive, high impact science CPD tailored support. A section of our website has been created to support both trainee teachers and for ITE providers, with information that is particularly relevant to those undertaking and delivering initial teacher training.
The core components of the web page include:

  • Practical work videos with model risk assessments including core practicals and techniques
  • Shared links to appropriate external resources (such as CLEAPSS TV)
  • Classroom footage (to be used by ITE providers in their teaching- or as a reference)
  • Link to supporting the teaching standards for both primary and secondary 
  • Core resources for teaching with links to selected landing pages
  • Links to the “Early Career Pathway” for primary and secondary teachers


Dr Hellen Ward, SLP Kent and Medway
Dr Ajay Sharman, Regional Network Lead, South East