Initial teacher education within both the compulsory and post compulsory sector is heavily reliant on the expertise, experience and subject specific knowledge that can be shared by experienced teachers, trainers and practitioners.
As teacher educators the value of support, advice and guidance of those already working in an ever changing learning landscape is invaluable to us when encouraging our trainees to become current, reflective and research focused professionals.
It has always been somewhat of an anomaly to me, however, that the support for mentors in the PCET sector appears lacking in comparison to that of early years, primary and secondary settings.
Increasingly, workloads of PCET colleagues continues to grow and, while some forms of CPD are given precedence, the benefits of mentoring a colleague or student are overlooked.
The potential to enhance your own practice by becoming a mentor is wide ranging, developmental and rewarding.
Often, however, mentors are ill supported by organisations to undertake such a worthwhile role, meaning that securing a mentor becomes more of an inconvenience than fostering a professional relationship.
Since the Education and Training Foundation introduced the Professional Standards (2014) and the Society for Education and Training was formed, there has been another call for professionals to join a community that focuses on up- skilling the post compulsory arena, including mentoring new or inexperienced teachers.
The idea of this kind of collaborative forum for our sector is, essentially, a sound one however, since deregulation, I ask the question whether there truly is a feeling amongst those working in the sector that these extra activities are simply a drain on their resources, time away from achieving targets and, indeed, more of a workplace headache than an opportunity.
For those training to teach in compulsory education there appears to be a far more rigid, supportive and formalised mentoring system. This seems to continue to be a luxury not afforded to post compulsory organisations.
Why? Our sector is, in my opinion, ever the poorer relation with less budgets, lower pay and equally high targets – especially since the Leitch Review (2006) and the ever growing workplace learning agenda under the current government, where vocational learning, apprenticeships and ‘on the job training’ are, arguably, a route to advancing the UK’s position in the global economy.
With PCET and FE continuing to be considered the ‘last chance saloon’ for those who feel they were failed by the compulsory system, a place for students of all ages to engage in education at all levels of teaching and learning, now spanning from functional skills to foundation degrees, are we not now in a position to invest in the future of the sector by investing in those who invest in their students?