Making History Teachers: the Role of Teacher Training and Teacher Education

Written by:
Sundeep Lidher, Rashida Bibi and Claire Alexander
Read time:
25 minutes

Making History Teachers

Making History Teachers, a briefing from the University of Manchester’s Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE) and the Runnymede Trust, centres the importance of teacher training and Initial Teaching Education (ITE) in developing a more diverse and inclusive curriculum and pedagogic practice.

Recent years have seen increasing calls to make schools across the UK more inclusive for students from minority ethnic backgrounds. Disproportionate school exclusions, low levels of Black and minority ethnic teachers, particularly at senior levels, and tensions regarding policing in schools are all at the forefront of these discussions. Calls to expand the curriculum, particularly the History curriculum, have been core to national debate for decades, and particularly since 2020,  with teachers and students expressing dissatisfaction with what is currently being taught in British classrooms. 

While this debate has mainly focused on the ‘what’ of the history curriculum, there has been less discussion of the ‘how’, particularly how a more inclusive curriculum can be delivered in the classroom, and by whom. While barriers for teachers in delivering more inclusive history curricula have long been recognised, there has been little focus on the crucial role of teacher educators and teacher training in this trajectory toward a more inclusive education system which works for all. 

Making History Teachers shows how Initial Teacher Education (ITE) provision is increasingly fragmented and marketised, and that there are a number of constraints in the teacher education space, including lack of time, ‘tick-box’ approaches to diversity work, gaps in trainers’ subject knowledge, and lack of Black and minority ethnic representation among teacher educators/trainee teachers.

In schools, significant constraints were identified including limited time for innovation, lack of training and guidance in teaching ‘difficult’ or ‘sensitive’ subjects, and the need for accredited, high-quality continuous professional development for all teachers.

The briefing makes a number of recommendations, including that:

  • The Department for Education should establish formal structures of training and accreditation for ITE professionals and school-based mentors, including requirements for mandatory subject knowledge development and training on anti-racism, inclusion and diversity in pedagogy and curriculum development.
  • The Teachers’ Standards (DfE, 2011a) should be updated to require training in, and demonstrated commitment to, anti-racism, inclusion and diversity in schools and curriculum.
  • ITE providers should include mandatory training on anti-racism, inclusion and diversity in pedagogy and curriculum development for all trainee history teachers.
  • ITE providers should expand opportunities for collaboration with history subject experts and improve access to (recent) scholarship, to support subject knowledge development around British histories of migration, empire and race for trainee teachers and school-based mentors.
  • ITE providers should strengthen partnerships with schools and school-based mentors to enable collective consideration of curriculum issues and trainee recruitment. Alongside this, schools should improve resources (time and financial) for school-based mentors to engage with ongoing CPD and collaborative professional networks.
  • Department for Education, ITE providers and school SLTs should refer to and draw on recent recommendations made by the Welsh government for improved workforce training and continuous professional development in support of the delivery of ‘diverse’ histories in Welsh schools.

You can read the full briefing, Making History Teachers, here.

Lesley Nelson-Addy, Education Manager at the Runnymede Trust, said:

“History has typically been the discipline that leads the way on educational related change with regards to race and ethnicity, and so we look forward to seeing how the Government and other core stakeholders engage with and respond to the recommendations we have outlined. This is a vital briefing which highlights the, often forgotten, need to engage with the role teacher education plays in embedding an anti-racist approach to teaching history. This research makes clear that teacher educators are asking for support in this process, and so we hope this marks a point at which we can further engage with, and act on, questions around teacher training policy and practice”

Claire Alexander, Associate Director of CoDE and co-author of the report, said:

“Teacher educators have a crucial role in shaping the teachers of the future, to ensure that Britain’s increasingly diverse classrooms are spaces where all young people, of all backgrounds, can thrive. Our past research, in partnership with the Runnymede Trust, has shown there is a strong appetite for change amongst teachers and young people, and a determination to develop inclusive curricula which reflect the histories, experiences and contributions of Britain’s diverse communities. The teacher educators and trainee teachers in this new study reflect those voices for change, and offer important insights to what needs to be done to achieve this change. We hope people will listen and act.”

Helen Snelson, Curriculum Area Leader PGCE History at the University of York, said:

"As this research has discovered, history teacher educators are working to develop more inclusive curricula, teaching practices and pedagogies. This nuanced, evidence-based report is a very welcome focus on these efforts and the issues that are hindering more, and more rapid, progress. It will be incredibly useful to inform discussions at all levels as to how we can work together to develop more systemic, effective, informed and creative approaches to ensure a more diverse profession, curriculum and practice. Inaction is not an option in the context of a teacher recruitment crisis and the daily realities of teaching history in schools."

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