Democracy through Pedagogy: the Mantle of the Expert in Initial Teacher Education

In his powerful speech at the Cambridge Primary Review Trust’s (CPRT) conference in November last year, Robin Alexander suggested, in relation to recent electoral outcomes in the UK and the US, that discourses of hatred and derision might be interpreted as ‘education’s failure’. Soon after the CPRT conference, Primary PGCE and School Direct students at Newcastle University were offered two days of training on the Mantle of the Expert. In ‘Mantle’, which was initially developed by Dorothy Heathcote, imaginary contexts for cross-curriculum learning are created through drama and enquiry. In this process pupils take on the role of a team of experts, charged with a specific project outcome (Taylor, 2016). As an HE Initial Teacher Education provider we aim to empower our students critically with a range of pedagogical strategies, including those which are innovative, and we regard Mantle as a powerful and potentially transformative approach. Tim Taylor has provided workshops for our ITE students in Mantle of the Expert for a number of years. However, this year the module was offered at St John’s Primary School in Newcastle, which was recently awarded Mantle of the Expert Training School status.

Mantle has enabled colleagues to make the curriculum meaningful

St John’s is situated in one of the country’s most disadvantagedwards. Many of its pupils live in extreme poverty, and many of them have English as an Additional Language. Despite these challenges and ‘low starting points’, Ofsted has judged pupils’ achievements close to national averages, and described the curriculum at St John’s as of ‘very high quality’. Both the head teacher, Tracey Caffrey, and Ofsted ascribe this to the use of Mantle of the Expert. Children’s enjoyment and sense of responsibility and engagement is palpable, and they are not only keen to talk about their learning, but able to do so with confidence and eloquence. Again, Tracey Caffrey attributes this to the impact of Mantle since its whole-school introduction seven years ago, and the extent to which Mantle has enabled colleagues to make the curriculum meaningful. Mantle at St John’s offers what Smyth and Wrigley (2013) would describe as ‘rich teaching’. St John’s is thus a very powerful context in which to introduce our students to Mantle.

During one of the sessions, Tim worked with a large group of Year 4-6 pupils and 12 student teachers, creating the context of a nineteenth century mine, in which the pupils first took on the task of inspecting the occurrence of child labour, and then the role of miners. The amount of deep learning about Victorian times and social justice that had taken place by the end of the afternoon was profound: it was in the faces and words of the pupils who had ‘lived’ the drama, and in those of our student teachers who had seen the transformation in the pupils. It was on our side too, with the recognition of what can be achieved in Teacher Education when innovative pedagogy is integrated within a university/school partnership and theory and practice become one.

There could, of course, be various explanations for the impact of Mantle: although the experience of a nineteenth century mine was clearly fictional, the events were, it could be argued, real in the cognitive and emotional experience of the pupils. It did not seem unlikely that some of the pupils’ questions related to their own life experiences, and it may be the opportunity to discuss such experiences in a fictional context, which adds to the power of Mantle. On the other hand, as Tracey Caffrey suggested, it may be the opportunity to have experiences that participants would not normally have, which is at the root of the Mantle’s transformative potential. There is a definite need for research into the reasons why, the extent to which, and the circumstances in which Mantle is effective.

It is clear, however, that creating such learning experiences for student teachers is, to return to Alexander’s speech, ‘education in spite of policy’, and provides hope. There is hope for democracy and education in pedagogies such as Mantle, plenty of hope for schools like St John’s, and hope for HE Initial Teacher Education providers, as long as we are able to introduce our students to examples of transformative pedagogy.


SMYTH, J. & WRIGLEY, T. 2013. Living on the Edge – Rethinking Poverty, Class and Schooling, New York, Peter Lang.

TAYLOR, T. 2016. A Beginner’s Guide to Mantle of the Expert: A Transformative Approach to Education, Norwich, Singular Publishing Limited

Dr Hanneke Jones was born in the Netherlands, but her interest in a career in education was first sparked when she visited schools in Yorkshire’s West Riding. She trained as a teacher at the Hervormde Pedagogische Akademie in Amsterdam, which was largely founded on the principles of the French educator Célestin Freinet. After her return to the UK, Hanneke worked in primary education in Northumberland before taking up her position as a teacher educator at Newcastle University. Her PhD focused on creative thinking in the Community of Enquiry, and her research interests lie in creativity, dialogue, social justice and comparative education.

Taken from the BERA Blogs.

Standards in ITT mentoring: there to be embraced

Ever worked with a teacher trainee mentor who is not up for it? Or, even worse, is not up to it? They might be the colleague with a light timetable that year, or who is looking for professional experience at the cost of their mentee’s development, the class teacher with whom the trainee happens to share a class, or the steadfast acculturator who allows little room for innovation. Even if these mentors do have the requisite people-skills, knowledge, and expertise they can be easily undermined; lacking time, resources, kudos. The mentee can prove a challenge; more often than not it is the system and the implicit expectations therein that sabotage the process. No wonder some claim “school-based mentoring has …failed to realise its full potential” (Hobson and Malderez, 2013).

My thinking in relation to mentoring in the current ITT context was developed when I completed a Master’s module at Newcastle University on improving coaching and mentoring. Since then, the National Standards for school-based initial teacher training (ITT) mentors (2016), a – swiftly expedited – outcome of the Carter Review for ITT (2015) were published. These are a workable set of recommendations with a broad consultation (42 different institutions and groups are acknowledged), poised to create new norms in the field of teacher mentoring: a counter to ‘the way things are done’ and a chance for consistent quality across the myriad routes into teaching. Inevitably, as ITT transitions to a school-led system, we draw finer limits on our knowledge base. It’s a big effort for school-based mentors to extend their workload to keeping up with the latest innovations or research. Furthermore, the bizarre and inconsistent recruitment allocations have led to a new atmosphere of competition among educators who previously collaborated. With former partners now battling it out for the sparse (and getting sparser) numbers of new teachers and their fees, the Standards have the potential to impart cohesion to the diverging ITT Mentor community.

It is not just mentees and mentors who would benefit from a positive outlook. The Standards have it right then when they state that better mentoring can lead to “improved outcomes for children”. It is the “moral imperative” (Timperley, on behalf of the AISTL in Australia (2015) which surely should underline any work in schools, in this case alongside trainee success and wellbeing.

This document places the four brief Standards outside normal performative measures in school (they are non-statutory and merely recommended to Ofsted), lending them a flimsiness. This is surprising given the fullness of the consultation and the holistic intention. But it does represent a so-called “structuration”, a conduit to new norms through repeated practice which can calcify in social arena (Giddens, 1984). It needs the ITT community to start acting on them.

Make no mistake: the standards are welcome and I applaud that they sit outside performative structures. Who knows? This may help to foster compassion and dialogue rather than obsessions with quantitative data and graded lessons. We would do well to work up the practicalities together and learn from home and abroad (such as guidance for professional conversations from Timperley, (2015), international studies on mentoring from Pennanen et. al. (2015), who draw on Kemmis’ work on Theories of Practice Architecture, established frameworks for coaching and mentoring as proposed by CUREE, 2005; and the school guide for coaching offered by Lofthouse, Leat & Towler, 2010) to improve mentoring as a whole. School-based ITT tutors would surely welcome some solidarity where they now shoulder a new level of responsibility and professionalism as the duty of conferring QTS passes to them and the critical eye of Ofsted examines NQT provision

The Standards reify the notion that ITT Mentoring is a skilled “profession within a profession” (Lofthouse & Hall, 2013). Let’s not leave them to be misinterpreted, misappropriated, or ignored. In taking the standards seriously, others will follow. No more will we ever ‘default’ to a mentor, but we can select, train and resource those who have the ability and the disposition.


Giddens, A. (1984). The constitution of society: Outline of the theory of structuration. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Ruth Magee teaches French and German in a secondary school in the North East. She is part of the core Teaching School team for her school’s alliance and leads on Training Development, Subject Knowledge Enhancement and their Primary School Direct. Before teaching Ruth managed regional enrichment and CPD programmes for modern foreign language teaching; she has produced MFL resources for primary and secondary.

Contact: Ruth is on twitter @routesaroo (intermittently but will respond!).

Taken from the BERA website.

CfLaT Newsletter – January 2017

CfLaT Headlines

  • Rachel Lofthouse was invited to give a key-note at the annual UCET Conference in November 2016. Her theme was ‘“I’ll get by with a little help from my friends”: opportunities for collaborative teacher learning in Initial Teach-er Education and beyond’. She drew on a number of CfLaT projects and initiatives to develop the theme. Two blogs based on the lec-ture can be found on the ECLS Education blog
  • Karen Laing has won an ESRC IAA Knowledge Exchange award which enables her to spend a day a week working with Wallsend Action for Youth developing a theory of change for their work, and exploring how Universities and partners can work together effectively to make a difference in our local communities.
  • Joana Almeida from Portugal is a new re-search associate in CfLaT. She is working with Sue Robson on an Erasmus+ project about internationalisation practices in Newcastle University, University of Bologna (Italy) and the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium).
  • CfLaT also has a visiting researcher, Larissa Negris de Souza, coming from Brazil for 3 months from February to work with Pam Woolner on school space.
    Laura Mazzoli Smith has a journal article coming out in Russian. She was invited to a conference at Samara University, Russia, in November 2016 entitled ‘Giftedness as a Phantom in Social Expectations.’ and was then invited to submit her full paper to a journal.



Higher education internationalisation is more than mobility – if universities are to become truly ‘international’ they have to start ‘at home’. This is the motto of ATIAH, a new Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership be-tween three leading European universities: Newcastle University, KU Leuven and Università di Bologna.
Over the next 2 years the consortium will be working together to develop a set of innovative resources and tools for internationalisation at home, including:

  • An audit tool for universities seeking to review their current practice
  • An online toolkit for an ‘internationalising university experience’ module
  • A framework for evidencing good practice internationalisation

The resources are aimed at educators, students, staff development and profes-sional service units, and those in a leadership position in higher education institu-tions in Europe and beyond.

As internationalisation efforts remain largely market-driven and recruitment-focused, the partnership will move towards a more values-based and ethical ap-proach to internationalisation in higher education.

For more information and up-dates, contact


We have three important announcements:

1. On 14th March there is a ‘Learning City’ invitation event at Newcastle University – there are still some places available for colleagues within and beyond Newcastle University, so please get in touch if you’d like an invitation to this free event;

2. We have nearly finished editing our groundbreaking ‘Guide to Community Curriculum Making’ – copies will be available very soon –;

3. We have funds for a scoping exercise for a dedicated PBL facility at the university, aimed at both school groups and university needs, so we are inter-ested in views from the university and outside.

Contact Ulrike Thomas ( or David Leat ( if you want to know more about any or all of these announcements.



Following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding be-tween Newcastle University and Baoding Education Bureau in May, René Koglbauer and Anna Reid returned to the region in December to deliver a leadership training programme for 70 headteachers.

The participants thoroughly engaged with the interactive approach of the workshops; the two-day workshop was concluded by a joint plenary to explore further development needs for a potential programme in Newcastle.

While Anna stayed in the region to de-liver a keynote on English language teaching and to be a member of the judging panel for the regional English language teacher competition, René travelled to our partner institution, Xia-men University, to present on ECLS’ activities and programmes.

During this 24-hour stop in Xiamen, future leadership programme opportunities were also discussed with the International Office. The intention is to replicate last summer’s Xiamen Leader-ship and Management Summer School here at Newcastle University.
For more information, contact: or



Robin Humphrey was a Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences, Naresuan University, in November, 2016, where he is part of a doctoral collaboration funded by a Royal Thai doctoral scholarship and a British Council Newton Fund award.

The PhD student, Damrong Tumthong, is evaluating a Thai government scheme to provide educational opportunities for disadvantaged young people, and he has started his fieldwork in the poorest region of Thailand, in the north east of the country. Damrong has already spent six months at Newcastle University under Robin’s supervision, and will spend another six months here once he has finished his fieldwork.

During Robin’s visit to Naresuan, a key strategic partner with Newcastle, he gave a public lecture about his work on building interdisciplinary and cross cultural research teams, and contributed to advisory sessions for some of the university’s social science doctoral researchers.

For more information, contact:

CfLaT ‘working together’ at Civic Centre event


CfLaT members were at out in force at a recent event at Newcastle Civic Centre, ’Working Together: Bringing About Change’.

The aim was to showcase social science research based on partnerships with those beyond the University, giving everyone chance to mingle and develop new partner-ships. There was a CfLaT stall and stalls show-casing Heather Smith’s ROMtels project and Lydia Wysocki’s research use of comics. David Leat and Ulrike Thomas gave a talk about their successful collaboration with Seven Stories.



Liz Todd, Karen Laing and Laura Mazzoli Smith have recently concluded a study looking at chil-dren’s out of school activities and the relationship with attainment.

Findings included:

– Differences in take-up of activities based on socioeconomic status
– Differences in the take-up of private tuition based on ethnicity
– Participation in after school clubs increased with age, but there was similar take-up by children of different socioeconomic back-grounds
– Participation in out of school activities was associated with a range of positive outcomes. Organised physical activities were associated with higher attainment and better social, emotional and behavioural outcomes at age 11.
– After school club attendance was associated with positive academic and social outcomes for disadvantaged children in particular. School staff, parents and pupils identified a wide range of perceived benefits from taking part in after school clubs covering academic as well as social and emotional outcomes.

This research, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, has been presented at a number of conferences and seminars, and the team have been invited to present at EARLI in the summer as part of a symposium on addressing disadvantage.

Further information about the study can be found at

What is LTHE..?


It is hard to believe that we have already worked with more than 100 academic colleagues from Kazakhstan and found ourselves welcoming the fifth cohort onto the Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (LTHE) programme in November 2016.
Yet again, colleagues from CfLaT and the North Leadership Centre came together to deliver a range of workshops and social events, designed to provide a variety of cultural and intellectual experiences, upon which colleagues can draw to enhance the quality of learning and teaching in their respective universities.

In addition to a collective post created for the Education @Newcastle University blog during Dr Rachel Lofthouse’s session on academic writing (see below for the link), Associate Professor Roza Zhussupova from the Eurasian National University, Almaty, was keen to capture the impact of the programme on her professional learning. It makes for an interesting read!

Collective blog post:

Blog post by Professor Roza Zhussupova:
For more information, contact:

FaSMEd launches toolkit for Formative Assess-ment in Science and Mathematics


At the end of our three year EU funded FP7 development project, FaSMEd partners met with key invited guests from research, policy and practice for the FaSMEd International Conference and Final Meeting on the 1st and 2nd November 2016 at Maynooth University, Ireland. This represented a significant international community of experience, expertise and practice in science and mathematics education with specific knowledge of digital technologies and Formative Assessment.

The conference shared many of the outcomes of the FaSMEd project and facilitated discussions around raising achievement in mathematics and science education with a focus on implications for future research, policy and practice.

Each partner produced a research poster and these were displayed and used as a focus of discussion throughout the conference (copies of these posters can be downloaded at: ).

At the end of the day we also took the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of FaSMEd and the extreme-ly productive working relationships we have established with each other and with our teachers and students in schools over the life of the project – a big thank you to all those involved!

Following our final meeting and conference, FaSMEd launched our online toolkit to support teachers, as well as teacher educators, stakeholders and other interested parties, in using technology for formative assessment in mathematics and science education.

The website is primarily in English but you will also find materials in all partner languages (English, German, Italian, French, Norwegian and Dutch) under the heading “Tools for Formative Assessment”.

The FaSMEd Toolkit homepage gives an overview of the project, along with an introduc-tory short film that includes various discussions between researchers and teachers, scenes from FaSMEd project meetings, lessons, classroom discussions, the use of different technologies and tools as well as interviews. Sub-sections include information on formative assessment, professional development materials and a range of tools for formative assessment, including teacher guides and downloadable classroom materials.

The toolkit can be found at: Please take a look!