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Professor Claire E Ball-Smith



"Teaching is a creative profession, not a delivery system. Great teachers do pass on information, but what great teachers also do is mentor, stimulate, provoke, and engage." - Sir Ken Robinson

I joined the University of York’s Department of Education in 2017 as Director of Initial Teacher Training. I work with York's expert PGCE team to train 100-150 teachers a year in both Core PGCE and Lead Partner routes, with our partnership of over 60 schools in the York and North Yorkshire area. I also teach and supervise at Masters level across several department/faculty programmes. I act as a PhD TAP member for the Department.

Since coming to York, I have also helped to develop wider regional ITE and early career networks (such as YTEP 2017 to 2021- a collaboration between York St John University, the University of York, our respective key schools partners and the City of York Council) and I now sit on the successor regional ITTE Steering Group (run by Pathfinder Teaching School Hub). Our main aim is to work together across ITE partners to raise the quality of teacher supply in the region and to enrich the continuous professional development of all teachers in and around the city of York and in North Yorkshire.

I currently external examine for the University of Birmingham in their ITE courses, and I am an occasional PhD and MRes external examiner for various universities.

My scholarship revolves around three main themes:

  • the impact of government level policies on initial teacher trainees and early career teachers
  • the mentoring and coaching of early career professionals
  • history education - policy, pedagogy and early career preparation

Outside my working life, you'll find me walking, hiking, canoeing, camping and listening to folk music (especially live). I am a keen amateur photographer. I try to get back to Durham (my alma mater), to Derbyshire (my family home), the Lake District (my spiritual home), and finally to Canada (my beloved Albertan and BC Rockies) as often as I can. I have a secret hankering to fulfil a lifelong bucket list ambition of digging up the past on a few archaeological sites (but this will likely need to wait until retirement!).


My first degree was from the University of Durham where I stayed to undertake my own PGCE. As a practising teacher I completed my MAEd, and PGDip with the Open University before undertaking my PhD as a fully funded international graduate scholar at the University of Calgary in Western Canada. I worked as a teacher for a decade, and have worked in the initial teacher education field for more than two decades.

Prior to working in initial teacher education, I taught History, English and other humanities subjects in schools in the north of England (Yorkshire and Derbyshire), in the South West of England (Bristol), and in Kenya (Nakuru - where all the flamingos are) to students aged 11-19. I was also a Head of Year and sat on Senior Management teams in various settings during my teaching career.

Departmental roles

  • Director of Initial Teaching Training
  • Faculty Promotions Committee Department Rep

University roles

  • Chair of Professional Programmes Forum
  • Member of University Teaching Committee
  • Elected Faculty of Social Science Senate member (2019-2024)

National and Regional roles

  • Chair of UCET Assembly (Universities Council for Educating Teachers) - the primary organisation for ITE university staff in the UK
  • Member of UCET Executive Committee
  • Joint Chair of the Russell Group ITE Network alongside colleagues at Universities of Manchester and Nottingham.
  • Founding member of Regional ITTE HEI group (with colleagues from YSJ, LBU, LTU, Bradford College, University of Hull and University of Sheffield)
  • Member of Regional ITTE Steering group (run by Pathfinder Teaching School Hub)
  • Invited member of Pathfinder Teaching School Hub Board



I have specific interests and expertise in:

  • Teacher education
  • History education
  • Mentorying and coaching
  • Hermeneutic approaches to education

My key research areas are:

  • Mentoring and coaching - The role of professional teachers as mentors
  • Teaching education - The experience of teaching for the first time (emphasis on the student perspective), the growing identity and professionalism of young teachers


Selected publications

Ball-Smith, C (forthcoming) ‘Peer Mentoring Relationships for Professional Placements’ in (Eds.) Woolhouse, C. and Nicholson, L. Mentoring in Higher Education: Case Studies of Peer Learning and Pedagogical Development (Palgrave MacMillan)

Contact details

Professor Claire E Ball-Smith
Department of Education
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: +44 (0)1904 323441