Teacher education in the UK is undergoing a period of active development. In order to identify the rationale offered for change and the direction of travel this article reports a textual analysis of two key policy texts recently published in England and Scotland: the English Schools White Paper The importance of teaching (Department for Education, 2010a) and Teaching Scotland’s future (Donaldson, 2011). These influential documents are explicitly relevant to the study of teacher education in transition, specifically the extent to which policy formation is premised on different forms of deliberation, different models of professionalism and different visions of a socially just education system. The analysis presented here is ‘critical’ in the sense that it interrogates the claims made in policy language and explores their constitutive effect. Key themes include the construction of ‘partnership/collaboration’ and ‘professionalism’ within these texts and how the ‘re-conceptualisation’ of both is informed by different sets of interests and values. Whilst the focus here is on teacher education, this analysis raises wider questions about the relative health of the public sphere in different jurisdictions of the UK.