The life of a Lead Practitioner

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Prior to joining Studley, I was Head of Maths at a secondary school in Sandwell. Wanting a new challenge and an opportunity to broaden my experience, I saw the advert for Maths Lead Practitioner at an outstanding Warwickshire school and knew I had to apply!

So I have just completed two years as Maths Lead Practitioner and time has flown by. I felt it was an appropriate time to reflect on my accomplishments and contributions so far:

The luxury of being an experienced Head of Mathematics, but now being Lead Practitioner, is that I am not solely responsible for data, curriculum development or recruitment/retention of Maths teachers. I am able to support the Head of Maths and the second in department adding value to the department, but also offering support across the school and further afield to other schools.

One area I have been responsible for, is the promotion of numeracy across the school. Creating resources, driving in-house competitions, entering national competitions, developing the student prefects’ Maths ambassador role and working with other departments on cross-curricular projects. The numeracy tutor challenge, accompanied with the literacy tutor challenge, has been able to incorporate other departments and subjects to find different ways to provide our students with a snapshot of cross-curricular links with numeracy. With the excellent support of all tutor groups these initiatives strive to widen student awareness of the importance of Maths outside of their mathematics lessons.

I have also been part of the Teaching & Learning working party with a group of teachers who volunteer to meet up every half term to support in the consistency and development of T&L at Studley High School. Initially this was a great opportunity to meet other teachers but has also grown into delivering workshops on teacher training days and whole school briefings. This could be sharing best practice from across the school, but also sharing new research from institutions such as the Endowment Education Foundation. https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/

More recently, I have become a Senior Leader of Education (SLE). An excellent opportunity for me to be able to meet colleagues at local primary and secondary schools and support them in the development of their Maths departments. This is a very challenging and responsible role. I represent the Shires TSA and I am thoroughly enjoying the wide ranging support I have been able to offer so far in this role. Teaching Maths is not easy, and the more networking and support we can give to each other, the more likely this will positively affect the retention of teachers and development of our subject.

You can read more about becoming a specialist leader here:https://www.shirestsa.co.uk/school-to-school-support/leaders-in-education/sle/

Mrs L Wakefield
Studley High School

Treading the boards with young people

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Kerri Boyle is a Graduate Support Assistant at Studley High School. She starts her teacher training in September 2019 and shared with us, an overview of her life as a choreographer working with 5-16 year old students, in musical theatre:

Before I worked at Studley High School I was already involved in working with children in the Performing Arts. In my spare time I choreograph for Lollipop Youth Theatre, a youth musical theatre group in Worcester. Lollipop is a youth musical theatre society with a difference; we do not audition children to be in the company and accept children of all abilities. We have a range of children with special needs such as tourettes, ASD, Aspergers and others.

I work with children between the ages of 5-16 which can provide many challenges in itself. I have worked with Lollipop for over a year now and am currently working on my third show with them.

A standard rehearsal tends to go like this:

  • Get the children to be quiet, take a register, explain what we’re doing, get them warmed up physically and vocally.
  • If it’s a dance rehearsal, I will get them to recap what we’ve already done.
  • We will then walk through the dance and carry on learning a new section, break times, rehearse and repeat, record, go home.

This, however, doesn’t include all the extra work I will have to put in before we even get to rehearsal. I need to turn up with a dance already choreographed, set places for the children to stand in and a method of getting into and out of the dance. I need to acquire the music from our MD (which can sometimes be a challenge in itself!)

 

I’m not going to pretend that it’s all sunshine and roses because it is hard work. We have over 50 children in our company so we are presented with many different challenges during each rehearsal. Getting the children to be quiet to begin with, can be a challenge in itself as there are so many of them and they have so much energy but equally it is one of the things I love about teaching in such an informal setting. They make me laugh so much, each rehearsal with the bloopers and the things they can do or say. I’ve had to ban ‘flossing’, ‘dabbing’ and other dances from well known video games! I have to break down the dances during rehearsal and even have to change or re-choreograph something on the spot if the children can’t pick it up or it is too fast for them.

The real challenge comes with finding a balance in the choreography so that everyone can take part. I need to create dances that are not too fast or too difficult for our younger members and are not too slow or boring for our older more capable dancers. We have to deal with pastoral and safeguarding issues week in week out too, not to mention our children’s many needs.

 

Our current show, ‘Wizard of Oz’ in particular, has been a real challenge because on top of all of the things I have to do as a choreographer, not to mention the things I do as a production team member too, I have had to learn new styles of dance as the licensing requires the ‘Jitterbug’ dance to have styles of Jazz, Charleston, Jive, Jitterbug and others in it’s choreography!

 

There are times when I wonder why I do it, when I have to get out of bed at 7:30am on a Saturday morning after a full week of work or when I’m spending everyday after work in a theatre for technical rehearsals and dress rehearsals.

But, these children genuinely bring a light to my life. When you see that lightbulb moment, when they finally have cracked a dance. When you see what some of them go through on a daily basis; the challenges they have to overcome and how they change when they are on stage. When you see the unbreakable bonds they have made with other children. When you see a 16 year old comforting a scared 5 year old or showing them where they need to be – that’s why I give up my time, my patience and my sanity because at the end of the day, these are the children who will become our future actors, singers, dancers, technicians, teachers, lecturers. They are the reason I am now pursuing a career as a teacher of Drama because I want to be the one who encourages that enthusiasm, I want to be the one who tells them “you can 100% do this”, I want to be the one who believes in them and helps them succeed.

Drama is so much more than being able to perform, than having a talent for acting. It’s about teamwork, creativity, resilience, spontaneity, flexibility, passion, enthusiasm, commitment, dedication and so much more. These are the skills that inform our characters. They teach our children “it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to get up and try again”.

Why I Changed Career

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Sian Case, 53, agrees the life skills and maturity of older women only add to the qualities of a good teacher.

The mother of three, from Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, used to work in project management for the Government, earning around £50,000 per year. After being made redundant, she decided to retrain as a maths teacher.

I’d got to the point where my children were growing up. Earning mega-money was no longer the most important thing,’ says Sian. ‘I was working 50-hour weeks, pouring my heart and soul into projects only to see funding pulled. I wanted a job I liked every day.

She first stepped into the classroom to teach in September 2016. ‘I remember thinking: “Just breathe…” but it was so daunting looking out at a room of 30 young faces, all expecting you to teach them something new.

It helps if you’ve had your own stroppy teenagers because you’re more mature, you can remain calm.

She doesn’t see her career as being stuck in a cul-de-sac, either.

People talk about teachers being poorly paid, but you can work up the levels of management, even in your 40s. I still have ambition. I’ve already been offered training in middle-management and perhaps one day I would like to be deputy head.

As a more experienced person, you also have the confidence to negotiate your starting salary and know your own worth. I’m sure as a younger person I would have accepted a much lower salary.

 

 The impact it’s had on my life has been wonderful. I work hard from Monday to Friday, 8am until 6pm, but never take any work home with me.

 

It’s a long day, but I enjoy being able to spend the school holidays with my family. And the emotional rewards are huge — every day you feel you’re making a difference to the lives of young people.

Excerpt from https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5280731/Why-Jo-gave-six-figure-barristers-salary.html

#teachmeet or #notteachmeet

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For those who have lived under a rock for the past 10 years, a ‘teachmeet’ is an organised (informal) meeting of teaching staff, to share personal insight and best practice in teaching.

The meets are often described as an ‘unconference’ and are free of charge, open to all.

This month, three of us at Studley High School, booked to attend and deliver at a local TeachMeet. the format is fairly standard:

  • Micro-presentations – lasting 7 minutes
  • Nano-presentations – lasting 2 minutes nano presentation (3-5 one after the other)
  • Round-table break-outs – lasting 15 minutes or so, allowing focussed discussion around a theme, with a volunteer facilitator
  • Random selection of speakers – from a pool of willing participants
Participants (in this case, us!) volunteer to demonstrate good practice.

The Teach Meet opened with an introduction from keynote speaker Gary Toward @gltoward of Decisive Element http://www.decisive-element.co.uk/home. He shared anecdotes of his own teaching career and the importance of our role in supporting young people, calling us “the decisive element in the classroom”. He used a quote from Maya Angelou:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel

Aside from the fun elements, of winning prizes in raffles (yes, Mrs Wakefield won a prize!) and networking, there are some seriously relevant topics to learn from here and we think.

Topics covered at this event included: Learning through PlayDoughTophat questioningMetacognition and Pupil Premium in KS3, but to name a few. We took many ideas back to school, with the intention of implementing them into our practice.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and afforded us the opportunity to hear about real practice in real classrooms. If you get the chance to go to one, go! If you want to plan one, there are some useful tips here and to attend one, try Twitter, where they are often widely advertised, using the #teachmeet hashtag.

Mrs Case (Maths), Mrs Harris (Chemistry) & Mrs Wakefield (Maths) – Studley High School

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Whilst visiting Harlech Castle, Wales, at the age of 12 I looked up at the castle and wondered what the very narrow windows were for.

After walking around the site and finding an information board, I soon discovered that these were in fact ‘loopholes’.

After further investigation, I discovered that these holes were built especially to shoot arrows from, whilst keeping the shooter themselves fairly shielded from returning fire.

Since that discovery, my passion for History grew and when my younger brother started to ask similar questions and I was able to answer and explain them to him (which is when my passion for teaching also began to flower, I think!)

My first experience of teaching was during my time at Sea Cadets where I taught small groups of cadets, usually around 3-5 at a time, basic seamanship, stewardship and drill.

During my A-levels I was part of a teaching support programme, helping the history teacher teach GCSE classes. Through my University studies, I volunteered as part of an aspirational mentoring programme working with pupils at Ysgol Uwchradd Caergybi to stay in education and complete their GCSEs. I also helped to teach specific techniques and skills in the Uni Jiu Jitsu club.

I pursued my passion for History, by continuing my studies, completing a Masters at Bangor University, graduating in June 2016 (after writing two dissertations, one on Edward I and his Scottish campaigns from 1297-1307, and the other on William of Newburgh and the Historia rerum Anglicarum). This second master’s level dissertation led me to the beginning of my currently ongoing part time PhD, researching more thoroughly William of Newburgh and his Historia.

I am inspired by History – and love to study Henry II, the first Plantagenet king, and his family.

Henry himself controlled the biggest empire since Charlemagne and was a formidable opponent, but you could argue that if it wasn’t for his dysfunctional family he could have become more and so could his heirs. (Oh, and I don’t love all areas of History…particularly modern British politics, quite possibly due to Andrew Marr’s documentary on the subject.)

This combination of a love of History and a passion for teaching others, brought me to where I am now – training to teach History!

Whilst I am currently still pursuing my passion for History with my PhD, I am now aiming to fulfill my dream of teaching others, so that when a child looks up at a castle, sees a funny looking window and asks ‘what is it?’ – I can inspire them in the same way I was inspired.

I was recently asked “what would your history teacher would have said about you?’ and I am extremely proud to be able to quote his words directly from the reference he gave for my Uni application:

In 15 years of teaching, I have never taught anyone with such a genuine love for a subject as Kate has for History….she has a subject overview which would put many teachers to shame. Underpinning this is a genuine desire to appreciate the factors which shape the world around her. In addition to her subject knowledge, she demonstrated skills which have paved the way for her success at AS History, and it is this combination of enthusiasm and impressive and advanced skills which made her ideally suited to her degree course of History. 

(Mr Larkin, St. Augustine’s High School, 2012).

Ms K Sims
Trainee Teacher of History

Every little helps…

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Miss, can I speak to you?

As I frantically try to add the final bits of data onto the school system before the 9am deadline, a student approaches my desk. The last thing I need to deal with right now is another student telling me about the funny thing their cat did last night and so I respond with a rather curt “Yes.”

She begins to tell me how there’s been another incident at home and how in frustration she has scratched her arms and is now worried about other students seeing it. As the school bell goes to signal the start of form, my desperate need to complete yet another admin task is quickly overtaken with the frustration of not being able to give her the time and support she clearly needs.

But they have so many holidays!

Having been a Head of House for two years this is not the first time, and sadly won’t be the last time, that I will be required to support a student with their mental health problems. With reports of 98% of teachers coming into contact with pupils experiencing mental health problems2, I know that unfortunately my case is a common one. Often teachers can be given a tough time in the press, when teachers strike due to workload, our work ethic is brought into question with cries of “But they have so many holidays!”. However, what they don’t see, are the lunchtimes spent with students because they have no one they can talk to at home, or the heart wrenching stories we get told in safeguarding briefings that make us wish we could do more to help.

With estimations that 1 in 10 young people have a clinically diagnosed mental health problem, 70% of those diagnosed have not had access to meaningful interventions1, the government has pledged that every secondary school in the country will be offered Mental Health First Aid training by 2020. With two years to go before this deadline and with progress feeling rather stunted, it appears to me we need to take more immediate action. Teachers really are at the frontline of being able to offer first hand support, although often, this can feel like such a daunting task, it really can be the little things that make such a difference.

Having attended numerous workshops and seminars on mental health there has always been one story that has really stuck with me. A psychiatrist who had previously worked for CAMHS (NHS’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) was working with a patient who had had a terrible childhood, and who many considered it a miracle he was still here. She asked him one day what it was that kept him going, his doctors? His friends? No. It was the lollypop lady that he passed every day on his way to school. She would always greet him with a smile and ask about his day, it may sound like such a small gesture but having consistency, knowing that there would always be someone who was pleased to see him helped him to see someone did care. It is stories like these that show what an important position we hold and that without realising it often we have the power to change the course of a young person’s day and in some cases their life too.

Although it may seem like an overwhelming task, I guarantee you will have already helped so many young people just by being the caring professionals you are. So I ask that we all pledge to take a couple of minutes out of our day to take the time to greet and talk with our students as I guess it really is true what they say; every little helps…

For further information regarding mental health support and young people please visit www.mind.org.uk

1 Children’s Society (2008) The Good Childhood Inquiry: health research evidence. London: Children’s Society.

2 NASUWT Survey https://www.nasuwt.org.uk/article-listing/schools-need-support-mental-health-upsurge-pupils.html (2017)

Ms Jordan Whitworth
Head of Religion, Ethics and Philosophy
Shipston High School

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Exams are a tricky time for students

Exam season is well and truly over for this academic year. For me it was double the fun! My son was sitting his A levels and my daughter was sitting her GCSEs. But firstly, let me tell you a bit about me, I work at Studley High school, which is the school that my daughter has just left. I was part of the SEND department for 18 months and have been an exam invigilator for three and a half years. Exams are a tricky time for students, there is so much pressure and I can empathise with all of those pressures as a parent and as a professional working in education.

Aside from all of this, my daughter is on the autistic spectrum. She was diagnosed in 2011 as having Aspergers, or ‘high functioning autism’ as it is now called. It’s difficult to comprehend sometimes when you are told that your child has an additional need. To me, she was just my daughter and that is what life was like, with her little quirks and amazing memory and her infectious laugh.

The gap with her peers began to get wider during the last two years at primary school and then as she progressed through secondary school. It’s only at those points when you realise that life just has to be tackled a different way. As teenage hormones kick in, the world of a child with autism becomes a challenging place. This happened around year 9, so at about 14 years old. Suddenly she started to become more aware of the world around her, the good, the bad and the ugly. Anxiety levels rose, which was quite a shock to us as we had bobbed along making it up day by day, but overcoming every hurdle. The challenge with having an autistic child is to keep everything on as even a keel as possible, no surprises, don’t change the plans at the last minute. Keeping the routine as normal as possible, not only at home, but at school too. What worked one day, might not work the next. It was important to keep the lines of communication open at school as it’s a partnership between school, home and pupil.

Keep it low key and listen, give reassurance

Anxiety has played a major role in the last couple of years for my daughter, so we have been working on strategies to help her deal with it. As we were all too aware of the looming GCSEs. The anxiety impacted on her learning as she couldn’t sleep for worrying, getting up in the night for reassurance. At times she worried about being apart from me and would need to know where I was all of the time. What we have learnt is to keep it very low key and listen, give reassurance and when important exam dates arrived we kept life very simple and not race around or commit to many outside activities which would add to her stress.

The mock exams before and after Christmas were the real test to see how she would cope under exam conditions, she was in a room on her own, with an invigilator and had rest breaks. This was largely so that she didn’t disturb other pupils as she often talks to herself or rubs her hands together, this is called ‘stimming’. It is a sensory aspect of autism, she does this when she is happy or when she is stressed along with jumping up and down. You couldn’t have that in an exam room!

Now we come to the real thing…GCSEs. It’s tricky for my daughter to remember everyday mundane tasks, so to keep on top of an exam timetable is another challenge as well as the constant reminder to revise. She does not like revising as it is going over stuff she has already done. But nevertheless, we constantly nagged! We’d set the kitchen timer to half hour slots so she could revise and have regular breaks. She had a revision timetable stuck on her wall, structure is really important to her, even if she deviates from the plan, she had a plan to start with. While a lot of our attention is on our daughter and supporting her through the GCSE process, we were also supporting our son through his exams too! High levels of teenage tension swept through the house at times.

Because I invigilate, I understand the process for sitting an exam, this has been helpful to me as a parent in preparing my children for exams and especially my daughter. I can answer most of her questions so that she is aware of the process. On the professional side, I invigilate the exams for pupils with ‘extra access arrangements’. This is the separate exam room when pupils who have been given extra time, have rest breaks or suffer from the anxiety of being in the gym with over 100 other pupils. Pupils have extra time for various reasons – slow processing skills, dyslexia, some pupils with autism have extra time. I can use my experience of being a parent whose child has anxiety and additional needs to be calm and support the pupils in the exam room. My daughter did have extra time for her exams, which was a real benefit, but also a double edged sword as it added 25% onto the length of the exam. Meaning there was not a lot of down time or as my daughter would say “time to decompress” between exams. There were plans in place where she could go for some quiet time or to have a jump around and expand her energy. It was good that the school didn’t have exam leave as this would have been a challenge to manage for her with both me and her dad at work. She has no concept of time, always interesting when sitting an exam. But it seemed to go ok, she had the same invigilator for every exam. Again, that was a crucial part to reducing anxiety and she was able to build up a relationship with the invigilator and it worked really well.

All we can do now, is wait, take life a day at a time and see what results day brings..

My daughter is the first cohort for the new style GCSEs, in some ways it has been good because she likes sitting exams. She enjoyed the calmness of an exam room on her own, but it has meant that a large amount of work has had to be done for the subjects in the last two years. This creates added pressure as no one knows exactly how the grades are going to be set, the sixth forms give conditional offers based on predicted grades. For my daughter, she is academic, but for her, it’s all on how her anxieties are at that moment or if something has unsettled her – this could be as simple as the canteen running out of margherita pizza!. It is very unpredictable. So all we can do now is wait, take life a day at a time and see what results day brings.

Mrs R Dixon, Mum and exam invigilator

For more information on supporting pupils and children with Aspergers through exams, read here.

The road to teaching..

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I absolutely hated school…

One of the wonderful things about the teaching profession, is that there are so many different ways to approach it and to work in it, and there are so many interesting stories of how different people with different backgrounds and experiences came to be educators. For me, it has been a slow and slightly winding road to realising that I want to be a teacher and to deciding that I wanted to apply.

As a student at secondary school in the south west of England, I absolutely hated school and almost everything about it. It was difficult for me to answer the question in my School Direct interviews about ‘a teacher who inspired me when I was young‘, because I honestly can’t think of one. While I had teachers who were kind and supportive and whom I liked, I didn’t come into contact with many who seemed to have a genuine love of their subject.

I always felt at home and more relaxed in Art, more challenged and excited in Science, but the English classrooms were never “home” to me. I always had at least one book in my bag that I was reading for pleasure and could be regularly found annoying the librarian by requesting more books. The only inspiring English teacher that I’ve ever had was my mum.

My mum very clearly loved her job, teaching secondary English at several comprehensives around Weston-super-Mare, she was always very open about how difficult teaching is and how much she gave to her profession. She would give me reading lists and push my reading further and when she saw that I loved Jane Eyre when I was 13 she made sure to give me Wide Sargasso Sea so that I could see both sides of the story.

When my GCSE English teacher didn’t read Romeo and Juliet with us, my mum gave me a copy and showed me the Zeffirelli film to compare with the Luhrmann version.
Thanks to her, I read English Literature at University, but I wanted to experience a world outside education and so after my Master’s degree in Art History, I chose to work in museums and art galleries.

Ostensibly always searching for curating jobs, the experiences I most enjoyed were those involved in art education. I loved to ask children their opinions and ideas of art works and to hear their unique responses and viewpoints, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, but always given without the sense of self-consciousness that somehow develops in adults when they are asked their opinion on art.

I loved to talk to adults about this and to try to give them the opportunity talk more openly about their ideas and understanding. When it came to art – it’s always been my belief that this is where real discussion and dialogue comes from. While this aspect of my job was wonderful, I found it harder to accept the more corporate side and wanting to travel, I decided that teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) abroad would be a good combination.

I never expected for this to be the next adventure in my life..

My time teaching English in Japan was an incredibly eye-opening and rewarding experience; sometimes it was amazing, sometimes it was difficult, but I loved that I was constantly learning. I knew that I would love traveling and that I would learn a lot from it, but I was shocked to discover that what I loved the most was teaching and the people that I learned the most from, were my students. I can talk for a very, very long time about how wonderful my students were and how privileged I felt to have been able to be a small part of their lives for 3 years. I can honestly say that they were amazing people and just being around them gave me such great hope for the future.

I never expected for this to be the next adventure in my life. I am so excited to start my ITT in September and to get back in the classroom. I now know that it’s the one place I want to be.

Sophie Midgley, trainee teacher, English

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It’s my fault….

Picture the scene if you will – double Year 13 on a Friday afternoon, one of the most able cohorts I’ve had the pleasure of teaching, engaged in an extended open practical. I’m not sure what I’ve done in a past life to deserve this, but I’ll gladly take it.

Out of twelve learners four are hoping to study Physics at University, offers from Bristol, Imperial, Bath, Warwick – these are talented physicists who are getting the grades. I’d set them the challenge of picking anything they’ve learnt and trying to prove it with kudos to the person who gets the smallest error margin. They’d done their research, designed their set-ups, spent time with technicians sourcing equipment; it was the kind of lesson you hover in the doorway hoping for the Head to walk past.

Until, I overhead one of my learners casually look up and say “What’s the equation for period of SHM within a spring system”, and another reply “Dunno, it’s in the formula booklet”. Which is a synonym for “And I’m done thinking”

……These are learners who I expect, and will be expected to, derive second order differentials from first principles, who casually accept not having mastery of some of the most basic concepts. I give them short shrift, whip their formula booklets away and make them consider the factors and mathematical relationships involved, and we carry on.

On the drive home I reflect on the causes of this: It’s my fault. These are the learners who only a few years earlier earnestly asked when presented with equation triangles “Do we need to remember these formula?” only to be told “No, you just need to use them”. I’ve built laziness and an over-reliance on mathematical cheats into them; fine if you’re trying to encourage a lower Year 11 set into getting some marks on a momentum questions, but certainly not the approach I want our future, Doctors, Engineers, rocket builders, to have.

And fortunately they won’t. Gove stopped us. His drive on mastery of facts and basics took away the crutch of the formula booklet. Now we have to memorise it, and with memorising it, I have rediscovered the joys in having them learn the factors that make up an equation, the underpinning mathematics to why velocity is squared and mass is halved, and there are no mindless triangles to be seen anywhere.

Fingers crossed in a few years I will hear “What’s the equation for… oh hang on I can figure it out”

by Adam Hodgkinson – Assistant Head, Stratford upon Avon School

Twelve Steps to Get Into Teaching

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I’m going to be blunt here.

Getting into teaching really is a rollercoaster of emotions. As cliché as it sounds, you will experience some serious highs and lows. Application comes with rejection, but it also comes with opportunity and a beautifully decorated stain-glass window to your future career.

So, let’s dive into the initial steps taken, to become teachers of the next generation…

  1. Decide that teaching is the right career for you

I’m going to be blunt here. If you’re questioning it, like really questioning whether this is the career for you, then either you’re not quite ready or maybe it’s not for you. I questioned it when I applied for my Undergraduate degree, despite which, I applied for Primary Teaching and as fate would have it, I didn’t get accepted. Instead, I was offered a place on the Special Needs and Education course (I’ll come back to this in a second as I know it may induce a raised eyebrow or two).

Even at the beginning of this academic year, I questioned whether this year was the right time for me to apply. But, after realising that my excuses were only covering up my fear of failure, I stopped putting off the inevitable and started the journey to my dream job.

The final thing that was hindering me, was my undergrad… I knew English was going to be the subject for me and originally, I thought the only way to teach this, was to do another degree, in English. Despite folklore, this is not the case (hurrah!). There are other options. For most subjects, you can complete a Subject Knowledge Enhancement course, or, if your training provider decides, you could be given subject based tasks to complete before you start to build on your subject knowledge.

Whatever is decided, if you want this career enough, if this is your dream career, there is nothing to stop you from achieving it.


  1. Sign up to EVERYTHING

There is so much online guidance and support. The two main sources that I used were the Department for Education’s Get into Teaching site and UCAS’ Train to Teach pages. (Shires TSA’s website also has a section specifically for Teacher Training!).

Get into Teaching provides you with a lot of support in a very helpful layout and if you register, which I recommend you do, you are likely to be provided with a DfE adviser. If you do get assigned someone, do use them! 

Train to Teach has information about how to apply, your eligibility and explanations about the different routes into teaching. Which leads us nicely to…


  1. Discover and understand the different routes into teaching

At the beginning, I remember feeling completely overwhelmed by all the different routes into teaching. There are so many! But don’t stress. Research and read about them all. Completing step 4 is also going to help you understand the various routes, so that by the time you apply, you’ll know which is which.


  1. Attend events

The more the merrier (and the easier you’ll find providers who are suited to your needs and requirements). There are university events, focused mainly on the ‘core’ ITT route. I went to Leicester University for my first event, purely because it was close to me and I was way too excited to sit and wait until a Train to Teach event near me.

I found Train to Teach events the most useful to go to. Shires TSA was at Coventry Train to Teach – so, naturally, I cannot recommend going enough.

There is a presentation, which will explain the different routes into teaching, as well as the way the bursaries and scholarships work (ears pricking up now?).

Take your personal statement with you, even if it’s a very rough first draft – bullet point ideas if you have nothing. There are advisers who can give you support with the writing and ensure you highlight your best self without the waffle.

Finally, there are plenty of providers from the area with representatives who you can have a chat with. The only advice I have for this is to try and make a good impression. Be aware that what you wear reflects how seriously you expect to be taken. The providers are trying to impress you and make you want to train with them but you should reciprocate – they might just remember you when you turn up to an interview…!


  1. Register with UCAS

ARGH! It’s becoming real. Don’t worry. There are more videos on UCAS giving you step-by-step guidance on the application process. Your personal statement is the one thing that UCAS can’t help you with – but you have had support from a DfE advisor and you can definitely ask friends and family to have a read through; they are your biggest fans and will support you.

Have a think about the kind of impression you want to make. Professionalism is key, and buzzwords are great, but remember to make it personal.


  1. Apply!

It’s time for the difficult (or perhaps very easy?) decision. There is no right or wrong choice. It’s entirely up to you who you want to apply with. You have three choices and, honestly, just go with your gut.

Think: when you saw the providers at events, which one did you imagine yourself training at? You will have spoken to their representatives, who may have been teachers or members of senior staff at the schools – who can you imagine yourself working with? Who would you be most excited to work with?


  1. Choose your referees

For some people this part is hard. And that’s okay. One is academic and the other professional. Choose two people you trust and who are reliable and honest.

The most frustrating part about applying is when one of your referees is taking a lifetime to write their reference for you. You can’t send your application until they have sent their reference and if they make you wait you will be very aware of the clock ticking. My advice is to ask them in plenty of time so that the request isn’t a surprise and ensure they understand their timing is critical.


  1. Gain experience

This is your chance to get in the classroom! Email schools in your area and ask for a week or two of experience. Your old school is fine but, if you can and feel confident enough to, I suggest going to a different school – it will give you a wider perspective and you won’t feel as awkward walking into the staffroom!

A big challenge here, especially if you have a job or a lot of studying to do, is juggling your experience with other commitments. Get into a school one day a week, or even one morning or afternoon a week, and the hours will soon tally up.

In the school, be proactive – question current teachers about their own motivations and aspirations, talk to teaching assistants about their experiences and finally, ask to be placed in a variety of classes. The more you experience in terms of ability and age, the more prepared you will feel when you start your course.

One last point… if the school cannot place you into your subject for every lesson it’s not the end of the world – you will absolutely still learn from those teachers.


  1. Practice and pass your skills tests

I stressed so much about the skills tests, especially the numeracy one. I hadn’t looked at a Maths equation since my GCSEs (and hadn’t really planned to!), but it’s a necessity and brings you one step closer to putting a big gold star on your career goals page in your journal… no? just me? Alright then…

I passed my literacy test first time (woo) but decided within the first ten minutes of my numeracy test that I had failed (boo). However, I didn’t give up, and instead treated the remainder of the test as a practice. I relaxed and didn’t take it so seriously. Ironically, I passed (double woo!). My advice therefore, is try to chill out before the tests. Treat your first attempt as a practice round – if you pass, amazing! If not, you can try again, feeling a little more prepared the second time around.

My only other advice for you: practice. Every. Single. Day. There are past papers online that you can use to find your weaknesses. YouTube is also a goldmine when it comes to tactics (especially for the dreaded mental Maths!).


  1. Get an interview!

 You are definitely allowed a little celebratory dance here!


 

  1. Prepare for the interview

This is when your adviser (if you’ve been provided with one) comes in handy – they can help you prepare. If you don’t have one, don’t panic! There’s a lot of other support online for you to use, especially the Times Education Supplement (TES) if your provider has asked for a lesson plan or delivery. And you can use your friends and family to ‘interview’ you and (yep, I really did this) to be your class for you to teach your lesson to.

Every provider is different and will request different activities for you to prepare and complete. Remember that they know that you are not yet qualified as a teacher, so don’t worry if you make a mistake!

Think back to teachers when you were at school and teachers at the school you did experience at… which qualities made them a good or bad teacher? What did they do in the classroom that was effective or ineffective? How did their pupils respond to them?

Finally, ensure that what you wear to the interview is professional, comfortable and makes you feel confident!


  1. Get accepted

You’ve done it. You can breathe! Anything that they ask for you to do over the summer, it’s a very good idea to do it. It will only help you. Apart from that, for now, relax.

It’s true, there are a huge number of obstacles in your way to becoming a teacher – but persevere. There are times when you might think “is all this going to be worth it?” (and this is just the application stage!). The answer is yes. Absolutely. The excitement of being accepted and the anticipation for starting will eclipse any doubt.

You are going to be a teacher. How good is that?!


by Suzy Watson – trainee teacher, English