Monday, 26 June 2017

What I know now: A message from the other side of teacher training - Gabrielle James

As I reach the end of my teacher training, I’ve started to reflect on how far I’ve come. Deciding to apply for teacher training was a big step for me and I’ve had to overcome many challenges since starting but as the end draws nearer, I can see that it’s all been worthwhile.

I applied for teacher training whilst working as a Library Manager at an Upper School in Bedfordshire. I took the job straight after graduating with the hope of it leading to a teaching career. I spent the next two years in that job veering from one emotional extreme to the other; yes I was totally committed to working in education, no I absolutely did not want to work in education, and back and forth etc. This rollercoaster of emotions hasn’t abated since starting my training – you have days where you wonder if you’re really cut out for this, and then the next day you’re dancing around in front of your year 9s (as I am want to do) feeling pretty smug about how good you are at your job. I’m reliably informed that this feeling never really goes away either, but half the time, the excitement of not knowing what will happen next is what gets me out of bed each morning. And when you’re working with young people, you never can predict the outcome…

“We are in the business of changing lives” a colleague told me, and he’s right, but changing lives isn’t easy. What eventually made me commit to applying for teacher training was my need for a new challenge, and teaching provides you with new challenges on a daily basis. The first two years in teaching are the hardest, so if you can make it through this then you’ll be ready for anything. It’s OK to question if this is the right job for you, even after you start your training. Training is hard but your mentors and colleagues want you to become the best teacher you can possibly be so it’s always in your best interests to listen to the feedback they give and act upon it. If, in your darkest hours, you can still hold your head up and make it through the day, then you’re going to be fine. In fact, you’re probably going to be more than fine.

Ultimately what strikes me most about my training year is how far I’ve come in such a short space of time. I am a totally different teacher now to the one who started teaching only 9 months ago. The amount of progress you make in such a short space of time is staggering, and you will continue to grow and develop as a teacher every year in your job. That’s the beauty of teaching; you can never stop learning and you can never stand still (sometimes very literally when teaching a class of 30 eager year 7s!) Best advice I can give? Expect the unexpected and you’ll be prepared for anything.


Gabrielle

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Monday, 19 June 2017

From teaching assistant to qualified teacher - Tom Savagar

As I come to the end of my teacher training, I’ve taken the opportunity to reflect on my experience of moving from being a teaching assistant (TA) to becoming a qualified teacher. As this is a transition which many teachers have made, I thought that I would share some helpful things to bear in mind when making the jump. As a TA, you’ve already shown that you can offer a great deal to the children you work with, so with the right support, there’s no reason you can’t become a fantastic teacher.

A new role

As a TA, you get a daily look at how teachers work. This means that you’re uniquely positioned to learn more about the path you’re about to embark on. The role of a teacher differs from that of a TA, and it’s worth taking this opportunity to speak to the teachers in your school, or any friends or relatives you have who are teachers, about how. 
  • What does their day look like?
  • What responsibilities would you have as a teacher that you don’t currently have? This will also give you a better idea of which areas you could focus on when you begin your teacher training.
  • Do you have experience of whole class teaching?
  • How confident would you feel about planning a lesson?

Don’t worry if you’ve not got experience in these areas, the whole point of your training is to learn and practice new things, but it’s important to bear in mind that these are the skills which will make up your practice as a teacher.

Which route is right?

While anyone who wants to work in a school run by a local authority needs to have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), there are now many ways to achieve this.
  1. One-year university-based PGCE courses for those who already have a degree.
  2. School-based Teach First courses for those with degrees with first class honours.
  3. Three-year university-based ITE courses, for which you don’t necessarily need a degree.

With all of these available routes into teaching, it’s important to work out which one is right for you. While it’s tempting to go for whichever route would get you to QTS the quickest, your training is invaluable, so it’s important to make sure that your chosen route meets your needs.
  • Are you someone who has a wealth of work experience, but would like to learn more about the theories and ideas behind teaching?
  • Do you already have a degree, but lack confidence in how you would manage your own classroom?

Most people fall somewhere in the middle, so it’s important to research what each training route involves. It may be useful to talk to the teachers in your school. What type of teacher training did they do, and which aspects of their training have they found helpful? If you choose a university based route, open days allow you to talk to the academics who would oversee your training, so that you can get a better picture of which route is the right one for you.

How to make the most of your training

If you’ve gotten to grips with the role of a teacher, chosen a training route, and applied for your course, now you’ve reached the fun part; the training itself. This is your opportunity to make the most of your time, and ensure that, at the end of the process, you are confident in the classroom. Many teacher training courses offer you a number of choices; you might specialise in a subject, you might be offered a placement in a specific type of school such as a school for children with special educational needs, there might be volunteering opportunities. This is your chance to go outside of your comfort zone and experience something you may not have before, or work on something you find difficult.

The great thing about your training is that you have the freedom to experiment, and concentrate on becoming the best teacher you can be. It’s important to remember that, as a trainee, no one’s expecting perfection. If you work hard, care about the children you work with, and apply yourself, you’ll be doing a great job.

Feeling inspired?

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Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Frequently asked questions: UKCAT Admissions Test

What is the UKCAT?

The UKCAT (UK Clinical Aptitude Test) is a test used in the selection process by the majority of UK university medical and dental schools.

It is a 2 hour, computer-based test, which is sat in Pearson VUE test centres across the UK and worldwide. The test consists of 5 separately timed subtests which are designed to test the cognitive abilities, attitudes, and behaviours considered to be valuable for healthcare professionals.

Who needs to sit the UKCAT?

Most UK universities require applicants to medicine and dentistry courses to sit an admissions test in addition to their other entry requirements.

A full list of universities and courses requiring the UKCAT is given on the UKCAT website.

You can only take the test once each year, so make sure you use the official preparation materials on our website. There are over 1,000 free practice questions available throughout our practice tests and other materials.

When do I need to book?

Your first step is to register via the UKCAT website. Registration is open now and closes on 19th September 2017.

You then need to book and sit your test any time between 3rd July and 3rd October 2017. Bursaries to cover the full test fee are available for eligible UK and EU students.

Using your UKCAT result

You will receive your UKCAT result as soon as you have tested. Scoring and marking are explained in full on the UKCAT website.

There is no pass or fail, however different universities may use your results in different ways depending on their entry requirements. You are advised to check the individual entry requirements for the universities you are applying to before you submit your UCAS application.

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Friday, 9 June 2017

Changing lives and getting paid for it – Pranav Patel


I want to share with you my journey into teaching. An honest version of this journey because in this career you will face different challenges to any other career you undertake. Never doubt however that this is the best undertaking you will ever have.

My name’s Pran and I’m currently a Lead Practitioner in an inner London academy. The son of two immigrant parents, one from the West Indian state of Gujrat and the other hailing from the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

After graduating from the University of Birmingham with a Bachelor of Science in Physics, I flittered from a variety of career options until, by chance, I ended up supporting in a secondary school for a day. At this point for me it clicked. I’m changing lives and getting paid for it, does it get any better than this?

Born in a typically British Asian household I was always pushed to excel; be successful in every aspect of my life from academia to career. The day I told my father I wanted to be a school teacher, he looked down, disappointed. I'm pretty sure he cursed under his breath in Gujrati. “Why have you worked so hard? Don’t you want to be a REAL success?” he asked.

Real success in our household, like many BAME would experience, meant careers of high money and status. My response at the time was that I just wanted to make a difference and cause ripples of good karma in the world (I thought I’d sweeten him up with a bit of our culture).

Undeterred I went to a secondary state school in Wolverhampton for my teacher training. This was hands down the best experience of my twenties. It felt like I was bettering the community that raised me.

During my NQT year on our food shopping trips in our local town centre, week after week I was greeted with "Sir! Sir!" This was the moment my father recognised the value of what I do; when he finally told me how proud he was and saw that my success wouldn’t be measured in just money, but in the commodity of deeds.

This is my core purpose. The reason I teach is to serve the pupils in my care; to give them the best possible start in life regardless of their background. This I have taken with me to every lesson in every classroom I have ever taught in. When you choose to teach, choose your core purpose and it will serve you well through the years of your career.

Teaching has taken me to three continents and now to the hustle and bustle of the capital. I have given students a taste of culture similar in some cases but very different to the stereotypes in others. I am the purveyor of so much more than a curriculum.  More than this I would say teaching has taken me to back to myself, my true calling and a place I call home.

In recent years I have developed myself as an educational leader to extend my impact on pupils to outside my classroom and outside my school. Last year I achieved my NPQSL (National Professional Qualification in Senior Leadership) with a focus on Teaching and Learning coaching.

My focus is about impacting on as many teachers’ practice as I can, then in turn this will impact on as many pupils as possible. My ultimate aim is to lead a school and propagate my vision to teachers and pupils alike.

To get there I will continue to use those sources of support that have taken me to this point now. One of these has been #BAMEed network. There is currently inequity between ratios of BAME pupil to BAME teachers and senior leaders. As such the support of others to engage more BAME into the profession is as important as the support to keep them positively progressing.

I work with the BAMEed network to ensure our diverse communities are represented as a substantive part of the education workforce for teachers and leaders in education. Fundamentally it’s about making school leadership reflect the communities they serve and letting our students see the leaders they want to be.

When you decide to join us in this fantastic career then do join our network. That is ALL you, all colours of the rainbow including you wonderful allies. Diversity benefits us all.

Pran @MrPatelsawesome

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Monday, 5 June 2017

Quantitative social science? Find out more…

If you’re thinking about taking a social science degree course, you might be interested to know that there are some specialist programmes which combine social science and quantitative skills.

So, what are quantitative skills, and what’s different about these courses? We asked Dr Simon Gallacher, Head of Student Programmes at the Nuffield Foundation.

What are quantitative skills?
‘Put simply, these give you the ability to handle data and use numerical evidence –  essentially, how to design and undertake your own research using data to help you get to the heart of challenging questions. This means you can design surveys and experiments, then analyse and interpret different types of data, and learn how best to use this evidence to make decisions. The key thing is, it’s using data which can help us answer some important questions.’

So, can you tell us more about the social science and quantitative skills degrees?
‘They’re called Q-Step degrees and are a new kind of social science degree that enable you to ask the important questions about society, why people behave as they do, and give you the necessary skills to answer them.’

So, social scientists are interested in finding the answers to questions such as:

  • why does life expectancy vary depending on where you live?
  • why do opinion polls sometimes get it wrong?
  • what is the link between family background and educational attainment?

You can study for a Q-Step degree at 18 leading universities across the UK, in social science subjects ranging from area studies, to political science, to sociology. All these degrees include developing your quantitative skills – in other words, your ability to handle data and use numerical evidence. These skills are invaluable in today’s job market.

What will I learn? 
Courses vary depending on the subject and university, but on a Q-Step degree programme, you could learn how to:

  • design surveys and experiments – essentially, how to design and undertake your own research
  • analyse and interpret different types of data, such as social media data, survey data, government data, and longitudinal data
  • evaluate the quality of data and analysis, and learn how best to use evidence to make decisions

Many Q-Step degrees offer work placements, which will enable you to gain experience of using data to answer big questions about people, their behaviour, and the circumstances in which they live. A range of employers offer placements, from think tanks, to marketing agencies, and research institutes. Q-Step students make a positive difference to the work of their host employers, including authoring published reports, presenting to international audiences, and even giving evidence to parliamentary committees.

What do Q-Step students say?
‘My Q-Step internship at Ipsos Mori gave me the opportunity to apply and develop the knowledge I had gained in the first two years of my degree. I then embarked on a quantitative dissertation in my third year. My Q-Step experiences were a huge contributing factor in my selection for a graduate role at [leading professional services firm] PwC.’
Amy Abbate, Q-Step graduate

‘The focus on quantitative methods allows you to start a different conversation with employers – one about politics as an exciting, forward-thinking, and data-driven degree. As a student competing to get a job at a top company, it has really helped me stand out from other applicants and to secure my position as Marketing Executive for [customer acquisitions company] MVF Global.’
James Potter, Q-Step graduate

Where can I find out more?
Firstly, visit the student pages on the Nuffield Foundation website. Then you might want to download the Q-Step prospectus featuring details of all Q-Step degree programmes across the UK. After that, check out the course descriptions at the individual universities, and perhaps register for an open day to help you get a better understanding of what would be involved.