Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Share Your Story: Janie Livermore

What or who inspired you to train to become a teacher?
My mum! She has worked in primary schools since I can remember, and growing up, I would go to her class and help her out when I could; I loved the fact that no two days were the same.
Also, I have a lot of lovely memories of my time in primary school with my mum working there and my dad being heavily involved. Every member of my immediate family have worked in education, and I guess it was natural for me to do the same.

What was the application process like?
I was very fortunate. I came back from travelling for 2 years thinking I have missed the boat in applying for any type of teacher training course w
hen my mum spotted an advert in the local newspaper. I applied straight away and got offered an interview a few days later. The interview was at a local primary school, and we had to take a literacy and maths test, take in a book suited for the year group allocated and read to a class, as well as preparing a presentation about ourselves and an interview with the course director and the head teacher. The very next day I received the amazing news!

This particular SCITT took on around 80 trainees, but the interviews started in September until my interview (with me being the last one) in June, and sometimes they offered a place to all the candidates or to just one person per interview session.

What was your course like?
The course itself was very good. We had lectures in every subject, (such as Literacy, Maths, Science etc) as well as other aspects of teaching (Voice, Special Educational Needs, Professional studies).
I would lie if I said it was easy! It was very demanding and I had to be highly organised and hard-working throughout, but it was worth it all in the end.

I was also very fortunate in having some of the most amazing people by my side throughout, whether I needed help with planning a lesson or an assignment, I knew I could go to my friends for support as they understand!

Did you move away from home to study, or did you commute?
Again, I was very fortunate as my cohort was based in a primary school literally 5 minutes from my house! That is where all the lectures were held. My two training schools were in the local area too, so not a long commute at all.

What age group(s) and/or subject do you currently teach, and where?
I taught year 5 and year 1 during my trainee year, but I have been employed at a school in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, as a Year 5 teacher.

In your opinion, what is the best thing about being a teacher? What is the worst?
The worst thing about being a teacher is that it does affect your social life, especially when you are first starting out and you are not necessarily quick at planning or marking. But, with time and practice, the work/life balance should get better.

I love the quote, “teachers change the world one child at a time” and I believe this is true. It is knowing you are making a difference; teaching isn’t just about imparting knowledge from a textbook, marking the register and sending home children at the end of the day. Sometimes, school is the only consistency in a child’s life, and sometimes they need that nurture, that place to go when maybe things are just not right at home. I like knowing that I can provide that; that is the best thing about teaching in my opinion.

Do you have any regrets about your course/route choice? Did anything surprise you?
Not at all. I was on a schools direct course so we spent a lot of time working in schools, instead of studying in a lecture hall at a University. I liked the lectures and I learnt a lot from them, but I learnt more in the schools I was training at and being able to teach classes and working out what I could improve or what worked well. We had observations more and less every week, which was great for receiving feedback. I am a kinaesthetic learner so for me, this was the best way to learn.

Is there anything you wish you’d known before you applied?
Maybe the amount of work we had to do! I went in very na├»vely and didn’t realise we needed to have two pieces of evidence per teaching standard (84 overall), a professional folder and 4 assignments to complete!

If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about training to become a teacher, what would it be?
Buy post its. Buy highlighters. Do anything you can to keep yourself organised and on top of things. It is a very hard year if you do a SCITT course, as you are doing a course and a job at the same time. The folders, the assignments, the planning, the data, and the admin – it all needs to be done and you don’t have a lot of time to do it!

I love teaching because…
I know that I can make some kind of difference for every pupil in my class.

More information
The key piece of advice I got from my mentor was, “you will never know everything.”
Personally, I have beaten myself up when a child asks me something and I didn’t know the answer; but is ok. It is ok to admit that you do not know everything; you are human after all and sometimes, the children respect you more when you admit that.

Friday, 26 August 2016

The Student Finance Guide for Freshers

I you are heading to university this autumn, life is about to get interesting! We look at how to make sure you can afford to have fun rather than worrying about the pennies.

Whether you will be living away from your parents for the first time or studying from home, once you start university you will have far more financial independence than ever before.

You will also be offered a bewildering array of accounts, cards and other finance options.
Financial products might sound a little dull, but the freedom they can give you if you choose wisely can be the difference between affording to do what you want and missing out on fun because you are skint!

We look at the new options you'll have, what to go for - and what to avoid.

How to budget

Setting and sticking to a budget will make sure you do not spend more than the money you have coming in - this is especially important if you need to survive off a single student loan instalment each term.

If you can resist splurging cash on things you do not need it can keep you out of financial trouble and maximise what you can do with your money.

Student loans and grants

As a student you will have access to grants, bursaries and loans to help you afford university. Knowing how they work is important so you can make sure you are getting all the help you need.
You can get a loan of up to £9,000 each year to pay tuition fees.

You can also get a maintenance loan to pay living costs. The amount depends on the part of the country you are in and if you live away from home or not. Student loans only need to be paid back once you start working and earn £21,000 or above.

You may also be able to get a maintenance grant of up to £3,387 towards your costs, depending on your household income.

You will not need to pay this back currently, however from the 2016-17 academic year the grants will be scrapped and replaced with maintenance loans. The maximum you will be able to borrow will increase to £8,200.

You can find out more from the Student Finance England guide to financial support.

Student bank accounts

There are some eye-catching deals out there for student accounts as the banks try to lure in young customers they hope will stick with them for life.

Do not be tempted by gimmicks like a free cuddly toy or gift - you are far better off going with an account with a competitive overdraft. An interest free overdraft will not charge you if you need to borrow a little to keep you going until payday or the next instalment of your loan.

If you do choose an account with a free gift, try to pick one that is useful like a student railcard or a free NUS Extra card.

An account you can manage from your computer or mobile is worth it too, to help you keep track of your spending, our student bank account comparison lists all the top student accounts.

Student credit cards

It is best to avoid credit card debt if you can, as it can quickly grow if you spend more than you can pay back. However, student credit cards do come with some benefits, including protection on your purchases.

Student Credit Cards can bring a range of benefits, very low interest rates for short term periods, a lower APR than standard cards, free vouchers, no annual fee, access to cash machines, or the opportunity to sign up for on line banking.

You will need several details to hand before applying for a student credit card such as your banking details and proof of address for the past 3 years.

For more information, including the pros and cons of taking out a credit card, read our guide, How to find the perfect credit card for you.

Other loans

Taking out loans can be tempting, but unless you have got a clear plan to get it paid back quickly, you can find the amount you owe will just get higher and higher.

Do not be tempted by the ease of payday loans  their sky high interest rates and fees make them totally unsuitable as a long-term solution.

Student insurance

If you have never dropped, lost or broken anything and know you will never be robbed, you probably do not need insurance.

Otherwise, the right contents insurance policy can protect you from loss, breakages and pesky thieves.

Make sure you choose a policy that will protect everything you take to uni. Shop around and make sure you do what you can to push down the price, like having a lock on the door to your room.

You will not need buildings insurance if you rent, as that will be the landlord's responsibility.

You can use our student contents insurance and student gadget insurance comparisons to make sure you get the best deal out there.

Student jobs

A part-time job while you are at uni can top up your finances, as long as you can find a healthy balance between studying, working and having fun.

You only have to start paying income tax and National insurance if you earn more than a certain amount. Your employer will not deduct tax from your pay if you earn less than the current limits:

  • If you earn less than £204 per week (or £833 a month), you will not need to pay income tax on your wages
  • If you earn less than £155 a week, you will not need to pay National Insurance

You can find out more on the GOV.UK website.

If you are below the income tax limit, you can also register an R85 on your savings or bank accounts to ensure your interest is paid tax-free. You can do this via the HMRC website.

Paying bills

If you live in halls of residence, most bills are usually included in your rent. Some student houses will also include all bills in the rent you pay. Although this can sometimes work out more expensive, it does at least make budgeting pretty straightforward.

If you will live with others and have to pay your bills separately, work out exactly how you will split and pay the bills in advance to avoid falling out.

You could open a joint account to do this. That way you can each pay in the same amount each month and split the bills fairly. Plus, problems can arise if you do not trust your housemates with managing your money, and having a joint account will link your finances, which can damage your credit rating, something you might regret once you graduate.

Alternatively, you could set up your utilities through a company like split the bills. You can each pay an agreed amount on the first of every month to cover all your bills (and a little extra to cover the cost of the service), rather than dealing with the complications of having varying bill amounts cropping up throughout the month.

Broadband, phone and TV

Do not just look for the cheapest package you can find  find one that covers everything you need, whether that is all the sports channels, free minutes to phone home or a decent broadband download limit.

If you will only be in your student house for 9 months, look for deals that offer a shorter contract, in case they are cheaper than having to pay for an entire year. Use our broadband comparison to find the cheapest internet deal that suits what you need.


Unless it is included in your rent, you will have to pay for the gas, electricity and water you use.

As well as picking a cheap supplier for each, you can save money by limiting how much you use and submitting meter readings to make sure you are not paying for more than you are using.

For some tips on how you can save, read our guide, slash your utility bills by up to £170 a year.

TV licence

If you watch TV shows live, you will need a TV licence, whatever device you watch them on.

Your parents' licence is unlikely to cover you if you live away from home, but if you live in shared accommodation you will usually only need one licence for the whole house. If you will be heading home for the summer, you won't be in your student house for a full 12 months. You can get a refund for the months you are back home. Information on how to do this and the specifics on when you need a licence is on the TV Licensing website.

Council tax
If everyone in your house is a full-time student, you won't need to pay any council tax.

However, you will need to apply for exemption from council tax if you get sent a bill for it  you can do this on the GOV.UK website.


Friday, 12 August 2016

Why I Chose a PGCE

A PGCE wasn’t always the way that I had intended to complete my ITT. For the 2014/15 academic year, I had applied for one PGCE course, and two School Direct (Salaried) programmes. Unfortunately, all of my applications were unsuccessful – I didn’t even get as far as an interview for the PGCE at this stage. I was very nervous about the whole process and the interviews were really tough – one had a panel of six head teachers interviewing! The feedback from the interviews was that I needed more experience in a school – due to working full-time, I’d only really done the two weeks minimum experience required for application.

I had five years’ working experience in a private nursery, moving from a student to a nursery nurse, to assistant manager, to nursery manager, but this obviously wasn’t enough. I’d worked full-time whilst studying part-time (one night per week) for my degree, moving from a foundation degree to a BA (Hons) Top-up, where I finished with First Class Honours!

I had a good working knowledge of a curriculum, but not the right one! It may have been a sensible option to go for an Early Years teaching programme, but going into Early Years had never been my intention, it just sort of ‘happened’. I wanted to spread my wings, have a broader experience of teaching, which was why I was determined to do primary initial teacher training, and not be limited to Early Years for the rest of my career. As much as I loved working in the Early Years, I needed something a bit more and I needed a challenge.

So, from the feedback given at the interviews, I approached a number of local primary schools to see if I could volunteer in their school, and after liaising with my employer, she agreed to let me have one day off per week (during term time) to go and volunteer in a school. I spent the year working with a lovely year 4 class in a one-form entry school, and working with three different teachers for that one class. The support I received there was amazing and it was a really fantastic experience. I even got to visit the children during their residential trip!

Then October came, I rewrote my personal statement from the previous year, and made it my own – I really tried to make my personality shine through and let them see who I am. After careful consideration, I used the year to save up some money and decided that I would bite the bullet, leave work for a year and embark on a PGCE (with the hope that I would soon be employed again for the following September!!). I applied to three local training providers who offered the Primary PGCE.

The interviews were within a couple of weeks of each other. I went to Durham University, liked it but wasn’t too sure that it was for me. I then went to the second which was Newcastle University, and knew as soon as I walked through the doors to the university that this was where I wanted to study. I left the interview and within three hours, they let me know that I had a place to study for my Primary PGCE for September 2015. I did go to the third interview, which was at Northumbria University, just in case I liked that one even more, but for me, I just knew when I walked through the doors of the second university that I wanted to study there.

In terms of choosing the providers in the first place, location was a big factor. I knew that I wanted to relocate to the area from Staffordshire, which left me with four choices. One of which hadn’t even offered me an interview the previous year! Next came the reputation. My first choice was Durham University, probably the most prestigious university out of the three, but it turns out I went with my second choice which was Newcastle University. I spent hours trawling the internet, looking at student satisfaction surveys and online reviews of the universities, but I just knew when I visited university number 2 that it was right for me.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Going through Clearing? Update your student finance account now!

Didn’t get the results you were expecting? You might end up using Clearing or Adjustment to find a place on a university or college course. Whichever one you use, it’s important to let us know of any changes as soon as possible, as it could affect your funding.

Already applied?
If you’ve applied already, it’s easy to change your details by logging in to your account at and going to: Your Account>Change your application>University/college course.

Once we’ve got this information, we’ll re-assess your application and let you know of any changes to the amount of student finance you can get as quickly as we can.

Haven’t applied yet?
Don’t panic! If you’ve got a place through Clearing and would like funding but haven’t applied for student finance yet, you need to do so now.

Applications take at least six weeks to be processed, so you might not get all your money straightaway – but we’ll do our best to give you some initial funding as close to the start of your course as possible.

Don’t forget – the sooner you apply, the sooner you’ll get your money.

It’s quick and easy to apply now at

EU student?
If you’re an EU student who doesn’t meet the standard residency criteria for the full funding package, you can still apply for a Tuition Fee Loan. Applications take at least six weeks to be processed, so if you haven’t applied yet, you need to do so straightaway.

Apply now by downloading an EU16N form from our website. If you’ve applied already, you need to let us know of any changes to your course, or university or college, by downloading an EUCO1 form.

Still got questions about student finance or Clearing?
There’s lots of support available. Visit SFE’s student finance zone on The Student Room, where we have a dedicated Clearing page as well as helpful tools and guidance to walk you through what you need to do and when to do it: 

Our experts will be holding two dedicated surgeries on the student finance zone on 18 and 19 August, from 10:00 – 16:00.

We’ll also be on Twitter – @SF_England – from Thursday 18 August until Friday 26 August. You can speak to our experts who’ll be on hand to offer advice on any Clearing queries, plus anything you need to know about student finance.

Just go on Twitter and send your question to #SFEClearing – it’s that easy!

Our student finance experts will be online:

• Thursday 18 August and Friday 19 August – 10:00 to 18:00
• Saturday 20 August and Sunday 21 August – 12:00 to 16:00
• Monday 22 August to Friday 26 August – 10:00 to 18:00

You can also get expert advice on student finance with our latest films – Ask SFE – which are available to watch now on YouTube.

Good luck!

Friday, 5 August 2016

Can you get financial help from grants, scholarships and bursaries?

You have to pay student loans back with interest after you graduate, but there are several other ways to help you pay for university that do not need to be paid back.

Universities offer help to support students with financial difficulties, to award achievements or to attract gifted students.

You can’t get Maintenance Grants or Special Support Grants when you start uni any more, but you can get financial support in the following ways:

Scholarships are awarded based on your academic achievements or abilities. They often cover all of your tuition fees for one year or more.

Bursaries are usually given as instalments each term or a one-off lump sum to help you out if you are struggling financially. They are means tested, so you will have to provide details of your financial situation, which will affect how much you can get.

Hardship funds are paid by your uni if you face financial problems after you have started your course.

Grants can be awarded to help if you are in financial difficulty or to reward your achievements.

Universities limit how much they pay out in bursaries and scholarships; for example, a uni that offers music courses could provide:

Six bursaries for £1,500 per year for gifted applicants who are struggling financially
Two scholarships each year to pay the tuition fees of talented musicians
Help for struggling students, paid from the university’s hardship fund, which usually has a separate limit on the total amount that can be given out each year

What can you get scholarships for?

You can get scholarships for the following:

Academic excellence, which is based on your grades or your proficiency
Musical talent
Sporting proficiency (you will usually have to play for the uni’s team)
Work placements with companies that will help fund your studies

How to find them

If you are already at uni or know where you want to study, check the university’s website for details of what scholarships, bursaries and grants they offer.

If you are still deciding where to go, use one of the following websites to find out which universities offer financial support for the course you want to study:

The Scholarship Hub
Scholarship Search
The British Council

You can apply for hardship funds through your uni’s website or by contacting its student services department.

Other financial help

You can find more financial help from GOV.UK, including benefits like income support and grants for students with children or dependent adults.

You can find out more on the financial help available to disabled students in’s guide.

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Wednesday, 3 August 2016

How to find a job

There are lots of resources on the internet that can help you find a job, successfully apply for it and
perfect your interview technique.

The National Careers Service has detailed guides to finding a job and several tools like action plans and a CV builder.
UCAS’ careers guides cover everything from writing your CV to how to get into specific industries.
The BBC website features videos to help you prepare for finding a job.
If you can’t find a full-time job immediately, there are other types of work you could do instead. You can find guides to the pros and cons of different ways of working on

Working from home
Temporary jobs (and how to turn them into full-time roles)
Being self-employed
Zero hour contracts

What industry should you work in?
Your degree could help you get a job in particular industries. For example, a maths degree could make it easier to get a job in accountancy. Here is some advice on what careers suit your degree.

The five highest paid industries for graduates are:

Investment banking (average salary £43,500)
Law (£37,000)
Financial services (£33,000)
IT and telecommunications (£28,500)
Energy and utilities (£27,500)

Here is a guide to which sectors pay most and what you need to get a job in each.

How to understand your payslip
You should get a payslip every time you are paid by your employer. It’ll be on paper or sent electronically, and will include:

how much you have been paid before tax (your gross pay)
any deductions from this amount like tax and National Insurance
the amount you will receive after the deductions (your net pay)
your name, address and National Insurance number
details of your earnings for the current tax year
your tax code

If you work shifts and are paid by the hour, it should also confirm how many hours you have worked and your rate of pay for them.

It’s worth checking that the amounts are correct, especially if your hours vary or you do overtime. Here’s what to check on your payslip.

What is deducted from your pay?
The following will be taken from your gross salary every month:
Income tax.
National Insurance, if you earn £155 a week or more.
Student loan repayments.
Any pension contributions you make.

Here is how much National Insurance you will pay. Income tax is only taken from what you earn above your annual personal allowance, which is £11,000 for the 2016/17 tax year.

You can work out how much you will pay and – more importantly – how much you will take home each month by entering your salary and other details into a tax calculator.

You should also check your tax code, which HMRC give you each year. It confirms the amount you can earn tax free, divided by ten. For example, 1100L would mean your tax free allowance is £11,000. A letter is added to the end – here is what each letter means.

If you find you have paid too much tax, here is how to reclaim it.

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