Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Tips for teacher training interviews – David Douglass

All teacher training providers have their own format for interviews. Some Higher Education Institutions and School Centred Initial Teacher Training providers will have individual and group tasks as part of their selection process. My tips below are therefore not an attempt to second guess interview questions, rather to act as food for thought.

Key areas to consider
 A provider may wish to explore these key areas:

  • Why you feel you want to become a teacher.
  • How your experience and qualifications to date have prepared you for the role.
  • What specific qualities, skills and knowledge you'd bring to the role/school.
  • Your ability to reflect on lessons you've observed.
  • Areas of strength and areas you feel you'd need more support with.
  • How well you understand their course (vision, structure and aims etc.).

On the day
If your interview is at a school it is wise to attend in a suit or appropriate smart clothing. You may well be asked to interact with students or teach a short activity so it’s best to be dressed for the occasion. Tasks on the day will vary between providers but expect some/all of the following:

  • Panel interview.
  • Written task (lesson plan, review of a student’s work etc.).
  • Teaching task or lesson.
  • Group task / discussion.
  • Meeting with students.

If you are asked to prepare a lesson or to talk through a lesson for the day – always bring a copy of the plan for the panel.

What are we looking for in a great applicant?
Through your answers and the activities of the day, we’d hope to uncover most/all of the following:

  • Passion - for the subject or phase you want to teach.
  • Knowledge – good teachers have a breadth of knowledge beyond their formal qualifications.
  • Confidence – we know you will grow and develop as a teacher but we need to see potential!
  • Care – this is a profession where putting the student first is a given.
  • Highly Literate – Able to speak well in formal situations and be comfortable in correcting the spelling, punctuation and grammar of students.
  • Motivation – Do you have the drive for the multifaceted nature of the role? Can you motivate others?
  • Empathy – Can you see both sides? Can you demonstrate you’d be firm but fair especially when under pressure?
  • Sense of humour – if I need to explain this one… you’re probably not quite what we’re looking for :)

It’s a cliché but above all else – be yourself in the interview! The process is a supportive one, we are trying to find a good fit for us as the trainer, and you equally want to feel that you can work with us. At the end of the formal panel interview you’ll be asked if you have any questions, the most common two questions are:

  1. Will I be here (the school doing the interview) for my placement? ANSWER – often, but not always. This is the point to mention any travel issues you may have (no car, moving house etc. so that school placements can be made which work for both parties)
  2. How does the training work? ANSWER – Most providers run some ‘block’ training at the start of the course with ‘training days’ scheduled throughout the rest of the year. The rest of the time you will be in your first placement school (often called your host school) followed by a half term placement in a Second School Placement (SSP) before returning to the host school for the rest of the year.

Good luck!


David Douglass is Director of Sacred Heart Newcastle SCITT. He has over 20 years’ experience of working in Secondary schools in Yorkshire, Northumberland and Newcastle upon Tyne. He is currently Deputy Headteacher at Sacred Heart Catholic High School. This was originally posted on the Sacred Heart Newcastle SCITT blog and is published with kind permission. Follow him on Twitter @NewcastleSCITT

Thursday, 6 April 2017

How to handle the stresses of the university lifestyle

Your time at university can be an especially challenging period of your life. Adapting to a new routine and a different environment isn’t always easy. Moving away from home is exciting because it gives you a level of independence, but this also means taking on responsibilities you might not have considered before – such as managing your own time, living with a group of other people, budgeting, and cooking for yourself.

With all this in mind, it’s not surprising that a recent survey of 2,460 students nationwide (conducted by The Student Housing Company) found that more than 96% of students experience stress throughout their studies.

Learning how to best handle stressful moments when you’re at university is really important, to ensure you look after your physical and mental wellbeing.

Organising your study time

The structure of university learning is very different to that of school and college. There are usually far fewer contact hours, which means you need to put in your own study time outside of the lecture halls. Depending on your course, you may have daily lectures and seminars, or only a handful. You’ll be completely responsible for your own study schedule – from managing your timetable and preparing for each lecture, to completing the necessary work to meet each assignment deadline.

It’s a wise idea to get organised and create your own study routine from the offset. Plotting your lecture timetable and all your assignment deadlines into a calendar will help you decide how to structure each day. It’s worth setting your own deadlines a few days before the assignments are due, to avoid the stress of completing work last minute. If you miss a lecture, contact your lecturer to see if you can get any information about what you missed, or ask one of your course mates if you could share their insight or notes.

Budgeting and paying bills

The thought of being in charge of your finances can be rather daunting. Paying rent, managing bills, and budgeting for your groceries and other essentials – all with the money from your student loan – can seem like an impossible task, and it’s no wonder that many students worry about money. Making your money stretch far enough each month requires you to be thrifty and wise when it comes to spending.

There are many easy ways that you can relieve the pressure of handling your finances, to ensure money doesn’t become a preoccupation. Just a few things that can help you save include:

making the most of discount codes, loyalty schemes, and coupons (including getting an NUS card and a 16-25 railcard)
cooking meals from fresh, rather than buying takeaways or ready meals
sharing kitchen essentials, such as milk and condiments, with your housemates
getting books from your university’s library where possible, instead of buying your own copy of everything on the reading list

Coping with homesickness

Feeling homesick can happen at any time while you’re at university. Whether this is your first time living away from home or not, it’s normal to miss your family and friends. Adjusting to an unfamiliar environment in communal living, settling into a different city, and struggling to make new friends can be an isolating experience, so it’s only natural to miss the comforts of home.

You can ease feelings of anxiety and loneliness (which in turn can trigger homesickness) in a number of ways. When you first move to university, you might feel nervous about making friends, but getting to know your housemates and course mates is a great place to start. Building friendships and socialising with the people you live with, or those on your course, can act as a good distraction if you are feeling low.

Striking up a conversation with your housemates can be as simple as popping on the kettle to share a cup of tea, or sitting down to watch a film one evening. With your course mates, you could suggest setting up a study group to share ideas (this can also ease some of the stress associated with assignments), or you could ask if they want to grab a drink after a lecture. If you feel comfortable, tell your friends that you’re missing home – the chances are they will be too.

Overcoming stress

University is a really exciting period that opens up many different possibilities and experiences. In order to have the most enjoyable time during your degree, it’s important to look after your wellbeing. Overcoming the various stresses associated with the sudden lifestyle change is essential. For more advice, take a look at The Student Housing Company’s mental health infographic.

Author bio: The Student Housing Company provides private student accommodation in cities across the UK, giving you a vibrant, social, and comfortable place to stay during your time at university.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Top three tips for trainee teachers – Iqra Abbasi

I cannot believe that I am just short four months away from obtaining my PGCE. In some ways this course has been a bit of a blur, but the hard work that has been required has pushed me beyond belief. Here are my top three tips for trainee teachers-to-be...

1. Become as organised as you possibly can
If you don't have a diary, GET one! Life moves as fast as a flash when you're a trainee and if you don't keep track of your time and the dates it is very easy to get left behind. I have an academic diary which is separate to my journal and I use it every single day! If you didn't start organising before, you're going to have to now. I'm still working on it to be fair and I should definitely be more productive at the weekends, but I know that if I still had the amount of organisation I did in second year, I'd have quit by now.

2. Prepare for the highs the lows
And boy oh boy are there lows to match the highs! Whilst so much of this year has been about self-development and reaching goals, a lot of it has also been filled with tears, stress, sleepless nights. Some things that really, really help me are praying and going back to that peaceful spiritual place, removing myself from it all for a few minutes at least. Also I've not been regular by any means, but when I have made the time to go to the gym (mainly in the half term!), I have really appreciated the after effects. Maintaining my water intake and upping my fruits and 'good food', to sort of balance the amount of junk food I get through helps and of course taking time out to catch up with family and friends is really key. Even if they aren't going through what you are, it’s so nice to be able to put those to-do lists and deadlines to the side for a few hours and just spend quality time with those you love. Of course focusing on the positives and the long term goals always help and to be honest, time flies by. I still remember the first day I walked into the classroom I teach in, yet now I know the kids like the back of my hand all within 6 months. It is both exciting and scary!

3. Set up a teaching journal
Fill it with the things you learn, that you really want to carry forward in your own classroom one day! Some of mine is based simply on observations of different classrooms, but most of it has tips and little tricks teachers have shared with me, or things I have read about along the way. At the moment it’s in a scruffy old book, filled with my messy handwriting but I'm hoping that at some point this summer I'll be copying it out into a new book ha-ha.


This blog was originally posted by Iqra Abbasi and published with kind permission.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Teaching provides an amazing, varied, irresistible career – Dame Alison Peacock

I became a teacher because I realised that I wanted to be free to plan my days, to work with young people in a vibrant ever-changing environment and because I wanted to do something that might make a positive difference.

I have worked in primary and secondary schools and have also spoken at hundreds of conferences, so you could say I have taught teachers too. Essentially, the job has many similarities throughout all age ranges. The key characteristic is one of connecting with others, engaging them in a compelling process that helps them to think, enabling them to learn something new.

When I started teaching I worked in a large secondary school. Every day was different and exciting but there were plenty of challenges too. When I look back, I remember the highs and lows of exhilaration when things went well as well as the exhaustion that came just before a holiday. I remember pupils that I taught and their delight and excitement when we produced a school play in the summer term. I recall my first parents’ evening in the school hall feeling very young and yet full of optimism and pride about the children in my class. I also recall being invited to dinner with my Head of Department who seemed ancient but now that I look back realize was probably only in her thirties.

Every school that I have worked in has felt like an important micro-community. Each school has encouraged huge loyalty and closeness - working as a teacher is like joining a large, diverse family. There have always been particular colleagues who I have formed close friendships with, families that I have connected with and supported and children that I have cared deeply about. To teach is to become emotionally engaged. This is why the job can feel all-consuming at times. Teachers care.

I chose to become a headteacher of a primary school that was in special measures. The school was a place where hope had been lost and I took on the challenge of turning it into a school that inspired teachers across England. The story of this Learning without Limits approach is captured in a series of books that I have authored in partnership with colleagues from the University of Cambridge. My role as a teacher became one as researcher and writer whilst also working as a headteacher. Ultimately, before leaving my school last year, I became one of the few headteachers also working as a professor at university.

Throughout my career I have been inspired by the importance of ‘big ideas’ that seek to improve life and educational opportunities for all. This inspiration has been fuelled by my love of engagement with professional learning and research. From my earliest days as a student teacher, I was fascinated by the lectures on my PGCE and soon went on to seek out further opportunities to study.

Having received a Damehood from the Queen, I can honestly say that I am amazed by the wonderful experience that teaching has offered me. I have never regretted choosing this career path for a single moment. Driven by a passion to support all schools to offer inspiration both for children and for teachers, I took the decision last year to leave headship to establish a new professional body. The new Chartered College of Teaching has been set up to provide a membership organisation for all teachers that will support career pathways, connect teachers across the country and provide a study path towards Chartered Teacher status. We aim to enhance the status of the teaching profession and to offer an authoritative, credible voice that will be respected by government and wider society.  This is the next stage of my career and it feels incredibly important.

I hope that you will join our profession, inspire others and gain the true satisfaction that comes from knowing your efforts will change lives for the better.

Dame Alison Peacock
Chief Executive, Chartered College of Teaching


Feeling inspired?

Find out more about becoming a teacher.

There’s more to assessment than meets the eye - Andy Chandler-Grevatt

In this blog I’ll be giving you a brief introduction to one of the key themes you’re likely to encounter in your teacher training - assessment.

When we think of assessment, we think of tests and exams, however the most important assessment takes place every day in classrooms.

There are of course examinations that most students will sit, whether they are government standardised tests such as SATs or exam board GCSE or A-level examinations. It is worth having a read through the National Curriculum and an exam board specification to see what is covered and what questions are asked. These exams and tests are known as summative assessments, which summarise learning, usually in the form of a grade.

However, summative assessment can dominate schools and classrooms, where there is over-emphasis on grades, feedback is managerial rather than on learning and shallow rote-learning can lead to demotivation in students. Formative assessment on the other hand, is an interaction between the teacher and their students, which focusses on feedback and improvement through clear learning intentions, skilled questioning and a range of feedback and improvement opportunities. In England, these strategies are known as Assessment for Learning (AfL). To understand the origin of this important aspect of classroom teaching, it is worth reading the short seminal work by Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam called Inside the Black Box, and if you want to take it further, Working Inside the Black Box.

Good formative assessment can be subtle. When you first start observing classrooms, look out for the following features of classroom assessment and ask yourself these questions:

Questioning - How does the teacher pose questions? What does it achieve? What types of questions are used? Open (How? Why?) or closed questions (What is? Tell me the name of?)? Do they use alternative forms of questioning such as ‘Big Questions’, Traffic light cards, thumbs up or down?
Learning objectives and outcomes - Does the teacher share what the lesson will cover? How? Do the children understand what to do? Do they know how well they need to do it? Do they know what success looks like? How does the teacher communicate this?
Peer-assessment and self-assessment - Do the students have an opportunity to assess or check their own work? Do students have the opportunity to assess each other’s work? What learning opportunities come from this?
Feedback - How do teachers feedback to students verbally and in writing? What is feedback about, the work or the behaviour?
Making improvements - Do the students have targets? How are these decided? Are the student’s given time to improve? If so, how do they do this? What support do student’s get?

Note that not all teachers use formative assessment strategies routinely. Good formative assessment is more than a set of skills, it is a classroom culture. When I did my doctorate into how teachers used formative assessment activities, I identified some features of summative and formative cultures. A summative-focussed classroom usually values outcomes in the forms of grades, gives one chance opportunities at learning, assessment is an add-on such as a test at an end of a topic or unit of work. A formative-focussed classroom has assessment as a thread of each lesson, where teachers and students focus on the process of learning, feedback and improvements; assessment is a process rather than an end-point. Often you’ll find a combination of both.

When you observe lessons, decide what type of assessment culture dominates. Find out what summative tests take place and how often, what the purpose of the summative assessments are and how they are communicated to students, other teachers and parents.

Once you start teaching, you will start to develop assessment strategies that help you and your students understand what they know already, what they should be aiming for and how to get there. It takes time and professional skill and you’ll find there’s a lot more to assessment than just tests and examinations.


Dr Andy Chandler-Grevatt has an EdD in school assessment and a real passion for teaching and learning. Andy is Teaching Fellow in Science Education at the University of Sussex where he is a tutor on the PGCE, School Direct, and MA in Education courses. An author and assessment editor, his new book How to Assess Your Students is coming out next year. Follow him on Twitter @Grevster73

Further reading

National Curriculum 2014 - read both primary (Key Stage 1 and 2) and secondary (Key Stage 3 and 4) so you can understand what the students should know when they come to you, or what they will learn when they leave you.

Summative assessment - have a look at National Curriculum tests and GCSE awarding body specifications and exemplar exam papers: STA, AQA, Edexcel and OCR

If you liked this…

It’s one of a series of blogs to help make your introduction to teacher training a little easier. Get up-to-speed with some of the topics you’re likely to encounter in your training:
Common myths about the brain and learning

Common myths about the brain and learning – James Williams

Part of becoming a teacher is observing teachers and children in schools. If you’re on a teacher training degree programme, this will happen on a regular basis. But, is everything you see good teaching?

Neuroscientists have been trying to figure out how our brains work for decades. This includes how we learn. Some teachers will tell you they use ‘neuroscience’ based techniques. But beware, there are some bad teaching methods and brain myths still being used in some schools that aren’t backed by any scientific evidence.

In this blog I’ll look at some myths about the brain, look at those discredited teaching methods and explain how we know they don’t work.

We only use 10% of our brain!

This is a common ‘fact’ that’s false. We use all of our brain nearly all of the time. How do we know?

Studies of brain damage - If only 10% of the brain is normally used, then damage to other areas shouldn’t cause us any problems.
Brain scans - These show that all brain areas are always active.
Evolution - If we only need 10% of our brain, why did we evolve a much larger brain?
Energy use - Our brain requires up to 20% percent of the body's energy – that’s a lot for just 10% of the brain.
Brain imaging (neuroimaging) - Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) reveal that even during sleep, all parts of the brain show some level of activity. The brain has distinct regions for information processing. No functionless areas exist.

Left Brain Right Brain differences

Have you heard that the left hand side of your brain controls rational, logical thinking and the right hand side controls your emotional responses? It’s completely wrong. How do we know?

In 2013 a research team looked at brain scans of over 7,000 different regions of the brain and how they were connected in people while they were resting, they found:

Heavy ‘neural traffic’ (messages being passed) in different regions
On average, both sides of the brain were equal in their neural networks and connectivity.

The learning pyramid

Have you come across the ‘learning pyramid’ before? None of the information in the pyramid is evidence based. How do we know?

The percentages are just ‘too’ neat and rounded. Experiments and research rarely, if ever, give such clear results.
Nobody can track down where this first appeared and who made these claims
We all use a combination of ways of taking in information so this doesn’t make much sense.

Brain Gym

Brain Gym is a teaching system that uses movement to ‘stimulate’ brain function. For example it claims that placing your fingers on your ‘brain buttons’ (the rounded ends of your collar bone) and rubbing them gently while placing one hand over your belly button and looking left then right, will ‘wake up’ your brain. Drinking water, it’s claimed, ‘gives you energy’. Gently folding and ‘unrolling’ your ears ‘switches on’ your hearing. It’s all pseudoscientific nonsense. How do we know?

There is no direct linking pathway in the nervous system between your collar-bones, belly button, eyes and brain.
Water is essential, but contains no ‘energy’ that can be released in the body.
We ‘hear’ with our inner ear as electrical impulses are transmitted from the inner ear to the brain to be interpreted. Our pinna (the outer ear) simply collects sound waves and channels them towards the ear drum.

Learning Styles

Many teachers still believe that children ‘learn better’ if they are taught in their ‘preferred’ learning style – using either visual, auditory or kinaesthetic (movement) techniques, commonly known as VAK. There’s no evidence to back this up. It’s true that we may state that we prefer to learn using one style over another, but the evidence shows we use many different senses to gather information as we learn. How do we know?

How good food tastes depends not just on our taste buds, but also on what the food looks likes, smells like and feels like when we eat it.
Different contexts for learning require different dominant senses e.g. you can’t easily pass your driving test if you only learn by looking and listening you also have to turn the steering wheel and control the pedals.
Lots of studies have shown that ‘learning styles’ is a myth and shouldn’t be used in teaching.


James Williams was a science teacher in secondary schools for 12 years and has twenty years’ experience as a lecturer in education. His current post, at Sussex University, involves teaching on undergraduate education, postgraduate teacher training and MA programmes. He has authored science textbooks, writes for national and regional newspapers, and magazines on education. His current interest is looking at how myths in neuroscience spread between schools.

Further reading

The Learning Brain: Lessons for Education (2005) by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore and Uta Frith (Blackwell publishing)

Urban Myths about Learning and Education (2015) by Pedro De Bruyckere, Paul A. Kirschner and Casper D. Hulshof (Academic Press)

Neuromyths in Education, Canadian Education Association (CEA) 


If you liked this…

It’s one of a series of blogs to help make your introduction to teacher training a little easier. Get up-to-speed with some of the topics you’re likely to encounter in your training:

There’s more to assessment than meets the eye

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Professional skills tests

If you're applying for teacher training programmes, you may have seen that some providers ask for professional skills tests as one of the entry requirements. In this blog, we’ll answer three of the most frequently asked questions our advisers receive.

1. Do I need to take a professional skills test?
To study for a teacher training programme in England you need to pass the numeracy and literacy skills tests. Some training providers may require you to complete them before your interview, or ask you to complete them by a certain date as a condition of your offer – check with your chosen training providers to confirm. If you’re applying for training programmes in Wales then you’re not required to pass the skills tests.

2. When can I book a professional skills test?
You cannot sit your professional skills test until you have completed and submitted your application. When filling in your application, you only need to include a date if you have previously sat your skills tests. If you haven’t, you should select ‘no’ and leave the date blank.

You can book your skills tests through learndirect, but places are on a first-come, first- served basis so it’s worth trying to book a space as soon as you have made your application. You can book a test up to three months in advance.

3. Who do I contact if I can’t find a suitable booking slot? 
The learndirect helpdesk is open Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 16:00. Call them on 0300 303 9613 or email support@sta.learndirect.com.

We’ve got lots of advice about entry requirements on ucas.com. If you have any questions about your chosen training programmes, get in touch with the training providers you're interested in - some training programmes have many more applications than places available, so their requirements might be higher.

There’s also plenty of support to help you get ready, including practice tests, on the Get Into Teaching website.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

In at the deep end: top five tips for stepping into the classroom - Alex Nicholson

Stepping into the classroom as a trainee teacher for the first time can be daunting, and if you've signed up for a school direct course – it is a feeling you are going to get used to. From one trainee to another, here are five things I've learnt about life inside the classroom over the past six months of being in at the deep end.

1. Whatever you do, do it with passion
Hate maths? Find history boring? Worried about teaching English? It doesn’t matter, whatever subject you are delivering, give it a big dollop of passion. If you don't find the subject interesting – how you expect your students to? I've discovered that finding something within the topic or subject I'm teaching that captures my imagination, and sharing this with the class, has a great impact on how they respond to it. I don't know about you, but when I think back to my favourite teachers from my own childhood – they were the ones who loved the subjects they taught. And if you can't love it? Fake it, that enthusiasm can bring a lesson to life.

2. Flying solo
As scary as it seems, occasionally being left alone with a class is a great opportunity. Not only does it give you a chance to teach without the worry of being judged by another teacher, but it can also serve as your testing ground. This is the perfect place to try out new methods, tips and techniques you’ve learnt in your theory based lessons, and if they go a bit wrong, or don’t work, it doesn’t matter (play it cool and the students won’t even realise). If it worked you can tweak and refine whatever you tried out, ready for next time. Some of my most successful learning games and zany ideas were given an airing this way, and it proved massively useful.

3. Confidence is the key
I’ve heard people joke that children are like dogs...they can smell fear. There is definitely something in that! If you step into the classroom without confidence, the children won't have confidence in you. This applies to the knowledge you impart in your lessons and the same goes for the tougher side of behaviour management too. Children like to know where they stand, so draw a line in the sand by making your classroom rules - and the consequences for not sticking to them - crystal clear. Although it can be easier said than done, don't make threats you won't (or can't) stick to. If you say, “This is your last chance, if you do that again, you will have to stay in a break time,” you need to have the confidence to follow through, or in the future the children will disbelieve any warnings.

4. Be a Chameleon
Adapt to your surroundings, to be the best teacher you can be. This really comes with a bit of practice, but know that it is ok to go off-plan during your lessons. This can be really tricky, especially when you are being observed. Picture this: for your lesson you've handed over your carefully crafted lesson plan, you spent untold hours slaving over. The lesson is going fine to begin with, but suddenly – you realise the children just aren't getting it. You have two choices – plough on, or stop and rethink. The thought of having to throw your beautiful plan out of the window and freestyle brings you out in a cold sweat, what will you do? How will you cope? Know this – DO NOT plough on. If your lesson needs to take a different direction to help the children progress, then that is the path you have to take. Thankfully, the more you teach, the less of a scary prospect adapting as-you-go becomes. I’m still getting there, but with experience it is getting easier.

5. Keep it positive
It can be really tricky to be positive when fidget Freddy won't sit still, little Lucy is taking a stroll around the classroom for the fifth time in an hour, or chatty Charlie keeps calling out. When managing classroom behaviour though, positivity can go a long way. Do your best to ignore those who are making the wrong choices, and instead praise those who are making the right ones; "Well done to Sophie, you are sitting so beautifully," "Thank you James for patiently waiting your turn to speak," and "I can see Oliver is working really hard, I love how he has taken charge of his own learning by helping himself to a dictionary". It takes some practice, but giving out effort points, stickers or rewards to children who are doing the right thing will encourage others who are not, it will also create a more pleasant atmosphere in your classroom and in turn, you'll feel more positive too.

I hope these nuggets may be of use to those of you taking your first steps into the classroom.  Some of them may seem obvious, or cliché, but from my own experience, these are the buoyancy aids that I have to remember are lifesaving to have on me. Now it is your turn, so arm yourself and jump right in!


Monday, 13 March 2017

Getting a TV licence

You need to be covered by a TV licence to watch or record live TV programmes on any channel, or download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer.

This could be on any device, including a TV, desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, tablet, games console, digital box, or DVD/VHS recorder. If you do any of the above without a valid licence, you risk prosecution and a maximum penalty of up to £1,000, plus any legal costs and/or compensation you may be ordered to pay. You will also still then have to buy a TV licence if you need one.

To find out more, go to tvlicensing.co.uk/studentinfo.

How can I buy a TV licence?

There are lots of different ways to buy a TV licence. Whether that’s through weekly cash payments, using your nearest PayPoint outlet, spreading the cost with monthly, quarterly, or yearly direct debit, credit/debit card or by post, just choose the one that suits you best.

For more information on the ways to pay, go to tvlicensing.co.uk/payinfo.

If I live in halls, won’t I already be covered by a TV licence?

Your room needs to be covered by its own licence if you're plugged in to watch or record programmes as they're being shown on TV, live on an online TV service, or if you download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer. If there are TVs in communal areas, check with your halls' manager to see if they’re covered by a halls licence.

What if I live in a shared house?

You'll probably only need one licence between you if you have a joint tenancy agreement for the whole house – this is the most common type of shared house arrangement. You might need your own licence if your accommodation is self-contained – if you have exclusive access to washing facilities, or your own entrance to the property. You will also need your own licence if you have a separate tenancy agreement for your own room. If you're not sure, check our advice for tenants and lodgers.

Won't my parents' licence cover me?

Your parents' licence will not cover you while you're away at uni, unless you only use a device that's powered solely by its own internal batteries and not connected to the mains power supply.

What if I'm not at uni for the summer?

If you're leaving your halls or rented accommodation and moving back home for the summer, there's a good chance you won't need your TV licence if there's one at home. You can see our policy and apply for a refund online.

What if I don’t need a licence?

If you don’t need a TV licence, you should let TV Licensing know so they can update their records. They won’t then send you any letters for approximately two years.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Exam stress season

‘Tis the season not to be jolly – otherwise known as the ‘exam stress season’. It’s like the flu season, but without the cough.

So here I am, juggling the very different needs of my three daughters, two of whom have exams this summer.

Here are the steps I have found useful in achieving a successful exam stress season. Let me be clear about what I mean by ‘successful’. I do not define success as every one of my children achieving straight A* grades in all subjects. I define success as them getting through the stress of exams safe and well, and being able to look back satisfied that they gave it their best shot. The rest is for fate and the public examination boards to sort out.

Exam sympathy

This is a point in my parenting life when I feel I am required to be unreservedly sympathetic. Some parents may want to tell their children exams were harder in their day, or had taken on ten paper rounds before they were out of nappies. Even if these things were true, I realise this is not the best time to talk about it. Exams are hard and can be gruelling. I find it helps to acknowledge this and state clearly my acceptance this is not a great time for teens. I also remind them it will not last forever, and a long summer break will soon be here – although I don’t mention results day is right in the middle of it!

Exam support

If you have some knowledge about the subjects your child is studying, it is tempting to become over-involved in the revision process, but this is not always helpful in the long term. The objective of this process is for your child to become an independent learner, so it may be useful to keep this in mind as you hog the textbooks.  Personally, I can be a complete pain in the neck when my kids are revising a subject which interests me, and I’m sure this is a constant source of irritation to them, but they humour me nevertheless.

On the other hand, don’t assume they will have everything available for the learning process. Revision skills are taught in most schools these days, but your teen may not have taken them on board. Therefore, you may want to encourage them to discover what works for them, and this is a matter of trial and error. I personally need to write everything down in note form when I am learning, and I also find it helpful to talk out loud as if I am explaining it to someone else. Some students find a whiteboard and pens useful, while others need a huge notebook. If you support them in their chosen revision method, at least it shows you respect the process and consider them mature enough to handle their own revision. If they can revise according to their own style it will be more productive, and perhaps even enjoyable, for them. They will NEVER admit this, however.

Exam structure

A perfectly structured family life is, in my experience, almost impossible to obtain. I can, however, see the benefits of everyone knowing what is happening and when. The timetables for public examinations are published well in advance and shared by schools and colleges. As soon as you get yours, pop the dates into your calendar or simply pin the timetable up in the kitchen where everyone can see it. That way you can plan family events without clashes.

revision timetable really is essential, but can and should be flexible. Subjects can be broken down into sections or topics which can each be allocated a ‘session’. There should also be scheduled 
breaks. These are some of the reasons I find a timetable useful: 

1.       It makes it easy to appreciate the quantity of work needed. Teens approaching public examinations for the first time sometimes underestimate the quantity of material they will have to plough through. This can lead to a last-minute panic. 

2.       It gives a psychological boost to teens who are floundering and overwhelmed, because it provides a clear path and much needed structure. 

3.       It shares out time between subjects, so your teens don’t become bogged down in one subject to the detriment of another. 

4.       It can give a sense of achievement if they stick to it. 

5.       If they don’t stick to it, this can give you or them an idea of how far behind they have got.

Exam supplies

My thoughts on this subject are very clear: if you are leaving your teen at home to revise, make sure there is plenty of reasonably healthy food in the house. This will prevent them from either starving to death or ordering several pizzas using your credit card details while you are out.

I know the official advice is to feed your child healthy brain-enhancing food at this time, and I feel this is absolutely the right thing to do. I also know there are moments in your life when you really have to have a chocolate biscuit, and halfway through an algebra equation is very likely to be one of those moments. So, once again, I try to reach a compromise. This is really not the time to have a blazing row over organic wholegrain crackers and humus.

Help with exam stress

There is no escaping the fact teens are put under a lot of pressure around exam time. Some will sail through with no problems, but others will struggle, and a few will become seriously affected by mental health issues.There is plenty of help available if you are worried about your child’s exam stress. If you feel your child is really not coping with exams, and their physical or mental health is deteriorating, you should contact your GP, who will be able to give you some further advice. Organisations like ChildLine and Mind can also offer support and guidance.Exam sympathyExam supportExam structureExam suppliesHelp with exam stress

Friday, 3 March 2017

Apprenticeship funding facts

How are apprenticeships funded? Will you be paid? Here are the answers to all your funding questions.

  • ·         You’ll be paid for your working hours (generally 30 hours per week) as well as your training. This includes holiday pay, for when you need those all-important breaks.

  • ·         The national minimum wage for apprentices under the age of 19, or in their first year of an apprenticeship, is £3.50 (from April 2017). Take the time to assess your options, as on some higher apprenticeships, you can earn as much as £300 – 500 per week.

  • ·         Apprenticeships are funded by the government and employers. This means you’ll graduate debt-free!

  • ·         If you’re over the age of 24, you’ll have to contribute to your own training costs. However, the government offers Advanced Learner Loans to support you.

There are hundreds of apprenticeships out there, so why not browse your options now?

Think you know apprenticeships?

There are a lot of myths about apprenticeships. Here, we separate fact from fiction.

·      Fiction – Apprenticeships are not for everyone.
·      Fact – No matter your interests or how old you are, you can find an apprenticeship to suit you. There are apprenticeships available at all levels, in a huge range of sectors.

Apprenticeships start at Level 2, so you could study an apprenticeship instead of taking A levels. Equally, if you are already in full-time employment and want to change career, you have the chance to do so with an apprenticeship.

·      Fiction – Apprenticeships are like volunteering.
·      Fact – You get paid on the job, as you learn.

Apprentices are paid the national minimum wage as standard – while this might not sound like a lot, it will go a long way to alleviating money worries.

·      Fiction – Taking an apprenticeship will make me less employable than a university graduate.
·      Fact – Many apprenticeships share content with full undergraduate courses. You can learn the same things you would with a degree, but will pick up valuable experience at the same time.

While some employers favour those with a traditional degree, this is changing. Strong performance on an apprenticeship can make you stand out from the crowd – unlike many graduates, you’ll have direct workplace experience alongside your qualification.

·      Fiction: I will have fees to pay back.
·      Fact: All apprenticeships are paid for by the government and employers, so you’ll graduate debt-free!

From April 2017, apprenticeships will be funded by the apprenticeship levy. If you’re concerned about getting value for money out of your studies, an apprenticeship could be for you – get all the skills and experience you need, without the debt.

There are hundreds of apprenticeships out there – if you are interested in taking one, start looking at your options now!

Six things you didn’t know about an apprenticeship

Thinking about an apprenticeship? Take a look at these six reasons why it’s such a great option.

1)    You won’t have to pay fees
Worried about the long-term cost of uni? As an apprentice, you’ll graduate debt-free! Apprenticeship fees are paid by the government and employers.

2)    Higher and degree apprenticeships are assessed by employers
Apprentices study for a national vocational qualification (NVQ). You’ll get tested on practical, work-related tasks, so you get to see first-hand how you’re progressing.
As NVQs are assessed by employers, they really are the ideal way to get job ready. If you already know the right career for you, an apprenticeship could give you the skills and experience you need to get there.

3)    There are four different types of apprenticeship

·      Intermediate (Level 2) – roughly equivalent to five GCSEs.
·      Advanced (Level 3) – roughly equivalent to two A levels/Highers.
·      Higher/technical (levels 4 to 7) – equivalent to a Higher National Diploma (HND). With a higher apprenticeship, you have the opportunity to carry on to a foundation degree.
·      Degree/professional (levels 5 to 7) – equivalent to a bachelor’s degree. You’ll combine on-the-job learning with lectures, seminars, and independent study, and will graduate with a fully accredited degree. You can even progress to master’s level.

4)   Apprenticeships often have higher entry requirements than employment
Be realistic about which apprenticeship you apply for – some might have higher entry requirements than others. As the entry requirements are controlled by employers, they might sometimes be flexible. For example, if you don’t hold the required grades or qualifications, try persuading them with your transferrable skills. This is your opportunity to sell yourself, so think about what you have to offer.

5)   Apprenticeships are for all ages
Apprenticeships are for everyone. You don’t need to be a school leaver to take on an apprenticeship, but equally, you can start straight after your GCSEs, or after taking your A levels. If you are already in full-time work and want to change your career path, why not retrain with an apprenticeship?

6)   You will learn the same things on an apprenticeship as at uni
You might find that apprenticeship course content is actually very similar to a traditional university course. When combined with the valuable experience you’ll gain along the way, you’ll be in a great position to get that job you want.
If you think an apprenticeship might be for you, start exploring at your options now.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Your personal statement - Claire Harnden

I read hundreds of UCAS applications for teacher training every year and I cannot stress how important the personal statement is. It is my only insight into who you are and I tend to read it first.

I immediately look for a passion to teach. Personal statements that do not mention children or schools are not a good idea. If you have gained school experience, tell me about it. Do you have a clear vision of primary education? What have you found out? If you are changing careers then tell me about your experience and how it is relevant to working within a school.

Spelling, punctuation and grammar. It DOES matter so check it through carefully and then do this again. Get someone to proof read it for you. If you cannot model a good level of writing here then I have a real concern about you doing so in a classroom. Check for long sentences, repeated words and that you have used the correct version of words like practice/practise or advice/advise. If this is making you scratch your head then look them up!

How committed are you to training? Try to make this come through. Mention how your interest in training to teach developed, what you have done to pursue it? Demonstrate your enthusiasm for it. What are you hoping to get out of the training year?  Show that you’ve really done your research and know why you want to do the course.

It is easy to list the transferable skills that you have but these are so much better when you link these briefly to real examples of when you have used them.

If you are struggling to get started then start with your strengths, focus on your enthusiasm for the course and talk positively about yourself.

Good luck!


Claire Harnden is Director of Initial Teacher Training at Surrey South Farnham SCITT. She has 19 years’ experience working in primary and secondary schools in Surrey, Essex and North London. She currently runs Surrey’s largest school-based provider of primary initial teacher training, and interviews applicants on a weekly basis. Follow her on Twitter @claire_harnden

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Monday, 27 February 2017

All about Initial Teacher Training: part 2 - Freddy Ash

This is part two of my blog where I’ve been looking back and reflecting on my experiences of initial teacher training. You can read about my initial worries in part one, but as my training draws to a close, here’s what I wish I’d known before I started.

What advice would I give myself now if I could go back?
  • Wellbeing - I can’t stress this enough. ITT is hard. NQT year is hard. First year as a qualified teacher is hard. So is the second year. It gets easier but it never gets easy. You must look after your own wellbeing. Twitter is a fantastic way of doing this. There are thousands upon thousands of optimistic, helpful teachers willing to help you out with anything. Take the scheme of work I mentioned in part one of this blog. When the new GCSE came out people were throwing potential schemes of work around to each other, people they’ve never met, just to help out the profession. Teachers want to help other teachers. You are embarking on a journey to enter an outstandingly helpful group of individuals who pull together to improve the profession as a whole, day after day. I personally find Twitter a far more friendly place than Facebook for teachers, and I use Twitter solely professionally which I’d recommend. Should a student ever find you, it’s worth your account being solely teaching based. Definitely follow Martyn Reah and the #teacher5aday movement for wellbeing. You need to look after yourself.
  • Hobbies - Similar to above (I really prioritise wellbeing!), if you have a hobby now then keep it going. Something to take you away from teaching for a few hours. It is all consuming sometimes. I’ve found myself lying awake planning the perfect lesson; while this makes me seem like a dedicated teacher to some, to others they’ll see that this can be a road to ruin. I [try to] play golf, I have a dog who needs plenty of exercise and I have a wonderful family including a three year old boy called Rufus. These provide wonderful distractions for me which mean that when I focus on teaching again I’m fully fit and motivated. 
  • Organisation - Especially in terms of your ITT assignments. You don’t want to get to the stage where you can’t keep up because the work has got on top of you. The assignments are doable – don’t believe the hype. You just need to be strict on yourself and organised. Do the assignments when they’re set, not when they’re due. Again, if you’re struggling, Twitter is here to help. I’ve asked people for references, for alternative points of view etc. which has really helped.
#ITTchat every Wednesday at 7pm

It wouldn’t be right for me to promote Twitter so much without mentioning #ITTchat. This group was set up by a pair of wonderful trainees to give other trainees a central conversation in which to help each other. All you need to do is include #ITTchat anywhere in your tweet and anyone can see it who is following that conversation. There is a scheduled chat on Wednesdays where there are some leading or open questions to promote discussion around a particular topic, such as strategies people use for behaviour management. It doesn’t matter if you’re Early Years, Primary, Secondary or Further Education, everyone is welcome.

Over the summer I was fortunate enough to become one of the people who manages and runs the @ITTchat account, along with two other trainees - @martingsaunders and @trainingtoteach. We have helped people who are having a bad time on placement or who aren’t getting along with their tutor, we have offered help to people who are feeling overwhelmed and we have also connected trainees with qualified professionals to help them with a particular issue. Mostly though, we are just there to connect trainees and to chat. To be a friendly port in a storm as it were. Sometimes we even have guest hosts – recently Ofsted contacted us to arrange hosting a chat and the head of their ITT provision networked with trainees which was an amazing opportunity for us all, as well as helping them.

The world, especially the teaching world, is becoming a far more connected place, I urge you to get involved. Even if you are just thinking about a career in teaching you are welcome to join in with #ITTchat, or just watch from the side-lines and maybe message us privately with any concerns and we’ll put them out anonymously to the wider community.

Don’t believe the press – teaching’s marvellous

So that’s it, two blogs and almost 2000 words later and I’ve scratched the surface of getting into teaching. Teaching is hard, but a lot of jobs are hard. Teaching is, however, far more rewarding than almost any other job on the planet. You’ll have bad days, but the good days will utterly eclipse them. Get on Twitter, connect with others. Look after yourself from day 1 and prioritise your health.

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All about Initial Teacher Training: part 1 - Freddy Ash

As my initial teacher training (ITT) starts to draw to a close, I thought it would be a good time to look back and reflect on my experiences so far; how far have I come, what do I know now that I wish I’d known two years ago. It’s also the time when new ITT prospects will be getting nervous about their applications, and so I thought it might help for me to put this in writing; even if it only helps one person then I’ll consider it a useful way to have spent my time.

My initial worries and what I think of them now

I remember worrying about a few things when I first got into teaching. Things that seemed so simple to every teacher I’d ever met, so much so that most of them never seemed to notice it. So here are a few of those things that niggled me:

1.       Planning
  • How do teachers know what to teach? How do they know that they’ll cover everything they need to over the year? Will my students be disadvantaged by having me instead of a more experienced teacher for those lessons? If this sounds like you, then here is my opinion on it now: a year is a very long time. Schemes of work (SoW) are yearlong plans that outline what needs to be covered. Mostly, these exist already and are just adapted year on year. In the case of a new subject, such as the new English GCSE, a new SoW will need to be written, but remember that this would be for an entire English department. No one is expecting a trainee or an NQT to produce this on their own, and then be left until the exam results come out to see how they did.
  • In terms of individual lessons, sometimes you don’t cover everything you wanted to. Sometimes you’re behind your SoW and sometimes you’re ahead of it. As you get to know your students you’ll be able to set the pace, and if you feel half way through the year that you didn’t cover things at the beginning as well as you could have, it’s fine to go back. Planning is a big part of the job, but a year is a long time; you don’t have to know every minute of every lesson before September starts.
2.       Classroom management
  • This is teacher talk for not letting your students run wild, jumping on the tables and burning things. I worried about how well I’d be able to manage students in a classroom, and not just manage them, but get them learning as well. This is a huge question. I think the best thing I can say here is that it is not just trainees who worry about this, and secondly, I don’t personally feel that you ever reach a finish point where you can now ‘do it’.
  • Sue Cowley wrote a good book, Getting the Buggers to Behave and Phil Beadle wrote, How To Teach. I would strongly recommend reading both of these if you are worried about classroom management as they are packed with genuinely useful techniques that you can implement straight away. Whether that’s using a seating plan, how to talk to a student who is angry or how not to embarrass a student so that they don’t lash out, these two books are both easy to read, not too long and will give you plenty to be going on with.
  • Understand this though: even the best teacher in the world sometimes has students who misbehave. You can’t beat yourself up about it too much. Just reflect afterwards when you’ve calmed down, what did you do well, what didn’t you do well, how would you do it differently if you could go back. Then you improve. Or, at the very least, you improve for that student or a similar situation. Students are people at the end of the day and one rule isn’t going to fit all. Don’t lean on being liked too much, I know it’s a cliché but things become clichés generally because they’ve been true for a long time. At the end of the year, students will like the teachers who they are progressing with, not the ones who let them get away with messing around. Play the long game and accept that sometimes students will dislike you, but they’re generally a forgiving bunch.
3.       Is my subject knowledge good enough?
  • This really depends on what it is you’re going to teach. You may have a degree in your subject, you may not. I think something I’ve learned is that I shouldn’t have been worrying about my subject knowledge, but more can I get this knowledge across to my students? My knowledge was good enough, and even so, you constantly improve it when you’re immersed in that subject and that department. It’s getting that across to the students that counts. This can be tough sometimes. It’s a legitimate concern.
  • Again though, don’t put too much on yourself as a trainee. If every teacher could answer this point confidently then every student would be a genius. You’ll have some students who just get it, and some who just don’t even when you feel you’ve been to the moon and back trying. The best thing you can do here is be passionate; I don’t mean passionate in the way you’d say it in an interview, I mean really passionate.
  • You can’t leap around the room being an entertainer all day every day, you’ll burn out. Passion will show through if you really believe that what you’re teaching is worth knowing. If your students see that, they’ll know it’s worth learning and they’ll put the effort in too.
If you can do these three points, I wouldn’t worry about too much else for now. You’re a trainee. Even as a qualified teacher if you can plan your year, be passionate about your subject and control a class then you are doing amazingly, you don’t need to fret about anything else.

What other advice would I give myself now if I could go back? That’s in part two of my blog.

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