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.

Feeling inspired?

Find out more about becoming a teacher.

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.

Feeling inspired?

Find out more about becoming a teacher.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

So you want to be a teacher?

Something inside you has persuaded you that becoming a teacher is your career choice; it could be that you have been a cub, brownie, guide or scout leader, working with young people. Gymnastics, swimming, dance, various sports all encourage young people to undertake coaching courses with the idea of sharing skills with young children. Leading or taking part in holiday schemes have led to the career choice. My favourite was a prospective candidate talking animatedly about helping children with disability to overcome fear and attempt to climb.

It doesn’t have to be one of these routes. Many people enter teaching later in life, having had an initial career and seek greater job satisfaction; some will have had families. Often they have had a transitional route via a teaching assistant role or as a helping parent in school. This, in itself, sometimes leads to a school persuading them to pursue the route to becoming a teacher.
Whatever the route, the process will have similar elements, which are worth considering, so that the application has the greatest chance of making an impression on the member of university, TSA or SCITT staff who has the responsibility of inviting candidates for interview.

This puts special emphasis on the personal statement in support of the application. While the candidate might be writing the application through UCAS to a number of training places, there are some simple “rules of thumb” that might get that all important interview. At that point, you will have the chance to talk more about yourself and your personal statement will be a guide to the interviewer to develop their questions.

  • Write a rough draft of any personal statement, then work on it to ensure it is as clear as possible. Have someone proof read it to offer additional ideas and identify grammatical and spelling errors.
  • This personal statement is about you and you, as a person, should come through. Remember, the person reading it only has the words to go on. You need to shine through. Communication is a key teacher skill and the written word should how your ability in that area.
  • Before your interview, you will need to show that you have had some experience in a school setting – this will vary between training programmes so check the requirements. This could be spread over time, or could be a couple of weeks. What did you learn from this experience? 
  • Why did you choose your particular A levels, BTEC or first degree? How do these subjects, or maybe the teachers, impact on your decision to become a teacher?
  • Why have you chosen a particular subject specialism for teacher training? Why does it particularly interest you?
  • Consider the specific event that made you think about becoming a teacher. How do you see yourself in a teacher role?
  • What do you do that will show yourself in a broader light? Do you have specific interests or hobbies? Do you visit galleries or museums, or perhaps your interests are in conservation, walking, camping, playing music or travelling? Do you do volunteer activity for charity? Everything is important to create a rounded a picture of you.
  • Have you had responsibility in school, college or work experience? Describe and unpick how this might relate to a teaching role.
  • Beyond becoming a teacher, how will this role enhance your view of yourself in the future?
  • Reread everything that you have written and share it with a teacher, lecturer or, if you’re working in a school, the head teacher. 

How you think, how you talk and how you reflect should come through your application. It is a first step. The interview awaits.


Over a 40-year career in education, Chris Chivers has worked as a teacher, head teacher, university tutor, assessor and adviser. Chris now uses his experience to support developing teachers. A regular blogger at Chris Chivers (Thinks), you can find also him on Twitter @ChrisChivers2

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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Thinking of applying for teacher training programmes?

Thinking of applying for teacher training programmes? There are lots of things to consider before you apply, and it can be quite daunting to know where to start.

Here’s our top five places you should check out, full of advice on how to apply.

1. Our website

The first place to start is our website. You’ll find out information on how to pick the right programme for you. Get in-depth information on which route into teaching fits you.

2. Video wall 

Our video wall is full of advice on many topics you’ll need to know about when applying for teacher training programmes. Need a hand filling in your application? Not sure how to prepare for interviews? We’ve got it covered on our video wall!

3. Free UCAS Teacher Training pack

Our teacher training pack is a must if you’re applying. It’s a free online pack, containing all the information and advice you need to apply, and what to expect after your application has been sent.

4. Our dedicated blog page

We have a range of advice on our dedicated UCAS Teacher Training blog. It covers subjects from advice on applying, to case studies from current teachers – to give you an insight into what to expect.
5. Get into Teaching

Finally, register with Get into Teaching for tailored advice and support. You can also follow them on Twitter for info on getting into teaching, and to keep up-to-date with any upcoming events or changes in the sector.

If you have any questions about applying for teacher training programmes, get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter and they’ll do their best to help.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Gap year or study?

Can't choose? Here's how to do both...
If you haven’t yet made plans for the next academic year, consider this – you already have everything you need for a unique, fulfilling gap year, right there in your rucksack.
In today’s super-connected world, there is a wealth of knowledge at our disposal. Whether it’s watching YouTube videos, listening to a podcast, or reading a blog, we can now learn almost anything online. All it takes is a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, and an internet connection.
So instead of spending thousands of pounds on an expensive gap-year package, some school leavers are deciding to simply spend that time learning – their way, their rules.
Thanks to sites like edX and Coursera, the doors of the world’s best universities are now open to us all. Offering free online courses known as MOOCs (massive open online courses), schools such as Harvard, Berklee, the University of London, and the Sorbonne, provide classes that include lectures, reading materials, a student community, and assessment (if you wish), all for free. You choose the classes, and you choose when you learn.
These are just two of the many websites that provide classes on almost anything you can think of. Other examples are Tuts+, which teaches skills including coding, illustration, photography, and web design, and the BBC Academy which features online learning resources in journalism and media production. The more you look, the more you will find.
And don’t forget the real world. Many of the bigger online courses organise meet-ups to bring people together. You may also choose to supplement your online learning with a local community class – there are some fantastic ones out there.
From art to business, a growing number of professionals offer advice – you can create your own degree! One American artist has even taken the time to write up his guide to an alternative to art school, at a fraction of the $200,000 many US students pay for a college degree.
Taking time to really explore what you’re interested in might be one of the best investments you’ll ever make. You might realise the expensive course you thought you wanted to do isn’t quite your bag after all, or find yourself heading in a whole new direction.
Of course, for some of the more traditional professions, such as law and medicine, you can’t get around the requirement of a university degree. Even so, a year of self-guided study will help you build up knowledge and skills that will help you once you undertake formal training, as well as nail down the areas you’re most interested in.
If this sounds interesting, but you’re getting cabin fever at the mere thought of spending any more time in your bedroom, there’s a solution – creative co-working spaces.
Also known as 'hot desking', you rent a desk to work or study, mix it up and meet other like-minded people. East London’s Hatch is a great option, and at only £12 a day, it won’t break the bank. There are similar outfits all over the UK.
Spending a year exploring and learning doesn’t have to mean you can’t travel the world as well. If you’ve got some money saved, you could rent a room abroad and live like a local in another city. Or you might go with a cheap hostel and hot desk option. Explore by day, feed your brain by night – you decide.
Now more than ever, you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to designing your education. Whether your passion is applied mathematics or circus arts, law or industrial design, you’re in creative control, and the tools you need are just a click away...