Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Why is identifying estranged young people in HE crucial?

There are hundreds of thousands of young people who have a difficult and unsupportive relationship with their family in the UK. For many, family problems subside as children grow to become independent adults, and make their way to university. But for those students with family problems which grow and develop into wider rifts, the journey through school and into higher education is not always a smooth transition.

Estranged young people have no contact, support, and/or approval from their family. Our research shows there are three common causes of family estrangements, which can leave young people with no choice but to go it alone.

Families may experience mismatched values and beliefs between generations, where the choices a young person makes do not fit with the ridged expectations or traditions of the family unit. A common cause is persistent abuse, and particularly emotional abuse, where a young person does not receive the emotional validation, positivity, love, and care we typically associate with a functional parent/child relationship. Changes following divorce and remarriage play a large part in estrangement, and young adults can find themselves unwanted or unaccepted in a new family form, with the addition of one or more new family members. Importantly, our research shows such family issues often go unidentified by social services, meaning estranged young people lack the statutory visibility of care leavers, who have been removed from family and placed in residential or foster care. These young adults have taken the difficult step of removing themselves.

Many of these young people are studying in our schools and colleges and are grappling to find a place in our communities. A significant number of people reading this blog will have worked with such young people, who have been held back, hindered, and thrown off track by their lack of family capital. It may be that you, as professionals, have seen the barriers that independent young people, studying without family support, will come up against.  

How does this present itself? 

Visibility has been one of the most fundamental issues for both students and professionals in this area. As there is no formal divorce or removal process in place to emancipate young people from their families, it is hard for students to be given the necessary support, or feel confident in coming forward to access it.

Our research has shown that shame and stigma a
round self-removal from family acts stop young people from trusting that they can find support, and not judgement. Furthermore, these young people and their unique needs do not fit neatly into pre-existing support policies. For example, estranged students need support or flexibility with finding a lump sum deposit for halls of residence prior to entry, yet have little statutory status to give credence to their needs.

Furthermore, community and belonging is important for young people, who may feel they do not matter to anyone. If the first interaction a student experiences with a higher education provider is with an inflexible policy, defended to the hilt, barriers and frustrations are built. Our research and work in this sector has indicated that understanding staff, who are willing to advocate and challenge rigid policies, are crucial in the journey into higher education for estranged young people. Developing relationships with student support services early on, pre-entry, will maintain aspirations that the student community can accommodate their needs.  

We are therefore really pleased to have been working with UCAS to help improve visibility for estranged students

It is our intention at Stand Alone to ensure such students become more visible, and can be brought into the support networks of higher education providers sooner rather than later.

Stand Alone is a charity supporting people of all ages who are estranged from their family, or a key family member. We have a strategic focus on estranged young people between the ages of 18 – 25, who are entering higher education.

How a UK Degree Can Boost Your Career Opportunities

The main reason for anyone attending university is to get one step further to achieving their desired career. It’s important to attend a university where you are not only taught skills for future jobs in your studies, but also to learn from new cultural experiences, friendships, social life, and the everyday independency that may be new to you. Studying abroad allows you to learn these skills on another level, and why not do that in the country that is home to top English-speaking universities? Here we outline some more reasons why students from around the world should study their degree in the UK.

Recognised institutions

As the UK is known for schools with high academic standards, earning a degree from an accredited UK university connects you to an institution with a prestigious reputation recognised internationally. Across The Pond are partnered with over 40 top UK universities, each offering excellent programme teachings and great academic and career support. Having any of these universities on your résumé will look highly impressive to employers.

Less time and more intensive programs

The quicker the better, right? Not only will you have the opportunity to study at one of the top educational institutions in the world, you are also able to squeeze all
your studies into a short time. A three-year bachelor’s and one-year master’s get straight to the point, requiring you to take only those classes which relate to your major. Not only that, with funding always being a big stumbling block to studying abroad, less time spent studying a degree means less money spent!

More specialised degrees

UK universities tend to offer specialised degrees at master’s level. This can be attractive if you don’t want to wait until studying a PhD or entering the workforce to start narrowing your interests and delving further into a specific field of study.

Having the freedom to pursue a specialty degree early on in your academic career allows exposure to educational and/or professional communities which you may join one day.

Boosts your employability

Across The Pond’s UK partner universities all offer programmes that you can utilise when applying for jobs at home after your studies. Employers seek applicants who are flexible and show an aptitude for independence and leadership. Having an international degree demonstrates that you took the initiative to live and study abroad, and international experience is highly valued by employers.
As former students at British universities, the Across The Pond advising team understands the difficulty of choosing whether studying abroad is for you. If you would like to find out more about studying in the UK and the vast opportunities it may offer you, please contact one of our advisers.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

From application to induction – Dave Stephenson

In December 2015 I was working as Assistant Inclusion Manager in a secondary school within the West Yorkshire Teaching Alliance. I enjoyed this role immensely but knew that moving into the classroom was the way forward. I had been contemplating applying for the Schools Direct training programme for some time and had enough in-school experience to feel confident in my application. With the encouragement of my colleagues, I submitted my application on the last day of term before Christmas.

The application process was swift and expertly facilitated by Clare, West Yorkshire Teaching Alliance Manager, and Heidi, Initial Teacher Training Secondary Manager. On the first day back after the Christmas holiday, I was required to deliver a twenty minute lesson in my chosen subject (History) before sitting down with Clare and Heidi for an interview. Prior to planning my mini-lesson, I found out which year group I would be working with (in this case year 8) and researched the topics that they had recently been studying. I decided to focus on the English Civil War, designing an activity that involved identifying which side various historical figures would have fought for based on evidence that I provided. My main concern prior to the lesson had been about filling the entire twenty minutes, but this proved to be baseless – if anything, I struggled to fit the entire activity into the allotted time. With hindsight, it was the quickest twenty minutes of my life. I was pleased with the outcome of the lesson; the students seemed engaged and the planned learning objective had been achieved.

I found the interview to be far less nerve-wracking than the lesson (children really are harsher critics than adults), and Clare and Heidi immediately put me at ease. The questions explored my areas of interest within my subject, my previous experiences in education and a self-critique of the lesson that I had just delivered. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, and it was a nice opportunity to discuss my hopes for my future career and raise any concerns that I had. I was told that I had been successful within days of my interview and my place on the course was confirmed.

The nine months between my application and the start of the course involved a great deal of preparation but I was guided the entire way by the WYTA team. Perhaps the most stressful aspect was the undertaking of skills tests in numeracy and literacy. Literacy has always been a passion of mine, yet numeracy has never been one of my strengths. To prepare, I asked a Maths teacher friend to tutor me in the areas that the test would cover, working from the book Passing the Numeracy Skills Test by Mark Patmore. My advice to future applicants would be to prepare yourself fully before undertaking the tests, especially if you lack confidence in a particular area. The tests are very difficult and applicants are only allowed three attempts, so failing to pass can derail your place on the course before it has even begun. This was the hardest part of the entire process and one that I was glad to get out of the way.


Dave Stephenson is a School Direct PGCE student at West Yorkshire Teaching Alliance. This was originally posted on the WYTA ITT blog and is published with kind permission.

What are professional skills tests? 

In this blog, we answer three of the most frequently asked questions.

Monday, 15 May 2017

My biggest achievement so far - Lucian Huxley-Smith

The moment when I smiled the widest was when I got a child to write for the first time I'd ever seen them write. After three months of trying to get them to write. That was my biggest achievement so far, I think.

Coming into teaching I thought that, if I didn't provide every student I met with a C or with the highest grade they can possibly get, I'd be failing, and I've soon realised that's not necessarily the case at all. If you can get that person who's never picked up a pen in front of you to pick up a pen and write, then you've achieved something huge. If you can get across the importance of a comma or a full-stop to someone who's previously not even understood what those concepts are, that's huge. You are making a difference to people's lives potentially on a daily basis, and that's massive.

We all remember our best teachers from school and, when you're in the bubble of teaching, it’s very easy to forget that you could be that teacher; that someone could have walked away from your lesson that day with a thought they're going to keep for the rest of their life. It's important to recognise those small wins, because actually they're not small, they're massive to that individual.

Right now, I certainly intend to stay with teaching. Any other job I've ever done I have probably loathed a good 60% of it. Of course, there are tough times as a teacher, but actually I love about 80% of it. The lows are hard, but the highs always make it worth it, unquestionably.

When I was script-writing I was happy, but there's a great unknown, there's no measure of your impact. With teaching, any time I mark a book, any time I see a kid smile at something, I see that impact on a daily basis.

I've grown up more the last nine months than I think had for the previous nine years. I'm much better organised than I ever used to be. I now no longer feel that any challenge is insurmountable. I'm filled with a greater confidence that, anything that comes my way, I will be able to take it on. It may not be easy, but that doesn't mean it's not doable. I can do anything I really want to turn my hand to. It's just a matter of overcoming those initial stumbling blocks.

I have felt supported every step of the way. I've never felt left alone at any time with Teach First. Any time I'm feeling like I'm struggling to meet the challenge, other participants are your key network. We all have a common goal and having that support network is unquestionably one of the most useful things I have. We go for a beer, discuss what went well, moreover what didn't go so well, and have that common understanding that we're all going through this together.


Lucian Huxley-Smith is a former script-writer who is now teaching English in London. This was originally posted by Teach First and is published with kind permission.

If you liked this…

Shane and Janie share their stories about why they chose a career in teaching:

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Five tips for preparing a UCAS personal statement – what every parent needs to know

This is the part of the university application process which causes a great deal of stress to teens – not to mention distress to their parents, who may not feel in the mood for an in-depth analysis of their son/daughter’s career prospects when they are trying to cook tea or put out the bins!

The truth is, we are ill-equipped to give that advice, and therefore need to be careful what we say. This time last year, I was going through the personal statement process with my eldest daughter, so I thought I’d share my thoughts and experiences just in case you are going through the same right now.

The UCAS personal statement
I started off full of optimism that I would be a great asset to my daughter as she prepared this extraordinary piece of writing. It wasn’t long before she had to point out my paragraphs were peppered with clichés, and I over-used the word ‘passionate’ – both of which are classic mistakes, apparently, so I turned out to be more of a liability than an asset.

Since then I have found this great summary of what not to do in personal statements, which I wish I had read a year ago.

Thankfully, the other adults advising my daughter were far more tuned-in, which brings me to my list of top tips.

Five top tips for preparing a UCAS personal statement
1. Your child’s school or college is where the expertise lies, so make sure they use it. They will probably be allocated a specific mentor or tutor for this, so make sure they keep in touch and submit draft after draft, until it’s perfect.

2. Don’t pay someone else to do it. It needs to sound like a 17 year old has written it – albeit with some guidance. Don’t be tempted to pay online to get one written for you. Your child will be questioned about their statement in interviews, and it’s important their personality shines through.

3. The word count is very strict (4,000 characters), so start off with a longer draft and then cut it down. It will take a long time. Estimate how long you think it will take, multiply this by four, and you may be somewhere close.

4. Three main areas MUST be covered: why the course is right for your son/daughter, why they are right for the course, what extra-curricular activities they do, and how these activities are relevant to the course.

5. Perfect spelling, punctuation, and grammar is vital. A parent can help with this, or you can find someone else who can!

The main lesson I learnt
Your child will be expected to have a career path in mind, extra-curricular activities relevant to this career path, and a clear vision of how their chosen degree course will help them on the road to their career.

Quite rightly, teens often get a little spooked about being asked to fix their life’s journey at such a young age. The best thing to do is reassure them that things change; we can all have many changes of career throughout our lives. So, advise them to pick a direction and follow it until something comes along which makes them want to change. Help them explore as many potential career paths as possible.

Dr Sharon Parry is a Mum of three and a former public health research fellow. She now works as a freelance writer and shares useful tips and her thoughts and experiences of having kids in primary school, high school and university in Wales on her website

Top five food hygiene tips for freshers

Thousands of young adults fly the nest this month, as halls of residence up and down the country fill up with students. Many of them will be responsible for preparing their own food, which should not be a big deal if they’ve picked up a skill or two at home. Two things, however, are very different. They are now sharing a kitchen with complete strangers (who will admittedly become their friends in a week or so), and they do not have a parent overseeing their hygiene arrangements. This presents a few problems, so here are my five food hygiene tips for freshers, which I hope will keep them well.

1.   Do not reheat takeaway food
The obvious option for cash-strapped students! It saves them having to buy another meal, and avoids any sort of washing up. If they don’t get up until after lunch-time, chicken tikka masala or pepperoni pizza is an entirely appropriate meal to start the day. Tempting as it may be, don’t do it!

This food has spent the last 12 hours on the arm of the sofa/bottom of the bed/lounge floor, at the nice warm temperature pathogens love. So, by the time you come to eat it for the second time there could be millions of them. Yes, you can try to blast them with your shiny new microwave, but you will not necessarily reach them all, and will have no chance of getting rid of heat-stable toxins.

2.       Treat raw chicken as if it is nuclear waste
This should apply to all meat, but I have picked on chicken because it is a fairly cheap meat which comes in conveniently small portions, making it a popular choice with students. While stereotyping is quite rightly frowned upon in almost all walks of life, it is perfectly acceptable when it comes to food hygiene. Raw chicken is the bad guy, and you are perfectly within your rights to assume every piece of raw chicken is contaminated with bugs which can make you very ill. Don’t handle it much. Don’t put it on lots of surfaces. Do keep it wrapped up in its plastic tray and then empty it straight into the pan you are cooking it in. Then chuck the wrapping straight in the bin and wash your hands.

3.       Protect your cooked food
If raw chicken is the bad guy, cooked food is the vulnerable victim. It needs protection. Anything which goes straight into your mouth without going in the hob/oven/microwave falls into this category. Cover it up, put it in a sealed bowl. Buy cling film – lots of it. If it is not covered up, you do not know what your flatmates may accidentally drop on it or drag across it.

4.       Wash it before you use it
In an ideal kitchen, all utensils, cutlery, chopping boards and plates would be meticulously washed straight after use and put away. This is not what is going to happen in most student kitchens. Instead, you will find a chopping board skulking under three saucepans and a wok next to the sink. You do not know what it has been used for, so make assumptions and always think the worst. It may have been used to chop raw meat so don’t just grab it and use it. Wash it first.

5.       Keep it cold
Fridges in student accommodation are mainly used for drinks, chocolate and tomato ketchup. They may not be big enough for everyone to get all their food in. You need to adopt a nightclub-like priority system. Things like cooked ham and pasties are on the VIP list and get guaranteed entry. The pickled onions may make it in if numbers are low, but they shouldn’t get their hopes up.

I have made light of this advice, but food hygiene is no joke. I worked as an Environmental Health Officer for many years, and have investigated countless outbreaks of food poisoning where people have had their lives ruined by food-borne disease. It is preventable, so please do share these five food hygiene tips for freshers with your young adults.

Dr Sharon Parry is a Mum of three and a former public health research fellow. She now works as a freelance writer and shares useful tips and her thoughts and experiences of having kids in primary school, high school and university in Wales on her website

Exam stress season

Dr Sharon Parry is a Mum of three and a former public health research fellow. She now works as a freelance writer and shares useful tips and her thoughts and experiences of having kids in primary school, high school and university in Wales on her website‘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.

A 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.

Dr Sharon Parry is a Mum of three and a former public health research fellow. She now works as a freelance writer and shares useful tips and her thoughts and experiences of having kids in primary school, high school and university in Wales on her website

A level results day – five things parents cannot do

As the parent of an A level student, you will have faced your share of exam seasons and results days already. Your experience may have been pleasant, and your child may have been delighted with their results, in which case you could just join in with the celebrations. However, if your experience of results day was a little less positive, you will have already had a lot of practice picking up the pieces and mopping up the tears.

This results day is different. This is the one that REALLY matters, because it determines whether the student will gain a place at their chosen university or whether they have to adopt a new route. If they have their heart set on a particular path, it can be very painful to witness their disappointment.
Thankfully, there is a raft of excellent advice provided by websites, and social media feeds set up by organisations like UCAS. There is already a great deal of excellent advice out there on what parents can do to help, and I don’t want to duplicate this. Instead, I want to give a brief insight into what you cannot do. This is probably just as important – at this stage of our children’s lives we need to recognise our limitations.

Five things parents cannot do on A level results day:

  1. Make it all okay. This was our job, wasn’t it? We liked to control the environment in which our children existed, deftly removing anything which threatened to hurt or upset them. Those days are in the dim and distant past. The results are outside your control. An A* is an A*, and a U is a U. As a parent you are not able to change that. If your child, or their teachers, feel the grade they have been awarded is an error, you may have a role to play. Only a school/college (examination centre) can make an enquiry about an exam, but you can go with your child to speak to the school and pay the fee for them.
  2. Brush it under the carpet. This situation cannot be approached in the same way as a tumble off a scooter. You can’t kiss it better and encourage them to forget about it. Someone has to DO something. Hopefully, you have raised a supremely resilient young adult who will brush off the transient disappointment and forge ahead to bigger and better things. Or, like me, you have raised normal human beings complete with vulnerabilities and insecurities, and you can hold their hand while they sob for three hours. Then, you can hand them a tissue and let them construct a plan.
  3. Be in control. It is highly unlikely you have the necessary skills and experience to give them the best advice on results day. You must call in the professionals. It may be a UCAS adviser on the phone, a university admissions tutor, or the staff at their examination centre. Schools and colleges are very slick at this. They are the experts, so let them do their thing. Some very big decisions may have to be made around this time, so make sure you are available should your opinion or practical support be needed.
  4. Give in to your emotions. Yes, the results may be bad, but it really is not the end of the world. It simply offers a different set of opportunities, which may turn out for the best. If you start acting as if the sky has just caved in it will not help. It also doesn’t help if you mention they didn’t do enough work / went out too often / didn’t take it seriously enough, even if these things are true. What’s done is done. A cool head is needed. Bite your tongue.
  5. Run away. This is tempting, because you are definitely just the support crew and not the main act. However, your presence will be much appreciated, and your support will be valued. Take a day off work (or get someone to look after younger siblings) and think of yourself as the St John’s ambulance at a rock concert – no-one wants to be in a situation where they need you, but they like to know you’re there!

My final thought is this: enjoy the day if you can. It is a big milestone, and some life-changing things are going to happen. It is hugely exciting. Do what you need to do and then open a bottle of bubbly, because whatever the results, at least it’s all over!

Dr Sharon Parry is a Mum of three and a former public health research fellow. She now works as a freelance writer and shares useful tips and her thoughts and experiences of having kids in primary school, high school and university in Wales on her website

Meningitis in students – what you need to know

In the frenzy of excitement and emotion between A level results and a young adult leaving for university, it is unlikely that vaccinations will be one of your priorities. I hope this blog post will change that. There is a new meningitis vaccine available for young adults, and you will have to book an appointment with your GP practice to get it.

Five reasons why you need to think about meningitis in students – right now!
  1. Meningitis is one of the major health risks for young adults in their first year at university. They are the second most ‘at risk’ group for contracting this disease.
  2. Most first year students opt to live in halls. Here they will be living in very close proximity to hundreds of people who they have never encountered before, and who come from all four corners of the country (and from overseas).
  3. One in four of these new friends (15 – 19 year olds) WILL be carrying meningococcal bacteria, which can cause meningitis in the back of their throats, compared to one in ten of the UK population.
  4. The bacteria can be passed to your young adult by coughing, sneezing, and intimate kissing. Absolutely everyone gets a cold in their first year at university, so that’s a lot of coughing and sneezing. You can use your own imagination about the intimate kissing!
  5. They do not have a diligent mum and dad watching over them. They may become seriously ill without their friends and flatmates being aware. Meningitis does not hang around – it makes people very ill, very quickly.

This is what you should do

A particularly aggressive strain of Men W is causing disease in all age groups, but there has been a significant increase in university students. This is what you can do to help:
  • Make an appointment with your GP surgery for your young adult to have the vaccination today. Your GP will know which one – it is called the Men ACWY, and was introduced in August 2015
  • Talk to your young adult about meningitis. Tell them about the symptoms and what to look out for in themselves and friends. Make sure that they know how to call for medical help if they’re concerned
  • Get some resources from Meningitis now and Meningitis Research Foundation. There is even an app which can be downloaded, and symptoms cards to use as a reference

I stumbled across this information accidentally and, as an epidemiologist, researched it a little more thoroughly. My own daughter will be moving into halls in less than a month and she was vaccinated a few days ago. She is a capable, independent young woman who makes her own decisions, and because I want her to stay that way I got involved and made the appointment for her. As I’ve said many times on this blog before, you never stop being a mum.

Please do share this post with anyone you know who has children leaving for university next month, so we can raise awareness of meningitis in students. 

Dr Sharon Parry is a Mum of three and a former public health research fellow. She now works as a freelance writer and shares useful tips and her thoughts and experiences of having kids in primary school, high school and university in Wales on her website

Friday, 5 May 2017

Starting my second placement – Dave Stephenson

After the Christmas holidays, it became pertinent for trainees to begin looking for employment. The University held a seminar on seeking and gaining employment, with senior members of staff from a variety of local schools coming to talk to us. This was very useful in preparing for job applications and interviews, and our West Yorkshire Teaching Alliance and University tutors have continued to support us in seeking out available positions. I have been very fortunate as a school just five minutes away from my house advertised for a History teacher position to start work in June. My application was accepted and, during my interview day, I knew immediately that this was an institution that I wanted to be part of. I was required to teach a lesson to a Year 7 class and was then interviewed by the head teacher, assistant head and head of department. The lesson went well and the interview was a great experience, as I was able to discuss my passion for my subject and the wider role of being an educator, as well as talk about my hopes for the future. Within an hour of the interview ending, I was contacted to say that I had been given the job. I am absolutely thrilled to have gained employment at such as fantastic school and cannot wait to begin teaching there once the course has ended.

I am now teaching five days a week in my second placement school, with thirty-three lessons spread over a two-week timetable. As well as History, I am teaching one class of English and Sociology respectively. This has been really useful, as it has forced me to step out of my comfort zone and explore teaching methods outside my specialist subject. With my History classes, I have had to do a lot of private research to ensure that my subject knowledge is detailed enough for topics that I myself have never studied. For instance, I have recently completed a scheme of work on the Korean War, which I had very little prior knowledge of. However, with the help of my host teacher, I have been able to develop my knowledge and understanding of the topic, and have successfully delivered a series of lessons on it to my Year 10 students. There are few things more satisfying than looking back over the work that my students have completed, highlighting their progression over the course of the last half-term.

With just five weeks left of placement two, it feels like the end of the course is in sight. I have thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of my ITT year so far, yet I am excited by the prospect of completing my training and embarking on my NQT year. The course involves a lot of hard work and is relentlessly fast-paced; it is crucial to remain on top of the workload as it would be very easy to fall behind. However, the support of fellow trainees, University tutors and colleagues makes life so much easier, and the professional satisfaction that comes with teaching is a singular experience that makes the job one of the best in the world. I recently spoke to potential West Yorkshire Teaching Alliance applicants and was able to honestly say that this has been the best few months of my life. I look to the future with a great deal of excitement about where my path will lead.


Dave Stephenson is a School Direct PGCE student at West Yorkshire Teaching Alliance. This was originally posted on the WYTA ITT blog and is published with kind permission.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

What I wish I had known – Hannah Londorf

1.    Stay on top of things from day one
In those first weeks of starting your training you’ll only be teaching a few lessons and keeping on top of writing lesson plans and reflecting on your teaching practice will be relatively straightforward and not all that time consuming. However by the time March swings round and you are 6 months in, it’s a different story; with 15 or more lessons a week to plan and teach and all the responsibilities of a regular class teacher (think assessments, marking, homework…), you’ll be wishing that you put the time in to keep on top of things from the start. Getting into a routine early also means it can feel a lot less stressful later on in the game.

2.    Get to know your classes – make that extra effort
For me this has been the single most valuable string in my teaching bow. Make a seating plan or ask the class teacher if they already have one and learn those names! Find out which pupils might need extra support, or those who might need additional challenges. Not only will this help you to plan engaging lessons which support all pupils to progress in their understanding and learning, it will allow you to quickly adapt teaching or information to support your class. By greeting your pupils in the hallway and engaging with them you are showing them that you have a genuine interest in their wellbeing and this will speed up your ability to develop a strong relationship with them, in turn allowing you to develop into an outstanding teacher.

3.    The topic all student teachers worry about…
How will I manage behaviour? Read point two again… knowing your pupils and using their names to manage classes is the first step in effective behaviour management. It’s very hard to call out pupils who consistently talk or disrupt lessons if you don’t know their names. Don’t forget though, that the names of the pupils who consistently behave and work well are also important. Praising positive attitudes in the classroom is just as important as disciplining negative ones, and will ultimately help you to manage the behaviour of your pupils.

4.    Just keep smiling, smiling, smiling
You’ll soon find that your mood will swiftly become the theme for the atmosphere of the lesson. No matter how rubbish your morning has been, how tired you are or how many books you know are waiting for you to mark, you’ve got to keep that cheery face on and the positivity flowing. Pupils seem to have a sixth sense, so if they can feel that you aren’t on top it’s often hard for them to be on top. So greet them with a smile and a good morning, ask them if they are ok. It really can make the difference between an awful lesson and outstanding lesson.

5.    Look ahead: planning
Planning from day to day is fine and this is how you’ll roll in the first weeks but quickly adapting, to plan weeks and then months ahead will be crucial in reducing your workload and getting a handle on where your pupils are at. Developing your own schemes of work (SOW) – a plan for 10-12 lessons which follow a certain topic or theme – will allow you to plan materials which support your pupils’ natural progression through a topic and enable you to get an overview of what your objective and outcomes are with regards to their progress and learning.

6.    SOW, SEN, WWW, EBI, SPaG….
Acronyms… teachers love them. A cursory glance on Google revealed that there are just over a 100 different terms or phrases related to teaching which use abbreviations. Scheme of work becomes (SOW), Special Educational Needs (SEN), what went well (WWW) or even better if (EBI) and don’t forget that when correcting spelling, punctuation and grammar that it’s really all about SPaG! Whilst it might seem daunting you’ll learn them as you go along, and by the end of your training year you’ll definitely be ‘au fait’ with knowing your SCITT from your ITT and your WILF from your WALT!

7.    Love your subject
It may seem obvious, you’ve chosen to teach your subject. You’ve probably studied it at University and A-Level. You love your subject. So let your pupils know that.  Use your knowledge and personal experience to bring the subject to life. Something you’re not interested in? Don’t let them know that. Being a teacher is part actor, part door to door sales. Sell your subject to your pupils with your own enthusiasm and watch the sales (results) come rolling in!

8.    Tweet, tweet, tweet…
I’ll admit, I was a sceptic. Twitter, how can that help me to develop my teaching? But apparently Twitter is the place to be if you are a teacher. Set up an account (making sure to take all the usual security precautions) and off you go. Depending on your subject, start by following relevant blogs, news outlets, and organisations. Twitter will suggest other people for you to follow as you go along but there are hundreds if not thousands of other educators out there sharing innovative and creative teaching materials and ideas. Some of my best teaching activities and ideas have stemmed from an idea I found on twitter. It’s also a great opportunity to showcase and share your own materials! Who knows your first job might come from something you shared on Twitter!


Hannah Londorf is a geography School Direct trainee teacher at the Associated Merseyside Partnership SCITT.