Jordan Rycraft; Subject Leader of Physics, Oxted School
I had always intended to go into a career in teaching following my physics degree. When applying for my PGCE I knew I wanted to be placed at Oxted as I had completed many of my school experience placements there. You couldn’t find a more supporting team than the one at Oxted, hence I applied for the School Direct route. Completing the school direct route added so much reassurance compared to other doing the PGCE route. You feel more supported, challenged and have more clarity over where your second placement will be. Training at Oxted through the Warwick Partnership is such a privilege. It is such a large and diverse school meaning that during your training year you are exposed to so much in such a short space of time. The size of Oxted also that means you are constantly surrounded by so many experienced individuals who all play a vital part in the training process.
On a department level it was a privilege to work with a physics department in the top 10% in the country which is very well resourced and staffed. My mentor was extremely supportive and provided a fantastic timetable to stretch and challenge me. The department also has a large team of technicians who would help me plan my practical demonstrations and investigations. Even though I had one mentor it was the department of 19 science teachers who all helped shape my practice across my training year by providing subject knowledge on my non-specialist areas, providing ideas on how to teach various topics and how to deal with classes that we shared.
Every week we would meet for professional studies with other trainees to learn about particular areas of pedagogy which paired well with Friday university sessions. These sessions were also a great way to talk to others in the same boat and listen to their stories and gain their perspective from a different department. Additional to this we would attend a large range of CPD training sessions with other teachers on a weekly basis. These sessions provided everything from Dialogic Teaching to supporting students with visual impairments.
The school direct route with Oxted School, in my opinion, provides the best training route for those wanting to be the best. Its size, diversity and excellence all contribute to making a trainee a well-informed, reflective and adaptable teacher.
Laura Mayne; English Teacher at The Ashcombe School, Dorking.
I left University and went straight into a career in London but found myself always doing volunteer outreach work with schools. I soon realised that I much preferred the challenges that the classroom brings and decided to commit to a year-long teacher training course. There are many different teacher-training courses now, which can be slightly overwhelming; but it does mean that there is an available route into teaching to suit different individual needs (the stage you are at in your career, your home and family demands, the degree and A-Levels you have, your financial situation etc.) The various courses offered provide for everyone wishing to embark on a teaching career. I knew I wanted to specifically train in a mixed local comprehensive school and I was interested in the PCGE, Teach First and Schools Direct courses offered in Sussex and Surrey schools. After speaking to current teachers and University course leaders, I decided that I was best suited to the Schools Direct training route.
The Schools Direct programme requires you to have spent time in employment, which is great as it means your training school will recognise your level of previous experience. I found that my mentor (and the wider SMT team) both respected my experience and were keen to find ways in which to enable me to draw on skills I had already developed during my previous career. They were also sensitive to everything that was new to me about school life (particularly the unpredictable nature of students’ behaviour in the classroom) and ready to support me in every way possible. The training programme means you hit the ground running with your own classes to prepare for and lessons to teach but this definitely suited my independence and enthusiasm. I could readily seek feedback from observations and support and guidance at weekly mentor meetings. Because Schools Direct trainees spend the majority of time in school (from the first term you only attend University once a week), I felt fully immersed in the wider school community from the very beginning. This made training at the Ashcombe all the more enjoyable as there was so much going on to get involved in (school productions, Christmas Bazaars, Charities Week, Sponsored Walk etc.… the list could go on and on…) There were also extra responsibilities that I was required to commit to such as Parents’ Evenings and weekly departmental and pastoral meetings, but experiencing these demands was valuable preparation for my NQT year.
As part of the Schools Direct training programme, you are required to commit to a placement in another school; however, this is often shorter than the average second training placement. As the teaching demands during this second placement were not quite so intense to begin with, it enabled me to carry out more lesson observations than I had done previously and also provided me with an insight into a similar comprehensive ethos but very different styles of management, behavioural policies, pastoral support frameworks, exam board choices and individual teaching strategies. My lead school, The Aschombe, were very keen for my placement at this second school to facilitate the sharing of best practice and I enjoyed feeding back about my experience during INSET training.
A salaried Schools Direct Training placement is certainly intense and the expectations of trainees are very similar to that of an NQT; so it is excellent preparation for the realities of a long term teaching career but it does require trainees to be confident from the first day when you will step into your own classroom and begin teaching your own lessons – a very exciting prospect!
Charlotte Glass; Schools Direct trainee.
Having known for several years that I wanted a career in teaching, I found the choice of applying for a teacher training programme an easy one. However, with a few training routes now being offered, at first it seemed like a daunting process; I was quickly proved wrong through the application of the School Direct placement. Having researched into the direction it took, the clear opportunity for an inclusive school experience greatly appealed.
From the outset I was treated like any other member of staff, with responsibilities and expectations helping me to fully immerse myself into the school’s environment and culture. This was hugely beneficial, especially helping the relationship with my students who also recognised me as an equal member of the teaching team and not a trainee-student. The expectations of me were the same as a fully qualified teacher: INSET days, staff training evenings, parents’ evening and extra-curricular activities are just a few examples of the opportunities you have, to help fully engage and enjoy the career choice. Being treated in this manner meant that I immediately began to experience the rewarding role that a teacher has.
However, I was far from being alone with these new responsibilities and demands. The supportive team ensured I was never left panicking over the new experiences I encountered on a day-to-day basis. Thanks to my Professional Tutor and Mentor, I was able to receive continuous feedback and advice on how to further improve and better my teaching ability. My Mentor kindly ensured she was available any hour of the day, so that I did not feel unsupported or alone within this new role. If I stumbled upon a difficult or unfamiliar scenario, I knew that I could ask any member of the team to assist my understanding and actions, whilst still being able to maintain the professional role required for the placement.
In terms of my teaching and lesson planning, my placements ensured I was observed in every lesson: a daunting prospect at first, but one that proved extremely helpful and practical throughout my experience. After every lesson I received feedback and suggestions as to how to continually better myself and improve my teaching practice. My Mentor regularly helped guide and support my planning ideas, helping me to equip myself with not only the subject of English, but the wider school responsibilities and roles required of a teacher.
Not only did the school provide a vast assortment of extra training and opportunities, but the supporting University also ensured progress and improvement was taking place. By attending University one day a week, I was able to take the time to acknowledge the requirements of the course and receive extra instruction and methods that I could then adapt to my lessons. The University supplied a vast array of lectures and resources that deepened my understanding of the role, as well as offer talks from leading professional within the teaching institution. Overall, this route has proved to be a challenging but enriching experience. The structure and support has ensured a stable pathway, alongside allowing an independently inclusive experience to learn and progress within.