Read about the experiences our Manchester Teacher School Alliance Alumni have had whilst working at Chorlton High School
Andrew Easton - Maths
Before applying for my PGCE I spent just over two years in a high school working as a one-to- one Maths tutor, mostly for Years 10 and 11. I was also entrusted with having my own form, a responsibility I thoroughly enjoyed. After successfully gaining a School Direct place with Chorlton High School, I was asked to come in and work as a Curriculum Support Assistant for the Maths Department in the Summer term. This was a great experience for me as it allowed me the time to get to know the school, its staff and its pupils, without the extra pressures of the PGCE to distract me. It meant come September that I felt a lot more prepared than I would have with that initial term.
Those who are considering applying for a PGCE should definitely try and gain some experience of working in a school. You might have the best subject knowledge in the country, but until you have spent every weekday working in a school environment and building a rapport up with the pupils that surround you, you will never truly know if this career is the one for you.
As previously stated, the transition into teaching at the start of the course was made easier by the time I’d previously spent at Chorlton High School. My mentor was really supportive in easing me into the teaching timetable and showing me how to plan engaging and effective lessons. This assistance and preparation for my first week of teaching was invaluable and it really helped me be confident and comfortable when teaching my first few lessons.
The contrast placement was important for me in terms of seeing the different challenges involved with other schools. Swapping an inner-city school with a wide array of backgrounds for a much more rural school with a predominantly white, middle-class intake showed me the need to be adaptable in teaching. Expectations were different, school days were structured differently, behaviour systems were rarely needed, my block B school really was a “contrasting placement". This contrast, however, can really help form your own views on the kind of school you want to teach at in the future.
While I thoroughly enjoyed my time at my placement B school, due to the relationships I had built at Chorlton High I was more than looking forward to returning for my final block. This is the point where your timetable increases closer to a normal teaching timetable and while it feels ominous before, once you are in the swing of it all again it feels quite natural and akin to what it is like to be a fully qualified teacher.
Training provided, both by university and school, is comprehensive and offers you all the tools you would need in order to become a successful teacher. University sessions were much more subject specific, so for me it was largely looking at ways of making Maths accessible for all different types of learners. In-school training was more general, but just as useful, as we were shown different techniques to combat behaviour issues, ways of assessing and monitoring progress and strategies to encourage peer working to name a few!
I was fortunate enough to be offered a job, after interview, with Chorlton High School and am looking forward to starting as an NQT in September. The challenges will be different but I know I am in the right place in terms of my professional and personal needs being looked after.
If I was to offer advice for any prospective trainee it would be to stay level-headed and think of the bigger picture. There will no doubt be some days where you feel everything you’ve tried hasn’t worked and your classes have been particularly hard work. However, staying calm and looking at the important role you are playing in the day-to- day lives of the young people you are working with will make you realise and appreciate how worthwhile the work you are doing actually is.
Eve Douglas - English
Immediately before studying for my PGCE, I worked for a year as a Curriculum Support Assistant within the English Department of a secondary school which gave me vital experience within a classroom and helped to prepare me for the year ahead. Prior to getting that job, I also did a few weeks of work experience at both a secondary and a primary school to make sure this was definitely the career path I wanted to take – something I’d really recommend doing if possible because it makes your training year much less of a shock to the system as you’ve already seen first-hand what to expect!
My training experience was a great one; the induction sessions at MMU allowed me to meet the people who were to become a huge part of my life for year, including my course leader and personal tutor, and the induction day at Chorlton High School which soon followed gave me valuable insight into the ethos of the school I was to be training at and what to expect. This Block A placement itself was a case of really hitting the ground running, with my Subject Mentor giving me a 50% timetable and allowing me to TA within his classroom until I felt ready to take the classes over. Despite the weekly observations and meetings seeming daunting at first, they really helped to give me realistic targets week on week and I genuinely felt my confidence and ability improving with every lesson.
My contrasting placement was also brilliant – my Professional Mentor at Chorlton High went above and beyond to ensure all of the trainees had totally different experiences during Block B so as to give us a well-rounded view of teaching in a secondary school. Having gone from a mixed, inner city school with a lot of different cultures, languages and religious backgrounds in Block A, I found being in a predominately white, all-boys school in the countryside really eye-opening. Despite the contrast, the transition between placements was seamless and I was consistently supported throughout both placements by my Subject Mentors, Professional Mentors and course leader at university. Returning to Chorlton High for my Block A2 placement was by far the best part of the whole year, as I was welcomed back by both students and staff and it really helped to make me feel like I was part of something and not just a trainee. For my enrichment phase, I knew I wanted to do something that was linked to behaviour and teaching small groups of students in a slightly different setting, so I spent a week at Chorlton High’s Green Room facility which offers personalised learning opportunities for students from all year groups to raise their academic attainment and engagement in learning. The experience was really useful and gave me opportunities such as working one on one with excluded students, going out on a KS3 trip to the Etihad Stadium and working with Year 11 students doing revision away from the main building.
Thanks to the support I had throughout the year and opportunities I had to hit every teaching standard as I was going along, I ended the year on ‘Outstanding’ which has put me in a very fortunate position for the year ahead. My advice to anyone thinking about studying for their PGCE or considering a career in teaching is to just give it a go – you’ll know straight away whether it’s for you and the time spent in university doing various assignments complements the work you do in the classroom really well. There really isn’t a more rewarding job (provided you stay on top of your paperwork!), so although I’m trying not to wish my summer away, I can’t wait to get started as an NQT in September and I am delighted to be joining Chorlton High School as a permanent member of staff. I can’t think of a better place to continue my professional development.
Steven Hill - History
From the moment I began my placement at Chorlton High School I felt well supported by both my Professional and Subject Mentors, as well as by colleagues in the department. The first weeks in school as a PGCE student can seem daunting, but I found that knowing there was a clear, well-structured programme in place made the experience much easier.
From the outset, my fellow trainees and I benefitted from regular training sessions in which we could work together to develop a range of teaching strategies. One of the highlights of the course has been the chance to work with fellow trainees, and it was a source of great reassurance to know that we were all going through the same experiences and could meet up to share ideas and support each other. Another highlight has been the opportunity to work alongside experienced teachers by attending and contributing to continuing professional development sessions on a weekly basis.
Once I began teaching, I received detailed and constructive feedback after every lesson. My Subject Mentor ensured that I always knew which areas of my practice I needed to improve and provided me with constant support to enable me to achieve my targets. As a trainee I had weekly mentor meetings to discuss my progress, and I always felt that I could approach colleagues for help and advice. Indeed, it was this team atmosphere which gave me the confidence to take risks and be more creative in my teaching. Another strength of the programme was the chance to take part in extracurricular activities, which in my case was an after school reading club. I would advise all trainees to do the same as it is an invaluable opportunity to interact with pupils outside of the classroom.
My Professional Mentor at Chorlton High School also ensured that I undertook my second placement at a contrasting school, which enabled me to develop areas of my practice which I did not have the opportunity to address during Placement A, such as devising and setting regular homework. As a result, I was able to move into the final phase of my training as a more confident and well-rounded teacher. The enrichment phase of the course is an excellent opportunity to address any outstanding areas of development, and through Chorlton High School I was able to use this time to work with SEN pupils, as well as arranging to visit a sixth form college and observe KS5 students.
Having secured a teaching position for my NQT year, I am looking forward to putting into practice all I have learned during my PGCE and working with my new colleagues to find different ways of challenging and engaging pupils. I am also looking forward to having classes of my own, establishing my own learning environment and seeing my pupils develop throughout the year.
The best advice I can give to trainees is to stay positive! As enjoyable as the PGCE year is, it is not easy, and there will be some challenging times. Therefore it is important to always remember that teaching is one of the most exciting and rewarding careers you could ever embark on. It is a great privilege to have the opportunity to make a difference to a young person’s life and to help them realise their full potential.
Ugo Battaglia - Science
Having studied abroad, I spent a few months before the start of my PGCE year observing different schools and looking at the different subject specifications. This allowed me to gather a better idea on how science is taught in the UK nowadays and what it is required to study at KS3 and KS4 levels. It also helped me identify some gaps in my subject knowledge. While it may seem time consuming, I think these experiences helped me starting my PGCE year more prepared.
My induction and block A were probably the scariest and most stressful times of my training. Starting to teach with no previous experience was a bit like learning to swim by diving straight into the sea. However, thanks to the precious help of trained staff, I managed to learn a lot in a short period of time. Furthermore, the more mistakes I made the more I learned, thus making even the most dreadful lesson an opportunity to grow and develop teaching skills. Lots of stress derived also from the incredible amount of workload trainees need to face due to lesson planning, marking, university assignments and formal observations. One thing I came to realise was that even though next year I will not have any university assignments, the workload will probably stay the same as I will be teaching more classes and lessons. However, you learn to finish tasks in a shorter time and begin to prioritise them in a different ways, so there is nothing to worry about.
My contrasting placement was an eye-opening experience. After you start feeling slightly comfortable in your first school, you go to a place where children, staff and teaching style are completely different. Sometimes this works for the better, other times for the worse. However, it is an invaluable experience that allows you to test yourself, gain new skills and give you an idea on what type of school you want to work in your future. Mine was a bit of a struggle, but I gained so many new skills and it gave me a better insight regarding the teacher I want to be.
Finally, I returned to my host school to finish my training. This experience allowed me to test the new skills acquired during the contrast placement and fine-tuning my teaching practice. While in my first block, I was more concerned about surviving in the classroom, during this placement I focused on how to make sure that all pupils lean according to their different needs and abilities. It was also nice to see how many of my hurdles encountered in September had slowly faded away.
After I finished teaching, I spent the last two weeks of my training in the enrichment programme. During these two weeks I worked at the Green Room, helping targeted students with their learning in science; I also created revision booklets so that staff could use them in the future. In the remaining time, I visited a SEN school to observe how students with SEN learn at their best. This gave me ideas on how to best support my future students.
During my training I tried to be involved in the school and department as much as possible. In fact, I wanted to build relationships with pupils as fast as possible and also create connections with other members of the staff and use their expertise to help me with my teaching. I attended numerous CPD sessions, helped with a form group, assisted with after-school activities and acted as TA during various lessons.
In parallel to the school training, I spent a few weeks at university in September and January with my university tutors. These sessions gave me tools to use in my classroom practice and also helped me understanding several issues happening in education. After January, I rarely had to go to university; however, the amount of university assignments and tasks increased significantly, having a considerable impact on my stress.
My biggest challenge has probably been the workload. Lesson planning, marking, university assignments, job applications and various school commitments have filled every single second of my life. I had to learn to be less of a perfectionist and live with the idea that there will always be something to do; therefore, I had to create some free time for my own well-being and prioritise work accordingly.
This year has been very challenging but also very rewarding. Despite the fact of having finished my training with an ‘outstanding’ grade, which was unexpected, I got many successes with my pupils, which paid off all my efforts and struggles. I also got a job in South Manchester and I will start in September.
My thoughts and feelings regarding my NQT year are very contrasting. On one hand, I cannot wait to start teaching my own classes and nurture the pupils for an extended period of time (during my training I taught many different groups only for a few weeks). On the other hand, I feel scared as I will have more responsibilities and less support during the lessons. In the final part of my PGCE year, however, I was more independent and this helped me build some confidence.
There will be many tough times during your training, which will test you on a personal level. Do not take things too personally and be resilient; every apparent failure will be the source for your greatest victory in the future. But my best piece of advice is: enjoy the training! Teaching is a very demanding profession but it can give you a lot more than you think.