What They Think

Ed, Ashford School

I worked in the English department at Ashford School for the majority of my year as a United Teaching trainee, teaching at both Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 level.

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From the outset, I was encouraged to take full responsibility for my classes; this gave me the confidence and freedom to find my own voice and to establish the atmosphere I wanted in my lessons. I also received a structured and consistent programme of support – including frequent lesson observations and scheduled weekly meetings – from my experienced mentors, who were always generous with their time and advice. As a consequence, I felt that I could seek help about any issue, big or small, and was more inclined to take creative and bold risks with my teaching as a result. The advice I received from my mentors throughout the year was consistently helpful and personalized, based on their thorough understanding of my teaching style and my strengths and weaknesses.

During the year, I also taught regularly at Paddington Academy. Training with United Teaching made it easier for me to locate a contrasting placement that offered a clear opportunity for me to develop areas of my teaching that had not been addressed by my main placement. My mentors in both schools were happy to liaise to discuss the demands of the placement and my specific requirements.

Training within a diverse group of schools like United Learning brings other advantages too. There are numerous opportunities to access these different specialisms and contexts; the regular centralized training sessions specifically for United Teaching trainees offer the chance to share ideas with your peers, while group-wide professional development experiences put you in touch with a wealth of useful knowledge from outside your context.

My year as a United Teaching trainee was an incredible (and incredibly demanding!) experience. Throughout the year, the support of the other trainees within the Group was invaluable. It was a source of reassurance to know that we were all going through the same – occasionally difficult – experiences, and meeting up regularly allowed us to share our ideas, make sense of our challenges and celebrate our successes together. Several of us worked collaboratively to produce resources, lesson plans and even entire schemes of learning, and all of our placement schools benefited as a result.

After an exciting, challenging and hugely rewarding first year in teaching, I am delighted to have joined Ashford School as a permanent member of staff. I can’t think of a better place to continue my professional development.

Hannah J, Paddington Academy

Not many things can compare to the feeling I got when I first entered a classroom and became Miss Jones. Having prepared during the summer holidays, it was still a shock to realise that I was now in control of, and responsible for, this class of 20 students. But it was a good shock. 

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To have a class full of children hanging on to your every word, joining in with the games you devised for them, letting you know about their hopes, dreams, and worries, is the most rewarding part of the job, and certainly one of the main reasons why I chose to become a teacher in the first place.

I had visited my old secondary school to observe some lessons, and had been offered a place to train to be a teacher there. The school was a United Learning school, and so it seemed obvious that I would train with United Teaching. Having been accepted, myself and the other United Teaching trainees began our summer school training to prepare us for September. All the trainees were keen to learn, and eager to get involved with the training as much as possible. Interactive training sessions, rather than lecture-style learning, implicitly taught us some of the methods we would eventually be using in our classrooms to help our pupils make the best progress that they can. Sessions were catered to us, both as teachers and learners, meaning that there was as ample opportunity to get extra help, or voice our concerns.

Nervous, but with some helpful hints and tips stored away in our minds, we all started at our host schools in September. But this was not to be the end of our training together. Training sessions every Monday afternoon meant that we could continue to learn and develop as teachers, without having to miss any teaching time. Most importantly, it gave us a regular slot where we could gather and air our worries and our accomplishments, in the knowledge that everyone around you was experiencing the same thing.

I think that I have most enjoyed schools trips this year, as I have been able to get to know the students in a whole different environment, and feel that I understand them much more. Probably my favourite memory will be taking my group of 10 Year 8 students up a climbing wall. Though some were confident to begin with, many were nervous. However, both myself and the other students encouraged the girls to give it a go, and by the end everyone had tried and thoroughly enjoyed the climbing. To have that sort of influence on students, where you are able to encourage them to be confident in themselves, to be proud of their work, and to be good to each other, is a privilege that is really only reserved for parents and teachers. To know that I can make a difference in a child’s life, and to help them realise their dreams, certainly makes me a very proud teacher.

Having been graded as an outstanding teacher, my plans are to continue in the school I am in, getting further help and mentoring as I progress through my NQT year. I will be able to experience teaching Year 11 and 12, and I will get to take my first classes through their GCSE and AS levels. I am certain that choosing United Teaching has had a huge impact on my teaching, and am sure that I wouldn’t be the confident, understanding, and knowledgeable teacher I am today without them.

Where Are They Now

Hannah A, Paddington Academy

I started the United Teaching course in 2012 at Swindon Academy. After graduating in 2013, I applied for a job at Paddington Academy in London, and am now a member of the English department there.

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I will be working here for the foreseeable future, and hope to expand my teaching role with more pastoral responsibilities, such as increasing the focus on diversity within the school.

I have always thought that a school-based route was the best way to prepare teachers for the job, and I still do. It is more immersive, and more real, and even though the year is very intense, by the time your NQT year comes around, you are more than prepared for life in a school.

Will, Guildford High School

During my final year at University I was invited to apply for United Teaching. After a successful interview, I was offered the opportunity to join Ashford School (an independent co-educational boarding and day school) as a United Teaching Maths trainee.

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During a visit to the school in the July before I started, the Head of Boarding asked if I would be interested in becoming a resident tutor. As I was moving to a new area this was ideal – it meant that I had somewhere to live, and provided an opportunity to immerse myself within the school.

All of this happened rather quickly. In hindsight, it was an excellent decision and one that I certainly don’t regret. Living in a boarding house was a really positive experience, and I had the chance to concrete myself as a member of staff in the students’ eyes. This really was what I had hoped to gain from the course – too often you hear of people completing PGCE courses and still not really feeling as if they had had an opportunity to be a teacher. I was trusted with a great deal of responsibility quickly – my own classes, boarding duties, a rugby team – which is exactly what I had wanted. I felt as if I had the opportunity to gain experience across the board.

After my final assessment in June of my first year, I obtained a PGCE and the all-important QTS. The Head at my school offered me a teaching contract for the following year which I accepted. It made a great deal of sense to stay at a school where I had already had the opportunity to establish myself as a member of staff, particularly as I would have to complete an NQT year. This has turned out well – I was able to continue with the classes I had been teaching the year before, as well as taking on some more responsibility with my sixth form teaching – which is something I really wanted to do. Having had my Head of Department as a mentor in my first year meant that we were able to think about relevant, useful targets for my NQT year.

As I approached the end of my NQT year, I made the decision to move on to a different school, to be closer to my partner in South-West London. When considering schools, my Head was able to advise me on where perhaps I should be looking in terms of United Learning schools. As it so happened, Guildford High School (an independent girl’s day school) were advertising a post for a Maths teacher – so naturally I applied. After a successful day at interview I was offered the position, starting in September 2014.

I look forward next year to honing my teaching skills with a new group of students in new surroundings, safe in the knowledge that I have solid foundations built over the course of my programme.

United Learning