Do you want to teach? Are you planning to apply to start your training in 2016? If so, it’s time to start your application planning. This used to be a simple process of finding the university that offered the best PGCE course for the appropriate age group and in the chosen subject specialism. Not any longer….
Multiple training options.
In recent years training options have become more diverse. A good place to start finding out what’s on offer is the Department for Education webpages. How do you want to train? Under the traditional taught PGCE route you’ll start off by learning pedagogy in the classroom and will then go out to schools for your teaching practice. The alternative is “on the job” training through Teach First, School Direct or School-centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT). All of these options will see you managing a class and running lessons almost from the start of your training. School based training is not for the faint hearted, is it right for you? Finances might play a part in your decision making, you’ll be paid as a Teach First and SCITT recruit, and you may also be paid for School Direct. If you’re doing a PGCE you could be eligible for a very nice bursary or scholarship but you will not receive a salary.
How to apply.
The application process and applicable deadlines will all be determined by which training route you choose. For PGCE and School Direct you make an application through the UCAS system. The Teach First recruitment process is much more akin to that of a big graduate scheme, hardly a surprise since it describes itself as a “Leadership development programme”! Different application deadlines apply to the different routes. PGCE courses open for application each Autumn but School Direct opportunities can open and close very quickly. If you’re looking for a particular school you may need to be ready to act very quickly. Teach First allows you to apply up to two years ahead. You can defer your place until you are ready to start. Beware, this system means that opportunities within the scheme to train to teach popular subjects (like English) are only open for a narrow window.
Get some teaching practice!
If you think teaching might be for you then try to get some experience in a school. What’s it really like? Ideally look for placements in a couple of different schools and perhaps with varying age groups. Try to experience an alternative to your own schooling. If you base a decision to teach on how much you enjoyed your own time in a grammar or independent school, you might be in for a bit of a shock. Life is in a tough comprehensive is going to feel very different! If you’re going to “Teach First” then the comprehensive is exactly where you are going to be. How do you feel about it?
Make a start now!
If you want to start your teacher training in 2016 you need to get going on the preparation now. It takes time to organise some school experience. You need to identify the right school, in the right place, negotiate a placement with senior teachers and get the necessary clearance to work with children (called the DBS check). You are very unlikely to be allowed in a school until the check is completed.
You may struggle to get school experience and while this is more or less essential if you are to make a successful PGCE application, it is less important for Teach First. You may have other valuable out of school engagement with children. Whatever your experience you’ll need to be able to reflect on it, showing what you learnt and how it has contributed to your understanding of the teaching profession. Keep a diary of your school experience. Spend a few minutes each evening during placement recording the day’s significant events. A store of observations on what went well, what was challenging, how teachers handled different situations provides a supply of convincing stories for a supporting statement and subsequent interview. Many of the training routes attract more applicants than there are places; the successful applicants are those who shine in writing and in person.
What do you need for success?
If you want to be a teacher you’ll need passion, resilience, quick thinking, inventiveness and high level time-management skills to survive the rigours of the school environment. Prepare for any or all of these to be assessed as your application is reviewed. The selection process will vary according to which route you’ve chosen. If you want to do a PGCE you may only have to deal with an interview. Teach First candidates have to face a full assessment centre. You’ll have to participate in group exercises as well as teach a short lesson.
Don’t forget that you have to pass the Professional Skills Test for Teaching. You will often find that you will not be interviewed unless you have passed this. Do make sure you prepare properly for it. If you haven’t engaged with Maths or English since GCSE you’re likely to need to do a bit of revision! Applicants who have taken their driving theory test will feel at home when they turn up to take this as they often use the same venues.
Good luck with your preparations and remember that if you’re at Warwick you can speak to a careers consultant for support and advice at any stage.