Starting in Education

First Steps – Get into Teaching

There’s so many different possibilities available to start a career in education. I have a desire to help the most disadvantaged in society which led me to think about the possibility of teaching in prisons but I have to be practical – I’m not really ready for this yet. I could go straight into teaching abroad as there aren’t entry requirements in many developing countries but I wonder how effective I would be without training. I could apply to teach in private schools but again, I may not be effective unless I’ve had training; and also this does not appeal to my ethos of being able to reach people who are disadvantaged. I can’t currently become a lecturer at University because I don’t have the necessary post-graduate qualifications – nor do I have the knowledge yet.

This leaves me with the options of training to teach in UK state schools – either primary or secondary. I’ve not had much experience with young children and that roles strikes me as a lot more ‘caring’ than is in my nature – you’re basically a mum or dad for the younglings. So by deduction, this leaves me with secondary education. There’s a large bonus to this decision – if I teach a subject in demand i.e. computer science then I can obtain a tax-free bursary of £26K (and even a scholarship of an additional £28K) – that admittedly is a big incentive. I don’t really have options for other secondary subjects because you can only teach a subject at secondary level that is related to your degree. So teaching secondary computer science it is.

I got in contact with an ex-teacher Chris Farr by visiting the Department for Education’s website: I’m not sure exactly how this works, but he’s a Premier Plus advisor so gave me more tailored advice and we’ve been emailing back and forth and speaking on the phone. There was also a Premier Plus Facebook group but I didn’t bother with that myself. Chris has been enormously helpful – he appreciates my motivations and has overcome my hesitations about the career.

Chris proposed the different routes for training to become a secondary teacher and summarised the routes available:

The main routes through teacher training are –

· School based salaried training (School Direct Salaried): you would be employed by a school and paid on the unqualified teacher scale. It provides QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) but often not a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education). Salaried training is not subject to tuition fees. There is a strong likely hood of being offered further employment after gaining QTS. Salaried training is generally open to applicants with at least 3 years work experience.

· Unsalaried routes: university based and school based (SCITT and School Direct Unsalaried). These routes last 1 year and provide QTS and generally also a PGCE. There is a bursary for trainee computing teachers with a good honours degree of £26000. You would have to pay tuition fees but you could apply for a tuition fee loan from Student Finance England .

He said my priorities should be to look for suitable training providers using the UCAS search tool for vacancies. He also said I would need to arrange some school visits either through the School Experience Programme or by contacting schools directly (they’re listed on Edubase).

School Experience

My parents spoke to a neighbour who is head of Art at Shirebrook Academy, a school near to them. He kindly passed on some contact details for the school’s HR person and so I sent the following email:

Dear <redacted> ,

I am writing to express an interest in work experience days at Shirebrook Academy; with the additional interest in Teacher Training.

I attended St Marys RC High School in Chesterfield and I have always academic strengths. I left school with GCSEs (9 A* and 3 A) and A-Levels (Maths A, Physics A, Biology A, Chemistry, B). I have spent my most of my working life in information systems and my current role for <redacted> is Group ICT Manager. I have held other roles such as Marketing Manager and Implementation Consultant previously. I recently funded myself through an Open University degree and after four years part-time work, I obtained a 1st Class BSc with Honours in IT & Computing with Business (a joint honours). I have a good academic and working knowledge of Computing and Business.

I have had many interests around my working day: I have been a keen photographer for a couple of decades, I built a 3D printer a couple of years ago and have an interest in design, I have skills in web development and I also enjoy programming micro-controllers and raspberry Pi devices for uses like weather stations and autonomous drones. I have been a member of the Scout Association all my life and in my Adult role, I predominantly focused on teaching Bushcraft and Survival and Expeditions. Scouting not only provided me with the confidence to work with and develop young people but also the ability to facilitate opportunities for them.

I am 36 years of age and, although I admittedly had not given teaching much thought previously, over the last year since my degree completed; my desire has increasingly shifted focus from the commercial private sector goals; toward something that could add value, in a more fundamental manner, in society. To be direct, I have come to a point where I recognise that it is important to strive for all individuals to have equal access to opportunities – Education being fundamentally important.

I would be keen to have a conversation when convenient; to understand if there any opportunities for a few days work experience or even the possibility, all things considered, for future teacher training. Thank your for your time and consideration.

Incidentally, <redacted> passed on your name as a contact (to my parents) and did mention a DBS check. My current DBS certificate is 5 years old so I presume if there is an opportunity here, I will need to action this soon.

Kind Regards,
James Hatton

The school provided me with three days work experience alongside the IT department and I could the opportunity to see a number of classes. They had an induction day on the first day for all their trainee teachers and newly qualified teachers (NQTs) that would be starting with them next academic year. This was a superb induction and the headteacher, Mark Cottingham, gave an inspirational talk about the school and the context of the surrounding area. We had an opportunity to tour round the area in the school minibus as well. It certainly struck me as quite deprived but nobody else commented so I kept quiet. It seems like a large employer in the area is the Sports Direct distribution centre – where a girl had infamously given birth in the toilets.

The school was beautiful and is quite small – they don’t have a sixth form. Everything is under one roof more or less. We ate lunch with the pupils, sitting at their tables and it was great to chat with them. The pupils were so friendly and approachable. That atmosphere was present in the classrooms. It was a pleasure to be given the freedom to help the pupils with their tasks and they were so grateful. One young boy was disappointed that I wouldn’t be teaching at the school next year but unfortunately at the time, the school wasn’t able to provide me with a place.

Actually, a few days after the placement, the Head of IT contacted me and somehow managed to create a training place for me so I must have left a good impression. I was keen to accept straight away but as I learned more about the different routes, I decided to investigate the alternatives.

Exploring Other Routes

I looked at the PGCE route. Confusingly the training route with the school leads to a PGCE but you can train with the University and be placed in a school versus training in a school and attending the University lectures. At this stage, I decided to apply to Sheffield Hallam University (from the recommendation of the department head at Shirebrook) and also Nottingham Trent university.

I would consider Sheffield Hallam if there is a significant advantage to training with them compared to Shirebrook but I’m not too sure about Nottingham as it is significant further away to get to. The next stage is to make a formal application.

UCAS Application

Within a few weeks of deciding to change careers, I had gained some experience in a school and now the next step was to submit a UCAS application. I hadn’t touched UCAS since my application to Med School back in 1999! Now, nearly 20 years on, I find myself going through another round then. In fact, I hadn’t even done a CV for 7 years and even then, the last job I was given, my employer didn’t read my CV until a few weeks after when I insisted they ought keep a copy on file. Fortunately there was plenty of advice online to help with this process:

For the UCAS application, I gave my personal details (address etc.). I had to stipulate which training providers I am applying to (and their course codes). I then had to provide details of my education and also my school and work experience. The most important section is a personal statement and I submitted the following:

From my Amiga 500 through digital photography, web design, to constructing my own Raspberry Pi-powered 3D Printer, I have maintained a fundamental appreciation of technology, as an enabler. The programmable computer is an incredible tool, but its utilisation is determined by the competence of the user. When anybody overcomes the limits of their imagination to recognise the potential of Computing; they are motivated toward exploiting its power. I guided Explorer Scouts to run a Minecraft evening for a younger section: demonstrating something fun and simple could teach logic and unleash creativity.

In all my various roles (Marketing, IT Manager, Scout Leader etc.), the core value was that I transferred knowledge. I hadn’t recognised teaching, as an aspect of what I did because I had never formally developed teaching skills. Nevertheless, I empowered people (technically, I just facilitate learning). The outcome when informed people collaborate, is powerful. I implemented a Wiki-based knowledge management system at work – sharing skills and knowledge are keys to success. Only recently had I begun to recognise the rewards I valued were to empower others; overshadowing financial or egotistical gains.

I cannot deny my desire to nurture nor my strengths in Computing. The combination can be very effective but roles within the private sector, focused only on material wealth, can no longer satiate that need to empower. The school experience showed me, though, that individuals present with a variety of barriers to learning: such as poor selfesteem, worries about lunchtime or socialising. I appreciate the importance of framing a school within its socio-economic context. Teachers overcome other challenges such as limited resources (resulting from the finite resources of the world).

Compassion and creativity are key to overcoming barriers to learning. Arguably all barriers can be overcome but, again in this finite world, compromise and balance are necessary. Behavioural issues may, for example, disrupt a class and it is with deepest regret that a child may be deprived of any opportunity for development. As I become wiser (merely correlating with years), I must acknowledge that equal opportunity does not exist in a world of competition and exploitation. I then must acknowledge my own privilege – an early lust for learning that saw my passion continue well into adult life (and hopefully always).

I have learnt both within the frameworks of formal academic institution and I benefit from self-directed learning – hybridised by the OU’s distance learning. The benefit has been a more critical mind, craving exposure to new ideas, perspectives and experiences. I want to share my passion and facilitate minds to develop, as a teacher within an evolving framework of governance. I don’t want to shape minds, I want minds to shape themselves; with compassionate guidance. To be entrusted with the responsibility of influencing malleable minds and even, at times, with their welfare (be it physical or emotional): I need to be trained.

I don’t know what the future will hold as a qualified teacher, but I do know that I am not so concerned about the rewards; they’re always present. Whatever I undertake, I can make a positive impact on the quality of someone’s life. Within my role as an adult member of the Scout Association, I have enjoyed engaging with young minds. I have taken my Explorers camping, on expeditions, or just through journeys of reflection on current topics. In any organisation, it is the contribution of roles that brings success: It would be an honour to have a teaching role within a School.

As part of the application, I needed to get a couple of references and I was a bit nervous about this aspect because it was the unknown, out of my control. There is some guidance you can provide to referees. I thought it relevant to provide both an academic reference and one from a former colleague. I was pleasantly surprised by both references:

James was a student of mine on Open University module TM470, the Computing and IT Project, from Feb -Sept 2016. From the outset he showed a sharp intellectual understanding of the issues connected to his work on “A proposed set of technologies and prototype development to demonstrate the benefits of a SOA approach to using an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system in a vehicle dealership.” His industry experience was combined with a clear academic approach. Although we did not meet in person, in discussion through phone calls and conferences he struck me as being a a balanced, well-organised individual with an open minded, enquiring approach to his studies.

This module is the final requirement of the degree programme and tests learning skills including the ability to apply fundamental concepts and skills to a real context; the ability to plan, research and organise; the process of independent refinement and reflection, and communication through a series of extended reports. It is in many ways a precursor to postgraduate study.

I do not retain detailed records for more than a year but my memory is that he gained a distinction grade on this module: the transcript of his OU degree will give the details.

I have worked at a senior level in secondary schools, having come into the profession in my early forties, and would imagine that James will bring both life experience, considerable ability, and a calm approach to life. I would recommend him highly as being eminently suitable for teacher training and an asset to any school lucky enough to hire him.

He is a fluent verbal and written communicator.

University Lecturer

I have known James for just over two years. In that time I found him to be reliable, enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable about IT. He holds a management position and performs his duties with diligence including controlling his own budget. All received written communications that I and other members of staff have received from James have been of a very high standard. His verbal communication is also assured and he is confident presenting in front of other people.

He has a calm and thoughtful approach to everything he does. He always displays care towards others and is empathetic and able to read body language, allowing him to alert other managers to potential problems that staff may be experiencing.

He shows an interest in other departments outside of his own, sharing ideas and working as a team player for the success of the company.

James works well independently and as a team member. He is able to listen to other people’s opinions and ideas and help to formulate solutions.

I know that he has been very involved in Scouting and enjoys the outdoor life, including camping, orienteering and cycling. He has much to offer to the co-curricular opportunities that a school will wish to provide its students.

I have no hesitation in recommending James for teacher training. He is hard working, organised and has excellent inter-personal skills.

Former Work Colleague

There’s some advice from UCAS for what to do after submitting an application but it’s basically a case of waiting to hear back. I constantly visited the UCAS tracking website over the forthcoming week. The next task I need to do is book on some professional skills tests.

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