The training year is fast-paced and exciting, and not even really a year! Training begins in the first week of September, the commencement of the Academic Year, and although there are various induction tasks to be completed, week one will also see all trainees spending time in their first placement school getting to know their new class and colleagues.
After 3 rigorous, demanding but fun and engaging stages, the placement aspect of the course will end around May, with the course itself being finally completed in June.
Both the Primary 5-11 course and the Primary 3-7 course follow the same schedule and routines throughout the year.
Although the year goes fast, the fact that a trainee is in school from week one, rather than taking a term to build up to working in a school, means they are able to absorb all the important elements that comprise the classroom teacher's role and are thus ready to begin their career once the following September rolls around. As with learning a language, trainees become immersed in school life from week one and are fully accepted as a professional colleague by school staff and as a real teacher by their class.
Overall, the course is broken down into three distinct stages. Stage 1 is spent in what we call the host school and Stage 2 and 3 usually are spent in a second school which is referred to as the home school (home because this is where trainees will spend the longest amount of time, and so it will probably feel like home by the end of the course).
Before the course starts in September, we will hold an induction day here at St. Anthony's during which trainees will meet their host school mentor. Trainees will also aim to visit their host school before they break up for the summer, just to help them orientate themselves when they visit again in September. This usually takes place at the end of June / beginning of July.
The Overall training year breaks down into the following key sections:
Week 2 - 6:
Week 7 onwards - trainees will be in school full-time with only occasional university time. At the end of each week, there will be 1 day with us, continuing to look at the crucial skills of teaching as well as beginning to look at the essentials of teaching each important subject like English, Maths, and Science.
The days when trainees receive training in these key subjects are called CPD days (continuing professional development). These training sessions will usually include a mix of practical classroom observation along with a more formal lecture. Often trainees will be able to see practical skills such as reward and sanction systems (in the case of behaviour management) in the real classroom environment, helping them to understand the theory they have already learned in the training. Additionally, trainees will also be given some key resources that can be adapted and used in their own teaching, something that many of our trainees find useful and time-saving.
In terms of the school days, trainees will be attached to a particular year group, usually a Key Stage 2 group like Year 3 or 4. Working in this class, trainees will observe at first but after a short time, will begin to work in support of the class teacher, taking individual readers and working with small groups as well as assisting in all aspects of the class's daily activities such as attending assembly or P.E. or even going on school trips if these are taking place. During school visits, trainees will also have time out of the classroom to meet with their school-based mentor to work on key tasks such as planning the first lessons as well as having the opportunity to discuss any issues, large or small. Although the school day begins at 9:00 a.m. and ends around 3:00 p.m., teachers are encouraged to come in earlier and leave at a later stage to work on key planning and preparation. Therefore, a similar daily routine is encouraged in trainees so that they can experience the realities and practicalities of teaching as well as being able to lend much-appreciated support to their school colleagues, thus fostering positive relationships.
Stage 1 begins around the middle of October and ends in the penultimate week of the Christmas term (around the end of December). Some trainees opt to continue working in their host school even though the course has officially broken up, just so they can share the final Christmas activities with their class - but there is no obligation to do this.
The preparations for Stage 2 also begin about this time of year. Trainees are informed of their next school and mentor and will contact them to arrange a preliminary visit before the end of term.
Stage 2 begins straight after Christmas with a similar period of 'settling in', where trainees can get to know the school, their new colleagues, and of course the class they will be working with. The new class will probably be a Key Stage 1 class, usually years 1 or 2, to ensure that trainees have a contrast with their previous year group. Once again, trainees begin with observation and then, working with their mentor and class teacher, begin to deliver a range of lessons and their follow-up. The aim is to take over the class for a section of the timetable per week. Again, you will be expected to experience and participate in the full life of the class, attending assemblies and church services (if the school is of a religious persuasion), assisting in P.E., going on school trips, attending staff meetings, and parents' evenings, etc. Besides the more intensive work in school, you will have the occasional CPD day on the remaining key subject areas which will include 2 invaluable days concentrating on job training - completing applications and mock interviews. There will also be approximately 3 university days spent either on CPD or working towards the different academic assignments you will need to complete alongside your practical training.
Stage 3 begins in the middle of March and again follows the same pattern as previously, though with only the occasional CPD day and several hours of Uni time spread over a week at the beginning of the stage. The majority of Stage 3 will be taken up with teaching, the aim being to take over the class so that for at least 60 / 65 % of the timetable you will lead the class and develop the lessons (with the input and guidance of the class teacher), marking work and recording assessment so that by the end of May, you will very much be a trained professional ready to take on and lead a class of your own.
During Stage 2 and 3 you will probably begin applying for your first school job as an Early Career Teacher (ECT). You will be allowed time out of school to attend interviews and following the assistance of our job-related CPD, you will hopefully secure your ECT role before the end of the course. Your mentor or class teacher will be able to assist you with your application and references will be readily available from school colleagues as well as your overall course mentor.
The end of Stage 3 is followed by a week off and then a final 2 week 'enhanced placement' which allows trainees to work in a different education-related context. Some trainees use this as an opportunity to explore other non-school settings such as, for instance, working with the education officer of a Museum or gallery. Some trainees use this time to work for a supply agency, which allows them the opportunity to view a range of contrasting schools in a support capacity. Some trainees are lucky enough to be invited to begin their work in their first ECT school, covering classes or actually working with the class they will have in September. This is usually arranged with their ECT school, and we cannot guarantee that every school will have the capacity to take on their new employees at this stage.
The course officially ends in the middle of June, and we will hold a farewell, celebration event where trainees have the opportunity to meet up again with their colleagues and school mentors and say goodbye to friends and colleagues in an informal context.
A busy year, but practical and very 'hands-on' and, as many former trainees can testify, a superb way to begin the teaching journey.