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To become a secondary school teacher in England, it’s normally advised that you obtain some teaching work experience. At Leeds SCITT, we strongly believe that experience plays a large role in learning and development.
Teaching experience is not mandatory for Leeds SCITT applicants, we are looking for evidence that you have a good appreciation of the role of a teacher and schools.
In this article, we look at how you can obtain experience in school to boost your understanding of teaching and schools. Here are some of the ways to get teaching work experience:
The best way to obtain some teaching experience is to contact a local school directly to see whether they are able to accommodate you. We’d recommend not choosing the school you went to as a pupil for your volunteering.
When contacting the school, make sure you tailor your request for work experience to the school in question. Find out the right person to contact and treat it just like you were applying for a job there. Research the school, explain what you could offer and also mention what you like about the school.
Perhaps you want to teach Geography and have chosen a school for its subject speciality? Maybe you’ve heard that the school recently received a good Ofsted report? The school will always be very happy to hear that you’ve chosen them because of its specific qualities, rather than how close they are to your home.
In some cases, schools are unable to offer teaching experience at that point in time, so be prepared to contact at least a couple of schools. Some of these may be a little further away from your home, so make sure you’re able to commute to the school before you reach out.
If you have any friends, family members or even acquaintances that have links with a school, then make sure you leverage this connection. Networking is a great tool for furthering your career and a recommendation to the school from a member of staff holds a lot of weight. Not only are you showing initiative by applying for teaching experience before your training, you are being recommended by someone who works at the school.
Not everyone has a contact within a school that can help them with teaching work experience. An alternative method of finding teaching experience in England is via the Government’s service for requesting school experience.
The Get School Experience Service allows you to search for nearby schools using a postcode. It will show you the nearest schools by default. You can filter by subjects and education phases to help narrow your search, if you’re more specific about the experience you want to receive.
Once you’ve selected a school, you’ll see further details about what to expect from the teaching experience. You’ll also be able to see what the requirements are. This includes dress code, qualification requirements, start and finish times, disability and access details and more. There are also links to further information about the school for your information before you submit your application.
If you are currently an undergraduate student thinking about becoming a teacher, you can see if there are any opportunities to get involved with schools whilst you are still studying. Some courses offer modules that involve placements in schools, helping to teach that subject. Foreign language courses are well known for providing a year abroad, where many students can teach English in a foreign school. These placements usually give you much more teaching experience than the minimum required.
There may also be other initiatives within the university that you can take part in. Speaking to a tutor or getting involved with your student union may point you in the right direction.
It is not always possible to obtain teaching experience. You may be in a unique situation where you are currently unable to volunteer in schools. This may be due to your work commitments or you are unable to travel to the schools that offer experience. Most schools can’t offer experience during the summer holidays as the school is usually closed.
However, if you have evidence of showing other teaching qualities in other roles you’ve had, you may be able to apply what you have learnt to your application. Have you ever:
If you have done any of the above, or had any other responsibilities that you feel are relevant, make sure to use these in your application and apply it to the trainee role you wish to take on at Leeds SCITT.
Whilst on your school experience, make sure you take notes so that you can easily draw on this experience for your teaching application and interview. When talking about your voluntary work in schools, you will likely be asked what you gained from it. Note down what techniques you observed, whether you think they worked well and what you would do differently next time.
Take the time to speak with teachers about what school life is like and about the teaching career as a whole. They will be more than happy to share information like this with you, to help you make the right decision for you. If you make a good connection, it may help you network in the future.
Make sure you are flexible in your work experience. It may not be possible to fit your experience in at an ideal time. Some schools only offer experience on certain days and times – if you can work your schedule around the school, this will be much appreciated by the school. Being flexible is also a great quality to have in the teaching career.
Some schools will need you to take a DBS check, as you will be working with children. This can take up to 4 weeks to process, so give yourself plenty of time for this to go through. A DBS is normally not required if you are accompanied by a member of staff at all times. The school will be able to tell you whether or not a DBS check is required when you talk with the representative.
As part of the SCITT programme, you will spend time in a minimum of 2 contrasting schools, to help you develop as a teacher. If you can obtain work experience in more than one school, this will help prepare you for your trainee year with Leeds SCITT.
For some, a few weeks experience isn’t immersive enough to help them decide whether or not they wish to teach. Some applicants spend a year working or volunteering as a teaching assistant. This lets them gain experience and work out whether they feel a career in teaching is for them, before they commit to the course.
As a teaching assistant, you may be able to receive a salary along with exposure to the classroom. You’ll see the ways teachers work at different times during the year, for example preparing for exams. You’ll also get to work with different year groups and ability groups. It acts as a great foundation for your future career as a teacher.
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