Friday, 21 June 2013

School Direct : Preparing for the unknown.

Recently I've come to realise how much misinformation is out there about School Direct and so I wanted to start this blog with a bit about that.  When telling people that I'll be doing School Direct at least one person, a teacher I might add, said to me 'oh yes, because they've got rid of the PGCE haven't they?',  I've also seen newspaper and internet articles that make all sorts of claims about the School Direct scheme that are either untrue or taken out of context.  For anyone reading this that doesn't know about School Direct I'll tell you a little bit more.  School Direct allows schools to pick their own trainees and train them along with a local provider.  Some of these programmes will just lead to Qualified Teacher Status but many of them will also lead to a PGCE, some with credits towards a Masters course.  Trainees on the School Direct scheme will be subject to the same standards as those training via a PGCE and therefore will have to spend time in more than one school and meet all the Teaching Standards before being recommended for QTS.  I think in general the confusion is occurring due to the variety of options available depending on the lead school providing the training, including the fact that some trainees will be salaried and others won't.  The School Direct isn't the only route though, PGCEs are continuing to be run as usual, this is just another route, much in the same way as the GTP was an alternative option.  Personally I much prefer the idea of School Direct as I'll be in school from day one, getting involved in school life but still gaining the PGCE qualification preferred by some schools and often required for teaching abroad.  I understand that taking part in School Direct this year is taking a big step into the unknown, for example my provider is yet to 100% finalise the structure of the course, but I find this exciting.

Taking this step into the unknown means that preparation is difficult.  I've got myself a stack of books and am reading my way through them.  I'm also trying to follow as many blogs and reading other articles on education as I'm realising how fast things are changing and the importance of keeping ahead of the times.  I've also started some observation and spent two days in an all boys grammar school this week which was really interesting as it was different to anything I've been in before.  I've got a week lined up in a Primary school which is compulsory before beginning my PGCE and I've arranged to spend a week in an MFL department back home.  Other than that preparations are generally all paperwork- I've had application forms to fill in from my school, a DBS check to pay for and a bit more reading!

Anyone else stepping into the School Direct unknown?  Join the TES Community forum here.   Get in touch with me on Twitter @BexNobes or via the group.  Really looking forward to talking to more trainees-to-be!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Why study languages? Three minutes to convince 6th formers to study MFL. #3mins2MFL

This week I've got myself involved in a Speedy Networking event where some students from my university are going to a local high school to 'sell' their course speed-dating style.  I don't know a huge amount about the event, at the moment I'm not sure if it will be going ahead as there hasn't been that much interest from students wanting to get involved.  I hope it does go ahead as it sounds like a good event but clearly will only be successful with a good selection of courses represented.  Anyway, this has got me thinking about how to 'sell' the study of languages in only three minutes.

I've mentioned how useful Twitter has been for me before and so it was my first port of call for inspiration.  Firstly I really appreciate tweeters like @speak2future @thirdyearabroad @TESNewTeachers and @MFLSunderland retweeting my request as it helped me get a few more responses.  I asked Twitter users:

Here are just a selection of the reasons I was given.
Employability and job prospects:

I went through these with the other languages students that are going to be coming to the event, trying to work out how we could use them our in three minutes.  All being final year students we were particularly interested in the tweets to do with employability and were really interested to see that language graduates were something like the 7th most employable.  Of the three of us, two are going into teaching in the UK and one to teach English in France and from our experience of the job market outside of Education we've found that as much as languages are sought after, these are in combination with other things.  For example, marketing graduates with knowledge of French or economics graduates with knowledge of German.  One of the three of us has joint honours with Maths and we agreed that maybe in hindsight taking joint honours with something outside of the languages department may have placed us in a better position.  That said it really depends on what university you go to and what you're intending on doing afterwards as some universities place a lot of focus on language and translation, as opposed to our course which has a greater emphasis on 'culture', politics, literature, history etc.  Just recently the British Chamber of Commerce highlighted the need for more linguists in the UK, here.  In terms of what we take from this for our #3mins2MFL we decided that we need to highlight that there are a range of opportunities out there for brits that speak another language, and not just for those that want to go and live abroad as some students might expect.  An example I like to use is that last summer I worked at a London airport and spoke Spanish every single shift.

Experience and opportunity:

We were unanimous that the year abroad is a vital part of a languages degree and is a great reason to study languages.  The experience of the year abroad is different for everyone, especially due to the variety of things that you can do for the year, but we all agreed that we got something from it.  The year abroad is something quite unique to the languages degree in the UK, students from other disciplines can take sandwich years or study abroad but their options are not as wide as language students who don't have the same linguistic barriers.  Year abroad students studying languages can study at a university, teach English or even find a work placement, there are plenty of opportunities out there.  There is a lot more about this on Third Year Abroad, especially their Graduate Case Studies.


 This tweet comes from someone that I've studied with for the last 4 years, she has already headed off into the 'real world' and started work in a job that isn't directly related to her degree subject.  I'm sure she won't mind that I'm using her has a great example of the transferable skills that you gain from a languages degree as she highlights herself in the tweet.  Communication is just one of those skills, recently when re-doing my CV I identified some more which are understanding of other ways of working, independence and self-motivation.


I've briefly touched on this one already, learning a language allows you to see things from another perspective, learning about other cultures, different approaches and new ideas.

Of all the tweets I received we particularly liked this one:

In the end we've decided to take a minute each looking at what you study in a languages degree and the host of other courses you can combine with it, the year abroad and finally where your languages can take you.  If it goes ahead maybe I'll blog on it again after the event.

What do you think are the main reasons to learn a language? Tweet @BexNobes with the hashtag #3mins2MFL and let me know.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

What happens now?

If my experimenting with the tools on this blog have gone to plan then when you read this my undergraduate exams will be over! At 11.30am 5/6/2013, I finished my degree!  Now that my life isn't full of revision I think I'm going to feel a little lost.  Fear not- I won't be sat around twiddling my thumbs for long, preparation for September is top of the list.

I've bought all the books that I've been told I need, problem is they're all lined up looking pretty on a shelf in Essex... and I won't be joining them until the end of the month.  Being the busy person I am I've had to line up some bits and pieces to fill my time.  Admittedly I don't really know what I've got myself in for with a couple of the things yet!  One is working with year 6 pupils for an afternoon teaching them French and Spanish.  I think the activities etc have been planned already and I'll just be involved in the delivery but it should be fun all the same.  The other activity is working with Secondary students who are coming onto campus to hear about university life and the courses on offer to them.  I'm looking forward to talking to them about studying languages, even if they all say 'oh but everyone speaks English so learning languages is pointless' that'll be something for me to think about in time for September.

The university that will be awarding my PGCE requires me to spend a week in a Primary school and a bit more time in a Secondary school.  I've got a week in a Primary organised back in Essex and I have a booklet full of questions that I need to complete before my 2 week course at the university in August.  As for Secondary, I'm due to spend a couple of days in a grammar up here and a few more back at my old school nearer the end of term.  I was hoping to fit one more school in there, but I just don't think I'll have time!  I've not been given anything to observe in the Secondary classes though, so any suggestions, especially MFL specific ones, are really appreciated!

Whilst I'm on the subject of school experience, I understand why the majority PGCE courses require a certain amount of experience pre-application, but I think that they could be missing out on good applicants.  I've done plenty in the past, from running a French club with another student, leading the lower school band and being an associate form tutor to a year 8/9 form group whilst I was in sixth form, but none of it was recent enough for the requirements of some institutions.   Whilst I've been at university I've worked with Secondary students as a Student Ambassador, running activity days to encourage them to consider Higher Education, but I didn't do this for very long before the closure of the department I was working in.  Other than this I've not had any experience with school students, especially not in the classroom.  I believe that my other experience, with my part time work, helping to run a student society and being an elected representative of the Students' Union is what helped me get onto the School Direct scheme, and helped me prove that I would be capable of teaching.  I understand the reasons behind the requirements but I can't help but think that this means losing out on those that haven't always wanted to teach.

One final thing, for any other School Direct 2013 participants, having seen the lack of a forum covering this area on the new TES Community pages I decided to start one up, you can find the page here: so please come along and join us.  We're hoping that the forum will be a good support network to share problems and ideas come September.

I tweet with the username @BexNobes and I'd love to hear from you if you're reading the blog.