Tuesday, 23 July 2013

School Direct: Criticisms and variety, don't tar everyone with the same brush.

About a month ago I wrote this post about School Direct and the unknown aspects and misconceptions.  Since then there have been many more articles that only seem to further these misunderstandings.  The coverage of School Direct in the news is overwhelmingly negative and I believe that a lot of this is due to misunderstanding as opposed to criticism of the facts.  I am going to use this opportunity to give my views on some of the criticisms I've seen around:

1) Trainees will not see the same variety of schools that they would via a university-based PGCE route.

As much as this may be true to some extent all School Direct trainees will be expected to spend time in more than one school as required for obtaining QTS.  In fact, some school consortiums are able to provide their trainees with experience in a greater variety of schools.

2) Trainees won't get the important reflection time away from school that they would if they were following a university based training route.

I don't know how this will work for those trainees not gaining a PGCE, but I know that one day a week I will be training in curriculum and professional studies away from my school with other student teachers.  This will give me the opportunity to meet with other students, like I would do had I been at a university, and discuss issues and share experiences with them.

3) There won't be a strong enough focus on theory and academic study.

Again, although I don't know quite how this will work for non-PGCE trainees (presumably in a similar way to the non-PGCE GTP route) but so far I am under the impression that there is still a strong academic focus to my course.  I will be attending university for 2 weeks next month with full days of curriculum and professional studies.  I will still be required to complete academic assignments in order to gain my PGCE and I am still expected to study the same texts as the university based PGCE courses.

As far as I can tell so far, many of these criticisms of School Direct would also apply to Teach First, SCITT or the previous GTP.  

I understand the concerns related to applications and the knock-on effect this is having for university providers and this is certainly an issue that can't be ignored.  That said, in the cases where the School Direct training route also leads to the award of a PGCE I don't see the downside or the risk to teacher quality.

The variety of provision for School Direct across the schools and universities involved is yet to be seen, some with PGCE, some without, some with a wider variety of experience than others.  I guess what I'm saying is when making judgements about School Direct this variety must be kept in mind and we mustn't tar all of the training providers with the same brush.

Monday, 15 July 2013

An enjoyable week and a good experience, but Primary isn't for me thanks!

Keeping track of the reading list. So far so good...
Since getting back home from Lancaster I have been finishing off my preparations for School Direct to get some bits and pieces out of the way before the end of the academic year.  I spent a few days in the MFL department of my old Secondary school and I also went and met all the other trainees studying via the same university and training with the same lead school.  It was really good to finally get to meet people and gives me some faces to look out for at the summer school in August.  It also started to paint a slightly clearer picture of how the year is going to work.  It seems that one day a week will be spent training at one of the schools in the consortium and 6 of these days might be a little further afield depending on our subjects. Looking forward to the summer school now as hopefully we'll get information about how it's all going to work in terms of assignments and second placements.  My few days in Secondary were good too as I got to see all years, except for 11 and 13 of course, and saw a variety of lessons which gave me ideas for September.

As part of the preparations set out by my university I had to spend a week in a Primary school. Unfortunately the last few weeks of the Summer term are not the best for getting into classrooms and seeing lessons going on.  Due to the timing with the end of term I only spent one day with year 6 but two days with year 1 and year 3.  Despite the fact that curriculum teaching has pretty much ended in year 6 I was able to spend a day with them and spent some time asking the teachers about some of the questions I needed to answer including covering the transition to Secondary school.  As part of these investigations we were supposed to focus on our specialist subjects but I soon realised I wouldn't be getting the opportunity to see any languages teaching.  The school I visited used to have a specialist but they don't any longer and now they use a piece of computer software to teach French.  I enjoyed my week in a Primary school but I couldn't do it all the time.  The kids were great and it was a lot of fun but I think that was helped by the knowledge that I'd be done at the end of the week and not coming back!  All the Primary teachers said to me that they wouldn't be able to do Secondary though so I guess it just comes down to personal preference.

Now that everything has calmed down I've got to get on with my reading, I was hoping to have the bulk done before going to Canterbury but I'm not convinced that is going to happen now!  I'm back up to Lancaster later in the week for my Graduation ceremony and then thats it, I'm no longer a Lancaster undergraduate student!

Monday, 1 July 2013

New Staff Day - the picture starts to get a little clearer.

Being a School Direct trainee, I was very surprised to be invited to the New Staff Day at my school.  I guess it's not that surprising really, but I didn't expect the school to treat me as 'one of their own' so to speak.  My first impressions of the school are really good, and today has made me all the more excited for what is to come.  As it was a New Staff Day I was there with a total mix of people, other trainees, NQTs, teachers, subject leaders and cover supervisors.  What I was really pleased about was that we were all treated equally and as trainees we were just as valid a part of the group as anyone else and the same provisions had been made for us.  I'd been a bit worried that I might be a bit of an outsider as a trainee but today proved me wrong.

In terms of support and other training I think I've been very lucky with the school I'm going to be training at.  As a new member of staff each person has been allocated a buddy and those of us that are trainees, NQTs or in their first three years of teaching have also got a mentor.  We got the chance to meet them today and spend a little time in our departments to have a look at things and a bit of a chat.  In terms of other training, there are the usual non-pupil days each term as well as weekly sessions on various topics so it seems that there will be plenty going on that can only work positively for me during my PGCE.  If nothing else, the one thing I will have taken away from today is that I will be training in a very supportive school where everyone is willing to help you, and if this year is anything like I've been told it will be then I'm going to need it!

Later this week I have a social event organised by my lead school, meeting up with other trainees, getting all the important questions answered and getting the all important DBS check out of the way with (I just hope the effort I went to getting the Belgian and Spanish ones sorted is worth it...).  I've finally heard from the University about the Summer School, it'll be nine days at the end of August, residential at the University and no charge - food and room are covered in our tuition fees they say.  It looks like it will be 9-5 curriculum studies one week and professional studies the other.  If all my questions about the structure and assessment etc aren't answered this week then I'd hope that by the end of the summer holiday I'll know it all.  Especially as I start at school the following Monday!  My teaching hours and what days will be spent training are still a grey area, but it's getting there now, slowly but surely!  At least I finally have my degree result, that's something!