How to get ahead in Primary Education

As I have spoken about previously, Primary Education is a course that can be seriously underestimated. It is one of the most popular courses at Edge Hill with a cohort of around 300 students per year, meaning that it is important to get ahead wherever possible. The course is demanding but there a few things you can do to help you reduce stress and get as much of your experience as possible.

Before you even consider choosing a Primary Education or Education based degree it is important to get as much experience as possible working or volunteering with children. Some people can volunteer in one class and absolutely love it and base their career on this experience and then find themselves shocked when faced with different circumstances in different schools. Having this range of experiences allows you to see teaching from all angles and make an informed decision. As well as this if you do decide to pursue teaching the experience is excellent to boost your CV as teaching jobs often prioritise teachers who have experience in different local authorities. The more experience you can gain the better, as being in school with children is the best place to learn. It is important to get experience before you begin a course but also to consider maintaining this experience during your course. Between your placements the time you spend out of school can be considerable and you can quickly find yourself feeling a little rusty when it comes to returning to the classroom.

Once you begin the course organisation is key. I would highly recommend investing in a good planner or diary. When you are at school and college you get used to teachers telling you things multiple times or having letters given out to remind you. Once you are at university a lecturer could say something once and you will be expected to remember this and action it. This is not the case for everything but I feel it is better to record dates, to do lists and important events in an organised manner to save a last minute panic when you realise that you may have forgotten. As well as a diary I would also suggest buying folders and wallets, as a teacher you can never have too many and knowing where exactly that one piece of paper you need is will save you time and stress in the future.

As part of your organisation an important thing to consider are the dates of your assignments and the time you have between hand-ins. One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is to get your library books well in advance even if you are not reading them at that moment in time. As the Primary Education cohort is so large the library can often be overwhelmed around assignment times. To overcome this plan out when assignments are due, look at the content and get your books as soon as possible. This saves you going to the library a week before the assignment and seeing a dreaded empty shelf. Once you have the books keep renewing them so you have them when you are ready to use them. Another thing to consider is that if you are living in halls or with other people who study Primary Education share books as much as possible, it means that you’re accessing two or three times as many books as you would be if you were sourcing on your own. As well as this I have wasted many hours walking up and down the library looking for books without really knowing what I am looking for. Using the library service online allows you to search for books based on release, content and type and shows you how many are available and where they are in the library. Through searching online you can spend a few minutes noting down the location and simply going to the library to pick them up saving you time.

Lastly take as many professional development opportunities as possible. As a trainee you are able to join as many unions as you wish in order to get a feel for what they offer and how they can support you as you begin your career. These unions often provide training days or lectures that are available for free to trainees. The content varies from subjects such as safeguarding to special educational needs. In addition to what the unions offer the university also has many opportunities for students to expand their experience through things such as TEL, science under the stars and volunteering to support clubs.

Overall as a Primary Education student one of the most important things to remember is to stay organised and stay calm. The sooner you can do something the better and I would recommend taking on what you can but never do more than you are capable, don’t let your academic side suffer as a result of trying to boost you experiences or CV.

So, what do you learn as a trainee teacher?

Monday

  • Science (2-4)
  • Computing (4-6)

A lot of the Science we do is incredibly practical. One of the key things in the National Curriculum at the moment is ‘Working Scientifically’ which includes all of the skills that you use when you carry out an investigation. This can be anything from observing to measuring to evaluating, so we make sure that we know how to cover these topics. Within this, we cover both the subject knowledge (the WHAT we teach) and the pedagogy (the HOW we teach).

Computing is a relatively new subject in the curriculum, having been brought in during the changes in 2014. Last year, we covered why the changes were made and what they were, and got to grips with the software and equipment we would be using to teach.

Wednesday

  • The foundation subjects – Art, DT, History, Geography, PE, RE, Languages etc (9-12)

The foundation subjects varied each week, so we spent 3 hours on a different subject. This tiny glimmer into each subject is nowhere near enough knowledge to help us go out and teach it, which is why we are given independent time to do more work and strengthen our subject knowledge, but it gave us a starting point to help us in those weaker subject areas.

Thursday

  • Maths (9-11)
  • Academic Professional Development (APD) Lecture (12-1)
  • English (2-4)
  • APD (4-6)
  • Optional session: Technology Enhanced Learning (Tel) (6-8)

Our tutor for Maths last year worked in a Year 6 class one day a week, much like many of the tutors here at Edge Hill, so the experience she brought to our sessions was fresh and relevant. We worked with lots of different materials, learning how best to break down some of the most basic Mathematics principles for early years children, and how these would help for children still struggling later on in their schooling.

In English, a lot of our work was discussion-led, talking about different ways we would introduce work to children. Sometimes we would read a story and then put this into our reading journal. We used a lot of stimuli and story prompts, which then helped us to create our own class story, about a mermaid.

APD touches upon the important topics we wouldn’t necessarily cover otherwise, such as behaviour management, learning theories and children with SEND and/or English as an additional language (EAL).

Friday

  • Minor Specialism: Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) (3-5)

For your minor, you get to pick from the foundation subjects, EAL, SEND and the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). In SEND, we covered different learning styles and how to adapt to these in more depth, and were offered the opportunity to attend an Autism Drama workshop carried out by some 3rd year dissertation students, who were on the spectrum. This was incredibly useful.

So there you have it! A lot of people might tell you that we spend our time playing, or colouring in as Amber mentioned in an earlier post, but all of what we do is to help us prepare for teaching. It is proven that most children learn better kinaesthetically, which is why we get to do so much fun stuff!

Why did I choose Edge Hill?

As the deadline for making your firm and insurance choices fast approaches, some of you may still be feeling unsure about where is the right place for you. After all – it is a big decision. This is the place you’ll be spending 3+ years of your life, potentially away from home, studying and needing support. It’s not easy.

If you received your last decision before… then your reply date will be…

  • 31st March 2017, reply by 4th May 2017
  • 5th May 2017, reply by 8th June 2017
  • 8th June 2017, reply by 22nd June 2017
  • 13th July 2017, reply by 20th July 2017

So how did I know I was making the right choice? Why did I pick Edge Hill?

  1. I made sure the course was right for me. Aside from the fact that Edge Hill is one of the best universities for teacher training, it is also one of the only universities in the country that gives you the opportunity to pick both a major and a minor subject. Despite teaching all subjects in primary schools, I wanted to be able to specialise, which Edge Hill offered me.
  2. I wanted to be able to travel home if I needed to. My biggest travel tip is splitting journeys up to see if they cost less. With a rail card, a return ticket to Ormskirk from my home town is £27, but if I split each leg of the journey up and book in advance, it costs me £20.This isn’t a massive difference, but those extra few pounds really add up. Make sure to check how much it costs to travel to and from your university choices. Despite each university that I applied to being the same distance away from home, some journeys cost upwards of £120. These were costs that I simply wouldn’t be able to afford if I needed to travel home in an emergency.
  3. I wanted a campus based university, where I could live on site. Having been quite ill throughout my GCSE and A Level years, I wanted to attend a university where I could quickly walk to my lectures, even if I wasn’t feeling 100% well. Being on campus and not having to cross busy roads when I felt unwell was a massive weight off my mind, and the community feel that came from living in halls really made me feel comfortable.
  4. I fell in love the minute I walked on campus. I’m a big advocate for going to see the universities you’re considering attending. From the very first Open Day, there was just a feeling in my gut that there was nowhere else I wanted to study. I strongly advise, if you haven’t been to visit the university yet, booking onto one of our monthly tours or attending an Applicant Visit Day. I promise you won’t regret it.

So Primary Education is just colouring in, right?

A lot of people have the misconception that Primary Education is easy, as a Primary Ed student in the thick of 2nd year I can assure you this is not the case. But despite its difficulty I believe that it is one of the most interesting and engaging courses you can take part in. Yes there are assignments, written tasks and assessments but there are also trips, activities and unique learning experiences both in seminars and in lectures. Hopefully I can give you an introduction to my course and share some of the reasons I have for loving it so much and reduce the perception that all we Primary Ed students do all day is colouring in.

First of all one of the reasons our sessions are so engaging is as a result of the variety. When coming to university I wasn’t sure what to expect of seminars and whether or not they’d similar to what I had previously experienced at school at college. One of the main things I was worried about was not having the chance to ask questions and simply be talked at whilst making notes. This worry was soon diminished. The seminars give you plenty of chance to ask questions to your tutor, talk to your peers and engage with materials. Often before or after a seminar you are given recommended reading that will aim to prepare you for your next session.

Our seminars are structured in a similar way to the lessons you would have at school. Now this may sound strange but we often take part in the lessons so we can understand how the children would engage and how we would deliver the lesson as a form of practice for our future careers. Obviously as we are students we can do this at a far more accelerated rate and discuss the benefits of the activity and reflect on the pedagogy.

One of the most interesting sessions I was involved in was the observation of snails in Science. This provided a lot of inspiration for activities I could plan and deliver in the classroom as well as increasing my confidence and understanding of using live animals. The lessons that are demonstrated to us really give you motivation to get into school and try these things out for yourself.

As you can see we have access to a vast amount of resources to aid us in our learning. Using the materials ourselves really helps to build confidence and get you ready for your time in school. As you can see we are encouraged to take photos, make notes and record the session however we feel appropriate. When we engage in sessions our notes, readings, photos and any other information we collect goes towards a PSKR (personal subject knowledge resource). The aim of this is to show how our subject knowledge and ability to teach in each subject progresses over our time at university. It also a great tool when you go into schools as you can look back for inspiration and keep work sheets, resources and lesson plans all in one place. At the end of the year we have a Viva. This is assessed and generally consists of a conversation with you subject tutor about what you have done in your PSKR and how you can demonstrate your continuing subject knowledge. As a result of this it is really important to keep your PSKR up to date, organised and relevant to you and your learning.

As well as a PSKR, you are also expected to produce a TSP (teacher’s standards portfolio). The purpose of this is to collect evidence to show that you are meeting the teacher’s standards in order to pass QTS at the end of the course. This is a really important part of the work you do whilst at university but it something that is supported by tutors and a lot of advice is given about how to full this out successfully.

I would say that these are the two largest ongoing projects you have to work on whilst at university. But there are also others. Journals are something that you will complete in your subject minor, in English and in other subjects if you feel that this would benefit your note making. Personally I love completing the journals they give you a chance to be creative whilst also demonstrating your subject knowledge.

Your minor journal goes in for assessment alongside your minor assignment but your reading journal forms part of your English PSKR.

And last but not least, assignments. Now on the scale of the things I have spoken about assignments probably rank last but they are, unfortunately, an essential part of the course. We usually have around 1 assignment per module, but sometimes there can be 2 per module particularly in subjects such as APD. The assignments are spread across the year and you are expected to work on them in your own time alongside other tasks such as PSKR’s and journals.

Overall I hope you can see that Primary Ed is not just all about colouring in, but it is not just taking notes and listening either. It is a diverse course with plenty of opportunity to learn in a way that suits you whilst also learning how to effectively teach children.

 

Primary Education Interview Process

On this day 2 years ago I had my first interview at Edge Hill for Primary Education with QTS. Today I have been in the same room as around 100 applicants answering questions, discussing the interview process and seeing the nerves and excitement that I had when I was in their position. This led me to think about my interview process and how I found my experience at Edge Hill.

Out of all the universities I applied for Edge Hill was the first interview I attended. One of the things that stood out to me about the interview process here was the level of organisation and how important you were made to feel from the outset. I came to the interview with my Dad and travelling up from Nottingham it was one of the first times I was actually able to look around the university also. The campus was one of the main things that stood out to me on the day, with everything being contained together and the country surroundings, I knew that this was somewhere I could see myself for the next 3 years. The day was structured well and when I first arrived I had to hand in my exam certificates to be checked and then went into one of the lecture theatres. On the day you are given the option to have a campus tour or stay for a question and answer session with current students (something that I am currently doing with new applicants). On the day I choose to stay for the question and answer session, this was really informative for me and having the session led by students put me at ease as there was an informal tone. They allow you to ask any questions and give you their perspective of life at Edge Hill and life in Ormskirk. Following on from this I was taken into another lecture theatre to complete the test aspect of the interview. Many people worry about these tests, but there is nothing to be scared of. Of course you should try your best on them, but the purpose is to not only identify areas of strength but to also see where you can improve. As a teacher you are not expected to know everything especially at this early stage and if you are successful in your interview these tests provide the basis for extending your knowledge and identifying targets to ensure you are making progression in your subject knowledge.

Following on from this you have your interview with a member of staff at Edge Hill, this part of the interview is normally based around a task or scenario. For my interview I had to bring in a book or an object and identify cross curricular links and discuss my lesson ideas for this. When you are invited to interview you will be fully informed of what the task involves and be given plenty of time to prepare. This is often the area that people find most daunting. It is important to remember that nerves are okay, the interviewers understand how scary the process can be and ultimately they want you to do well. The interviewers are not out to get you and it is basically just your chance to show your potential and passion for the subject. My main advice would be to dress smart to make a good impression from the start, have eye contact this shows you’re interested and engaged and be yourself, they want to see what you have to offer and understand that we’re all human.

After the interview it can take up to four weeks before you receive an offer. Whether you are successful or unsuccessful you will receive a notification via UCAS. As well as this the university will e-mail providing you with feedback regarding your interview and results from the tests in which you participated. As this was my first interview the feedback I received was really beneficial in preparing me for future interviews and helped me understand my strengths and weaknesses prior to starting the course. Another thing I found really useful following my interview was the e-mail communications from Edge Hill, this included advice on gaining experience, things to do before starting the course as well as information about open days.

Overall the positivity of the interview was one of my main reasons for choosing Edge Hill, I knew that if I could feel comfortable in that situation that I would be able to fit in as part of the course and part of the university life style.

 

Top tips for education based placements

As a 2nd year Primary Education student living in halls, at this time of year I find myself undertaking a lot of reflection. Watching my flatmates who are 1st year primary education students go out on placement I find myself thinking how I was in their position only a year ago and how far I have developed during this time. Although challenging, placement is an exciting and important time in constructing your professional development. Having had the experience of a first year placement and making it through (somewhat) successfully I find myself offering advice to others who are embarking on placement, work experience or even just considering a career in primary education.

1)      Don’t be afraid to ask for help – often when going into schools you feel like you want to change the world and the thought of having this power is an amazing feeling, but you cannot do this alone. The university offers a wide range of support to help and assist you throughout your placement and I would make the most of every opportunity when someone is willing to offer you their help.

2)      Magpie ideas – you will find this term used quite frequently in Primary Education but building a strong portfolio of resources and lesson ideas will make planning easier and less time consuming in the future. If you see a lesson you like make a note of it, ask the teacher about the resources and see if you gain a copy of the lesson plan. Don’t be afraid to ask, teachers will often see it as a compliment that you have enjoyed their lesson and seen the benefits that it is has on children’s learning.

3)      The more feedback the better – it may seem daunting having someone critique you for the first time, but teachers only want to help you, it’s important to remember that they were in your exact position once also. Try and take as many chances to be observed as possible normalising observation will reduce stress and increase your performance in the classroom.

 One of my reasons for choosing Edge Hill to complete my degree was the wide range of opportunities for placement such as a remote placements which can occur all over the country. Seeing my flatmates going through placement in their first year has only made me more excited to begin my next placement and implement what I have learnt over the past two years.

Which Accommodation is Right for Me?

I’m back again with another accommodation post as a sequel to my previous post which gave you an insight into my university bedroom! However, while my accommodation is ideal for myself, it may not be for you! So explore your options shall we?

Edge Hill currently has over 2,000 single study bedrooms available located across campus. While some are catered, others are self-catered! (But lets face it, we all just want to live in a block that’s less than a 30 second walk from your faculty building – shhh, I know your secrets okay).

Students living in catered halls of residence will be issued with a unicard which is automatically loaded with a cash value which will then be used instead of money when purchasing food from various on-campus, including Starbucks!

Self-catered offers students a fully equipped kitchen which includes a cooker, microwave and freezer (there’s enough drawers and cupboards scattered around for both yourself and your flatmates to stash away your chocolate bars and multiple tins of ravioli). You are also provided with a kettle, toaster, iron and ironing board!

All rooms are furnished with  bed, wardrobe, desk, chair and you can personalise your space with posters, photos and other items of your choice! You will need to bring your own bed linen, towels, crockery, cutlery, glassware, pots and pans (although flats with induction hobs include a small selection of pans already). Your communal kitchen also includes a TV which includes a TV license, which unfortunately the TV in your bedroom doesn’t include.

Those blocks of a newer build come equipped with a flatscreen computer which duplicates as a TV screen (excellent for watching Netflix on), a mini fridge and heated towel rails!

All halls of residence are based on a 40 week contract, running from September to late June. Prices for 2016 will range from £68-£115 per week which includes all of your utility bills (excluding your damage deposit fee of £150). Payment schedules will be arranged before you move in with details sent to your e-mail closer to the date.

If on-campus accommodation doesn’t suit your fancy, there is always off-campus accommodation available. Edge Hill’s accommodation team will be more than happy to help, providing you with advice and guidance when choosing private housing in the local areas surrounding the university.

But most importantly of all, let’s cut to the chase and discuss what you actually and probably only care about; wireless enabled internet access is readily available, free of charge and in all halls of residence! Yay!

Primary Education – Placement

With teaching, comes experience. An awful lot of experience. So much so, that unless given permission to do so, talking about ‘little Billie’ and his ability to add two numbers together is forbidden outside of the classroom. Seriously considering introducing an “it’s okay to talk about placement right now” coupon scheme with my flat mates.

With having began my course of Primary Education here at Edge Hill University, I was so excited to finally be learning things actually relevant to my future, rather than all that trigonometry malarkey drilled into my naive head a few years back now. Terribly pointless – we’ve all been there.

Seminars and lectures cutting the small talk and getting straight down to business; safeguarding, the curriculum and placement.

Whilst feeling so vulnerable and raw, once having began what had felt like a whole new life, being informed that I’d be ‘shipped off’ to an unfamiliar school setting within just 2 months for 8 weeks.. 8 WHOLE WEEKS.. that’s 40 DAYS (*faints*). The thought was terrifying.. but I never thought I’d see myself where I am now.

Edge Hill University has been thoroughly supportive through this hectic yet super exciting time as I begin my journey of training, adapting and developing. I’ve grown so much already! Each morning, seeing my class walk in with a seemingly large smile on their innocent faces as they shout; “good morning Miss Pickering!!” never fails to put a smile on my face as I’m reminded why I chose to follow through with this stressful but magical career. (Although I must admit, it more often than not goes something like “Miss Pickerinsgings” – don’t ask).

So you’ve probably got a lot of questions – I know I certainly did. It’s a terrifying thought, but it’s so important in your self-development to become and outstanding teacher. I truly feel as though Edge Hill guided me through this process with their hand in mine, guiding me through the treacherous forest out into the yellow meadows. Ways in which they do this includes;

  • A professional practice partner – another year one student just like yourself in either the same class or school as you!
  • Edge Hill trying their best to make sure you’re in a school/location most convenient for yourself.
  • Providing you with all the information and documents you could ever possibly need to fill you in on all of their expectations of you.
  • Allowing you to claim back fuel and accommodation expenses.
  • Excellent support and guidance from staff such as your visiting tutor and personal tutor.
  • And much, much more!

Please don’t hesitate to comment below with any questions you may have!