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 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.