Year 1 Undergraduates had their first taste of school as they visited Lathom High School in Skelmersdale for an intensive morning’s introduction to school.

For the first part of the day students visited the Every Child Matters centre where Deputy Head, Jane Galbraith, explained the fantastic work that the centre does, in providing support for pupils’ needs.  Around 20% of the school have some interaction with the centre, making use of either the Learning Mentors, TAs, Counsellors or a combination.  Jane outlined the referral process so students were introduced to School Action, Action Plus and Statementing.  The school’s EAL provision was also outlined; 10% of the year 7 entry in 2011 were identified as EAL learners!  Students were particularly interested in the idea of ‘restorative justice’ where two parties who have a disagreement are brought together in an attempt to resolve the problem.

Trevor Hodson an Assistant Head in charge of teaching and learning in the school, and former Head of RE, spent an hour with trainees talking about observations, Ofsted, being outstanding and performance management.  He showed how data was used in the school to monitor pupil progress and how RE needed to be academically rigorous, making use of AfL techniques and approaches to teaching including, Bloom, Kagan, Mindmapping, Thinking Hats and interactive technologies.

By observing an RE lesson, students were able to see some of these things in practice and realised that everything that happens in a lesson needs careful planning and work by the teacher. Pupils do not ‘just’ raise their hand, but this routine, like all such routines, needs to be purposely developed with the pupils.  They saw the importance of planning a structured lesson, with all/most/some objectives and a range of learning styles employed. Praise and reward was a key factor in the teacher managing the behaviour of the class.

Finally the students spent time chatting to Jenny Clarke, an RE graduate from Edge Hill, who teaches RE at Lathom.  She helped to ease students’ worries about surviving the course and gave them valuable tips.  Jenny also stressed the importance of having high expectations, the value of pupil talk and group-work, the need for a variety of activities and the necessity of having behaviour management sorted!

The students had a most enjoyable and enlightening time and are eager to start their placements after the Christmas break.  Back at University the students reflected on their experiences and considered how what they had seen might influence the way they teach RE.