Wandsworth Primary Schools' Consortium

SCITT Blog

 

 

Each week Sam, the Course Director,  will be sharing updates from educational research, commenting on educational policy and providing helpful guidance for applicants to the PGCE and Assessment Only Route. Let us know if there's something else you would like us to share. 

 

4th February 2024 Getting Shortlisted for Interview

Each year we receive applications from new graduates, career-changers and working parents with varied subject specialisms.

To get shortlisted you need to:

  • show you understand the scope of the teacher role,
  • have a clear rationale for your career path,
  • show how your work and study experiences have readied you for the PGCE, and
  • communicate in writing effectively.

 

So, how can you make your application and supporting statement stand out?

 

Be clear and concise

Plan what you want to say and organise it in logical sections. Use sub-headings while drafting and remove them before submission. Try to avoid the following:

  • repeating phrases or key words,
  • technical jargon, and
  • overly descriptive or formal passages which have limited information.

 

Identify transferable skills 

Ensure you talk about your academic skills and emotional intelligence as well as school-specific skills. Teachers need to be:

  • effective collaborators, leaders and life-long learners,
  • highly competent at organising time, resources and people,
  • reflective, critical thinkers, and
  • analytical, solution-focused and confident to adapt in a dynamic environment.

 

Show awareness of the scope of the teacher role

While your ‘love of children’ is of importance we need to see that you really understand the complex nature of the role. The transferrable skills noted in the previous section will help you convey this if you make specific links to a class teacher’s job. For example, you might note that:

 My experience on my XXX degree enabled me to develop the critical thinking skills needed as a class teacher getting to grips with new policies and initiatives.

You are not expected you to convey all the features of a class teacher’s job in your application (there are too many) so just focus on some of the key functions and convey them well.

 

Show awareness of wider educational issues – explain your motives to teach

We are interested in what you believe you can achieve in terms of making an impact on children’s experience in school and their educational outcomes. In England, the disadvantage gap between different pupil groups still persists. This is influenced by a range of complex factors including absenteeism, mental health, special educational needs and poverty. A range of educational policies seek to address these issues.

Which educational issues are you aware of and how do they impact on your current practice or might they inform you as a teacher? How have these equality and inclusion issues informed your career choice? We need to see that you are well-informed and are thinking critically about educational issues.

 

Celebrate your education-specific strengths 

You need to identify your readiness for subject teaching across the National Curriculum and, where relevant, the Early Years Foundation Stage.

If you have experience in an education environment, tell us about how you are currently supporting teaching and learning. What skills have you acquired, which interventions have you led, or which approaches to phonics, writing and maths have you become familiar with?

If you are not working in an education environment, tell us about your application of literacy and numeracy skills in your current role and your readiness for teaching other subjects.

You can note the impact of your degree specialism or, if recent, your A-Level subjects. You can also note any subject specific interests you have, for example, relating to music, art or sports, and how this will inform your practice as a teacher.  

 

Be reflective

Teaching requires reflection, objectivity and a desire for continued learning. As well as noting your strengths in the preceding strengths it is helpful to note any specific gaps in your experience to date and how you plan to address them now or once on the course.

For example, if you only have experience in the intendent school system, you might draw attention to the skills it has equipped you with but, potentially, the limitations. For example:

While my experience as a TA in XXX school has been of great value in terms of primary pedagogy, relationship-building and teamwork, I have less experience in support pupils with special educational needs. To address this prior to the PGCE, I have [ volunteered at XXXX school / engaged in wider reading around this topic / consulted with the Special Needs Coordinator of a neighbouring maintained school…].

 

Be accurate

When you have finished your draft application and supporting statement review it for accuracy. Next, share it with a friend or colleague for ‘sense-checking’. They can provide feedback on whether the overall ‘flow’ of information is clear and whether there might be repetitions or omissions.

You may not get shortlisted if spelling, grammar and punctuaiton errors are left uncorrected. 

 

Finally

If you need additional guidance, go to the Get Into Teaching website's How to Apply page. This will take you through the steps needed to use DfE Apply for all of your teacher training applications. 

Alternatively, call the provider directly for personalised support. 

 

Call us on 0203 488 2805 for  support with your application to Wandsworth SCITT. 

 

 19th February 2024 Mobile Phones in School

Today sees the release of the DfE’s guidance on ‘Mobile Phones in Schools’ (DfE, 2024).

While the DfE says that this follows a call from Unesco to ban phones, the Technology in Education report (Unesco, 2023) notes the value of mobile phones for learning and presents a complex, nuanced picture of phones as educational and safeguarding tools when utilised purposefully. 

SInce the DfE’s guidance was released, there has been a widespread response from educators that schools already have effective mobile phone policies and the  DfE’s choice to release this guidance now is simply designed to appease a particular group of the voting public who like to see the DfE being ‘tough’ on behaviour. So what is the truth?

 

How much are phones used in school?

While the DfE reports that half of schools do not restrict the use of mobile phones, 62% of secondaries surveyed by Teacher Tapp had blanket bans during the day and fewer than 1% allowed phone use at any time (TeacherTapp, 2024).

However, an Ofcom survey  into children and parents’ media use and attitudes found that one in three secondary school pupils report that mobile phones are used in most lessons without permission (Ofcom, 2023). Whilst this study is from a small sample size, it could be reflective of the differing approaches to mobile phone policy in school and the successful implementation of those policies. 

 

What are the benefits of phone use in school?

IT enables research and access to a wide range of valuable tools and materials. However, most schools do not have sufficient funding for multiple class sets of tablets. Allowing mobile phone use for lessons, within the framework of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, enables the majority of learners access to online learning in lessons. Were mobile phones to be excluded from a schools BYOD policy, as the DfE guidance suggests, many families will be excluded from this access to learning without funding or support from the school to provide an appropriate device. 

 

What are the harms of phone use in school?

In the foreword to the new guidance, the DfE point to several research-informed issues which reflect  the social and emotional challenges faced by young people in school today, including: 

  • A rise in online bullying,
  • Pupils reporting difficulties in maintaining friendships, and
  • Pupils reporting difficulties with their mental health. 

However, while these issues may correlate with increased access to devices there is not proven causation. 

 

Establishing and implementing policies 

The DfE’s guidance has been constructed following consultation with education leaders and provides case study examples of existing good practice. However, the Teacher Tapp survey highlights that the majority of primary and secondary schools surveyed do have appropriate policies and expectations in place. Regardless, it also highlights that having to challenge secondary pupils who are violating school policy in relation to mobile phone use is commonplace, with a fifth of respondents reporting this happening at least once per day (TeacherTapp, 2024). 

 

How can the DfE guidance support implementation of existing policy

To some extent, the guidance serves as a support to Headteachers experiencing ‘push-back’ from parents about mobile phone bans. However, the grey areas, of which there are many, are the very areas that the guidance does not address. In schools with a ‘no phones on site’ policy, these include: 

  • How to address the safety need for mobile phones for children travelling to and from schools, 
  • How to enable children to share evidence of online bullying, and 
  • Enabling flexibility for pupils with medical needs or other issues which require access to their phone, e.g. diabetes. 

In these scenarios the guidance simply encourages consultation with parents to develop appropriate policy. 

In summary, the guidance brings together some common sense steps to communicate policy needs and change with parents. However, it fails to provide specific guidance on knottier issues and leaves those for school leadership teams to resolve.