31 October 2017

Training the teachers of tomorrow

We’re very keen to get the right people into teaching.  We don’t apologise for having high standards.”

The Arthur Terry National Teaching School (ATNTS) is continuing to go from strength to strength, attracting record numbers of people to its Initial Teacher Training course.

It was among the country’s first ‘teaching schools’ and one of only two School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) providers in 2012. Today there are many more school-based providers competing for fewer trainees, but ATNTS has substantially grown in both the quantity and quality of candidates, as highlighted by an external examiner. Last year, 42 trainees graduated from its successful post graduate in education (PGCE) programme, with more than half achieving qualified teacher status (QTS) at an outstanding level.

Cathryn Mortimer, course director, says: “We’re very keen to get the right people into teaching.  We don’t apologise for having high standards and a rigorous interview process.  Teaching is a rewarding career and this course develops both their subject knowledge and understanding of how young people learn and progress. Although we produce outstanding teachers, it takes time and support to get there, which we pride ourselves on doing.” Last year, the teaching school attracted more than 150 applications.

So how does the teaching school continue to attract top candidates?

It’s about reputation,” explains Cathryn.

We’re a successful course provider attached to an outstanding school, which is the highest performing comprehensive school in Birmingham. Our ethos is one of sharing best practice and we give trainees a comprehensive experience that sets them up for successful employment, often within our teaching school alliance (TSA) of eleven partner schools.

“These contrasting schools aim to provide trainees with the skills and experience needed to teach in all schools across the country so that they are prepared for a lifelong career in teaching.”

The one year PGCE programme, described by Ofsted as providing training that: ‘equips trainees with the skills to analyse what aspects of teaching contribute most effectively to pupils’ learning’ combines school placements with academic study and workshop-based training that enables trainees to fully develop their understanding through the practical application of how children learn overall and particularly in their subject.

As part of the programme, the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership’s specialist leaders of education (SLEs) deliver practical workshops that enable the trainee to not only learn, but to see what is being taught in action.

Cathryn says:

It’s the full experience – real world teaching that you just cannot get from study alone.” 

During their first fortnight, trainee teachers take part in initial training at Arthur Terry School. This enables them to get each other and the basic skills required to begin teaching. They take part in a range of activities, including collaborative planning and delivering some year 7 PSHE lessons as a group.

PGCE tutor and specialist leader of education, Paul Withey, is just one of the currently practicing outstanding teachers who is supporting and coaching the trainee teachers.

He says:

This personalised approach makes us stand out. We have the staff capacity to support each trainee teacher as an individual and are not so large that they become lost in the crowd like on some university courses. This means that our training teachers are confident and prepared for their placements.”

Emma Cartwright, a trainee teacher in Geography, adds: “The start of the course has helped me to develop complex ideas within education and allow me to start to develop and reflect on how I want to teach. Having two weeks at Arthur Terry is extremely helpful, both in regard to learning about teaching strategies and theories, but also as an opportunity to get to know the people we are working with.”

Emily Price, a trainee teacher in Mathematics adds: “I’ve really enjoyed this course so far. The first two weeks’ training was so well organised and has really prepared us for our placements.”

Over the course of the year, trainee teachers take part in two placements, as well as visiting other local schools which provides a wider scope for consideration of future employment.

“The aim is to develop the training teachers’ own identity so that they do not have to emulate or be a copy of a single teacher or department to succeed,” explains Michael Simmons, deputy director of the teaching school.

“This helps teachers more equipped to deal with the differences in schools and departments, due to their experience and strong understanding of how children learn, as opposed to how one person teaches,” he adds.

Every Friday, all trainees come together at Arthur Terry to discuss their progress and to share ideas and experiences.  Michael says:

We know that this interaction and this continuous support from highly experienced staff along with fellow trainee teachers is another reason why our programme remains so popular.”

Mitchell Miller, a trainee teacher in Drama, says: “I’m thoroughly enjoying the course and am impressed with the level of support we have.”

Cathryn adds: “We can see from the teachers who have previously trained through our PGCE course and are still working at our partnership schools that they are successful in developing learners. By continuing to work closely with our local universities, we can continue to recruit and retain the highest quality of teachers that can have the most positive impact on learners’ education.”