Teacher Training During The Pandemic
Thursday, 24 June 2021
Bolton School Boys’ Division has received a certificate from the University of Manchester, acknowledging the School’s work with PGCE trainees throughout the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic. Despite national lockdowns and schools working remotely for a large part of the past eighteen months, the next generation of teachers still needed to be trained. Bolton School has continued to support this as an Initial Teacher Education (ITE) Partner and as a School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) Hub School.
PCGE trainees usually arrive at school in January for their second or middle teaching placements, which coincided this year with a national lockdown. Three trainees from the University of Manchester (Geography, Biology and Chemistry) and one from Manchester Metropolitan University (Design & Technology) started their placements at Bolton School online. The task of mentoring trainees initially remotely and then in a socially distanced school required adaptability and flexibility.
Mr Simon Heald, who leads the PGCE training in school, said: ‘Beginning their placements remotely was a daunting challenge for trainees, which they met with aplomb after a day of induction in school with mentors. Perhaps the greater challenge was upon school reopening and for them to gain confidence in the actual classroom, face to face. This could not have happened without the excellent support from mentors and other colleagues.’
In addition, the School adapted its CPD programme to mostly online and Zoom sessions to ensure that the teacher trainees could continue to develop their skills and knowledge despite the challenges of lockdown.
It was important throughout the difficult times of the pandemic to maintain partnerships with universities to support those new to the profession. The certificate from the University of Manchester recognises the School’s commitment to this and was awarded ‘with grateful appreciation for the welcome and care, skill and professional support extended to PGCE trainees by subject and professional mentors and many other staff throughout the challenges of the Pandemic’.
Janet Steer joined the Boys’ Division from Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) in the Department of Design, Technology and Engineering (DTE). Looking back on her PGCE year, she said:
‘My final placement at Bolton School commenced with online learning before moving back into a classroom setting. Having support from both my professional and subject mentor was essential to complete this transition and familiarise myself with the school. In a challenging year for teacher training, I don’t believe I have missed out on opportunities; all the staff in the Boys’ Division have been extremely supportive and I feel very privileged to have worked in the school.
‘My subject specialism is Design & Technology (D&T) where pupils develop creative thinking through problem solving and decision making. … A typical D&T lesson would be conducted within the workshop with access to tools and equipment suitable for the learning objectives. Whilst Covid-19 has forced most D&T lessons into a standard classroom at Bolton School Boys’ Division, the boys have showed their resilience and continued engagement with the subject. The curriculum has been adapted to allow for practical lessons to continue using basic tools such as glue guns, screw drivers and soldering irons.’
Mrs Steer’s further reflections on her teacher training experience can be found at the bottom of this page.
The School has also continued to work with National Mathematics and Physics (NMAPS) SCITT and National Modern Languages (NML) SCITT trainees during the pandemic. Despite a strenuous and, at times, fraught year, trainees have continued to receive excellent training opportunities at Bolton School, adapted to fit the ‘new normal’.
Mr Deane Lamb, who leads SCITT training in the Boys’ Division, said: ‘Throughout the disruption of the last year we have continued to provide regular and purposeful opportunities to train to teach to a cohort of keen and dedicated trainees. They have been required not only to master the skills associated with teaching but also the emerging technologies and pedagogy necessitated by the global pandemic. By affording our trainees an unbroken learning experience and continuity in delivering lessons to pupils, both in person and via remote platforms whilst in lockdown, we have ensured that they have had consistency in developing their practice. Access to subject mentors and Hub Leaders has been similarly unbroken and, as such, the trainees have been able to discuss the best approaches to delivering the subject they love, to engage with group discussion on current educational theory and to share experiences from the classroom (physical and virtual) in order to develop the reflective practice necessary to become an outstanding teacher.’
NML trainee Zoe Janes looked back on Initial Teacher Training experience and said: ‘Lots of trainees have talked about missing out this year but I don’t feel like that here. Bolton School has been fantastic and supported me fully throughout. I have had such a positive start to the profession.’
NMAPS (Mathematics) trainee Imran Mussawar also reflected: ‘I have received regular feedback for improvement in open discussion. It has been easy to approach and communicate with the relevant person. The relationship between me and my mentor was based on trust and respect; he gave me regular feedback on my strengths and weaknesses. I would definitely recommend the SCITT process because you are guided and supported at every stage by experienced mentors. If I was given a chance to do training again then I would happily choose the SCITT process again.’
Chloe Zornemann, another NMAPS (Physics) trainee who has secured a job in the Girls’ Division following her Initial Teacher Training, said: ‘Training with NMAPS has provided a consistent and structured training experience even in the most uncertain of years. The program offers the opportunity to be in the classroom from day one while subject specialists support your professional development. The relationship with a mentor provides excellent support as you have a contact to discuss both your strengths and developmental areas with and receive regular guidance on how to improve the quality of your teaching. This support extended throughout lockdown and enabled me to continue improving my teaching practice. I have found training with the SCITT accelerates your progress as a trainee as you see how a school runs from day one and have access to valuable specialist subject training with NMAPS. I would highly recommend this SCITT to anyone considering Physics teacher training!’
Anyone interested in training to teach through the SCITT can find more information on the NMAPS SCITT and NML SCITT websites, on the School’s Teacher Training Opportunities page, or via the Get Into Teaching website.
‘Many of my peers often discuss how challenging 2020-21 Initial Teacher Training (ITT) has been in a year where Covid-19 forced working from home/remote learning. Facing the challenges ahead has been the new norm for my first teaching experience bringing fresh teaching ideas to deploy and collaborative thinking across school departments. I discovered that welfare of pupils was principal to their learning and found a positive impact on adaptive teaching (Shulman, 1986). Having previously worked at an Architects Practice for sixteen years, my PGCE year was my first teaching encounter within secondary schools. I quickly identified through my experience as a design professional that there was a great deal of transferable skills useful in my teaching career from this point onwards.
‘Unlike a normal year with packed lecture theatres, all our learning and tutorials were completed online within limited time on campus. This was a great preparation for ‘lockdown learning’ with the cohort already proficient in Microsoft Teams, Skype and Zoom.
‘However, full online learning lost the comradery and social interactions normally forged at university campus. On reflection, this benefited my situation as an individual with family obligations giving me greater autonomy over my learning and ability to fulfil essays etc. within my own time limits, whilst not having to be concerned of sitting in traffic or finding a suitable parking space on campus.
‘My first PGCE placement was at a State School in Rochdale and reflecting on my experiences from Bolton School Boys’ Division it is evident that ‘everything works somewhere in education; the right question is under what conditions does this work?’ (William, 2016). The first two months of my Rochdale placement were completed as face-to-face teaching with the final month moving to fully online teaching and no access to the school building. This was an easy transition whilst I was developing my pedagogy and had already established relationships with my pupils.
‘In contrast, my final placement at Bolton School commenced with online learning before moving back into a classroom setting. Having support from both my professional and subject mentor was essential to complete this transition and familiarise myself with the school. In a challenging year for teacher training, I don’t believe I have missed out on opportunities; all the staff in the Boys’ Division have been extremely supportive and I feel very privileged to have worked in the school.
‘My subject specialism is Design & Technology (D&T) where pupils develop creative thinking through problem solving and decision making. It teaches pupils to design, make and evaluate; encouraging them to take risks whilst focusing on real world problems. It is a practical subject that amalgamates aesthetics with technically and helps students develop an enterprising mind and practical life skills. A typical D&T lesson would be conducted within the workshop with access to tools and equipment suitable for the learning objectives. Whilst Covid-19 has forced most D&T lessons into a standard classroom at Bolton School Boys’ Division, the boys have showed their resilience and continued engagement with the subject. The curriculum has been adapted to allow for practical lessons to continue using basic tools such as glue guns, screw drivers and soldering irons.
‘As we move into a post Brexit/COVID-19 world the importance of education and teachers is paramount. Great teachers have the ability to inspire and positively influence students’ lives years after the relationship began. Reflecting on experiences throughout my own education/work life and time at Bolton School there are a handful of teachers and professionals who left lasting impressions upon me. They were able to identify and nurture my potential long before I was even aware of my own skills and strengths and they helped guide me towards becoming the person I am today. My goal as a Design & Technology teacher is to be able to provide this experience to others and inspire the next generation of young minds.’
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