Who would choose to be a teacher these days?
Headlines regularly report on the difficulties with teacher recruitment and retention, and the perceived downsides of the job are well known. But, despite this, thousands upon thousands of graduates and career changers commit to becoming a teacher each year, and the majority are still working in schools five and even ten years later. This summer sees some 26,000 trainees completing their training, including for the first time 18 trainees who have completed their training with the RSA Academies Teaching School Alliance.
All teacher trainees, whether following a school-led or University-led route, will spend the majority of their time working in schools, gaining practical hands-on experience under the support and guidance of a school-based mentor. Those training with RSA Academies will have had at least one long-term placement at one of the four secondary schools in the RSA Family: Arrow Vale RSA Academy, Holyhead, the RSA Academy, Tipton and Whitley Academy. In 2017/18 RSA Academies will also offer the opportunity to train as a primary school teacher.
Our 18 trainees come together once each week for lectures and seminars led by staff from across the RSA Family of Academies and from our University partner, Birmingham City University (BCU), covering topics from behaviour management to educational theory to specific subject knowledge. Much of this is core knowledge that would be covered wherever someone trains to teach. But we have been particularly keen at RSA Academies to deliver training that has a distinctly RSA flavour, and to ensure that teachers training with us have the ‘power to create’, to turn their ideas into action, building on the ideas in the RSA’s Licensed to Create publication.
All trainees complete a small-scale research project during their training year. Our training programme used this research project to introduce trainees to the concept of design thinking, that is, to identify a problem that they wished to tackle, and then to fully explore different ways of addressing the issue before moving towards a solution. (For a first rate beginners’ guide to design take a look at the information on the Pupil Design Awards website.)
We were fortunate to work on this project with Greg Klerkx FRSA, who did an admirable job of inspiring time pressured PGCE students to use design thinking to bring imaginative and creative responses to real issues in the classroom.
Trainees have worked on their projects over the last few months, and at the beginning of June they each presented their findings. The BCU tutors, having initially been anxious about our previously untested approach, were impressed. They commented that they did not usually see the same level of creativity and research from the other (non-RSAA) trainees who have received the more traditional approach. We are waiting for formal written feedback from the University, but would hope that in future years this approach may be taken up more widely by BCU, and over time with other leaders of initial teacher education.
In the meantime our trainees are coming to the end of their training year, and preparing to take up permanent teaching posts. More than half of the cohort have secured posts at schools within the RSA Family.
Reflecting on the last year, the two most frequent comments are that it has been ‘challenging’ and ‘rewarding’. This comment, from a maths trainee, is typical:
“My route through my teacher training through the RSA Teaching School has been challenging but also incredibly rewarding and enjoyable.
The best thing I can say about this course is current experts in teaching deliver it. Training sessions on Mondays, whichever of the RSA Academies they were in, were enjoyable, challenging and up to date. More importantly, they were delivered with a level of trust and respect that could only be gained from listening to someone who works in our challenging but fantastic schools. I chose this training route to avoid the tedium of sitting in a lecture theatre and the university style academic style of learning. It has fully delivered and allowed me to develop in my role “on the job”, an experience that has been certainly very effective.
I will be staying at my school for my NQT year and I am excited to start my career at this school. I am confident the support I have been given, which I am truly grateful for, and the relationships I have built will continue."
If this has tempted you to consider teaching we do still have a small number of places available in certain subjects in our 2017/18 programme, and will begin recruiting for 2018/19 in the autumn. For more information see the Teaching School Alliance website or contact Teresa Wilson, Director of Initial Teacher Training.
I’ll leave you with one final thought. No one should decide to enter teaching purely for the money, but it is sensible to have an idea of the financial implications of deciding to teach. Teaching is often thought of as relatively low paid, yet information published last week showed education graduates to be comfortably mid-table when looking at their median earnings five years after graduation, a finding gleefully reported in parts of the education press as “education graduates earn more than lawyers”!
Chief Executive, RSA Academies