Tuesday, 21 February 2017

So you want to be a teacher?

Something inside you has persuaded you that becoming a teacher is your career choice; it could be that you have been a cub, brownie, guide or scout leader, working with young people. Gymnastics, swimming, dance, various sports all encourage young people to undertake coaching courses with the idea of sharing skills with young children. Leading or taking part in holiday schemes have led to the career choice. My favourite was a prospective candidate talking animatedly about helping children with disability to overcome fear and attempt to climb.

It doesn’t have to be one of these routes. Many people enter teaching later in life, having had an initial career and seek greater job satisfaction; some will have had families. Often they have had a transitional route via a teaching assistant role or as a helping parent in school. This, in itself, sometimes leads to a school persuading them to pursue the route to becoming a teacher.
Whatever the route, the process will have similar elements, which are worth considering, so that the application has the greatest chance of making an impression on the member of university, TSA or SCITT staff who has the responsibility of inviting candidates for interview.

This puts special emphasis on the personal statement in support of the application. While the candidate might be writing the application through UCAS to a number of training places, there are some simple “rules of thumb” that might get that all important interview. At that point, you will have the chance to talk more about yourself and your personal statement will be a guide to the interviewer to develop their questions.

  • Write a rough draft of any personal statement, then work on it to ensure it is as clear as possible. Have someone proof read it to offer additional ideas and identify grammatical and spelling errors.
  • This personal statement is about you and you, as a person, should come through. Remember, the person reading it only has the words to go on. You need to shine through. Communication is a key teacher skill and the written word should how your ability in that area.
  • Before your interview, you will need to show that you have had some experience in a school setting – this will vary between training programmes so check the requirements. This could be spread over time, or could be a couple of weeks. What did you learn from this experience? 
  • Why did you choose your particular A levels, BTEC or first degree? How do these subjects, or maybe the teachers, impact on your decision to become a teacher?
  • Why have you chosen a particular subject specialism for teacher training? Why does it particularly interest you?
  • Consider the specific event that made you think about becoming a teacher. How do you see yourself in a teacher role?
  • What do you do that will show yourself in a broader light? Do you have specific interests or hobbies? Do you visit galleries or museums, or perhaps your interests are in conservation, walking, camping, playing music or travelling? Do you do volunteer activity for charity? Everything is important to create a rounded a picture of you.
  • Have you had responsibility in school, college or work experience? Describe and unpick how this might relate to a teaching role.
  • Beyond becoming a teacher, how will this role enhance your view of yourself in the future?
  • Reread everything that you have written and share it with a teacher, lecturer or, if you’re working in a school, the head teacher. 

How you think, how you talk and how you reflect should come through your application. It is a first step. The interview awaits.


Over a 40-year career in education, Chris Chivers has worked as a teacher, head teacher, university tutor, assessor and adviser. Chris now uses his experience to support developing teachers. A regular blogger at Chris Chivers (Thinks), you can find also him on Twitter @ChrisChivers2

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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Thinking of applying for teacher training programmes?

Thinking of applying for teacher training programmes? There are lots of things to consider before you apply, and it can be quite daunting to know where to start.

Here’s our top five places you should check out, full of advice on how to apply.

1. Our website

The first place to start is our website. You’ll find out information on how to pick the right programme for you. Get in-depth information on which route into teaching fits you.

2. Video wall 

Our video wall is full of advice on many topics you’ll need to know about when applying for teacher training programmes. Need a hand filling in your application? Not sure how to prepare for interviews? We’ve got it covered on our video wall!

3. Free UCAS Teacher Training pack

Our teacher training pack is a must if you’re applying. It’s a free online pack, containing all the information and advice you need to apply, and what to expect after your application has been sent.

4. Our dedicated blog page

We have a range of advice on our dedicated UCAS Teacher Training blog. It covers subjects from advice on applying, to case studies from current teachers – to give you an insight into what to expect.
5. Get into Teaching

Finally, register with Get into Teaching for tailored advice and support. You can also follow them on Twitter for info on getting into teaching, and to keep up-to-date with any upcoming events or changes in the sector.

If you have any questions about applying for teacher training programmes, get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter and they’ll do their best to help.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Gap year or study?

Can't choose? Here's how to do both...
If you haven’t yet made plans for the next academic year, consider this – you already have everything you need for a unique, fulfilling gap year, right there in your rucksack.
In today’s super-connected world, there is a wealth of knowledge at our disposal. Whether it’s watching YouTube videos, listening to a podcast, or reading a blog, we can now learn almost anything online. All it takes is a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, and an internet connection.
So instead of spending thousands of pounds on an expensive gap-year package, some school leavers are deciding to simply spend that time learning – their way, their rules.
Thanks to sites like edX and Coursera, the doors of the world’s best universities are now open to us all. Offering free online courses known as MOOCs (massive open online courses), schools such as Harvard, Berklee, the University of London, and the Sorbonne, provide classes that include lectures, reading materials, a student community, and assessment (if you wish), all for free. You choose the classes, and you choose when you learn.
These are just two of the many websites that provide classes on almost anything you can think of. Other examples are Tuts+, which teaches skills including coding, illustration, photography, and web design, and the BBC Academy which features online learning resources in journalism and media production. The more you look, the more you will find.
And don’t forget the real world. Many of the bigger online courses organise meet-ups to bring people together. You may also choose to supplement your online learning with a local community class – there are some fantastic ones out there.
From art to business, a growing number of professionals offer advice – you can create your own degree! One American artist has even taken the time to write up his guide to an alternative to art school, at a fraction of the $200,000 many US students pay for a college degree.
Taking time to really explore what you’re interested in might be one of the best investments you’ll ever make. You might realise the expensive course you thought you wanted to do isn’t quite your bag after all, or find yourself heading in a whole new direction.
Of course, for some of the more traditional professions, such as law and medicine, you can’t get around the requirement of a university degree. Even so, a year of self-guided study will help you build up knowledge and skills that will help you once you undertake formal training, as well as nail down the areas you’re most interested in.
If this sounds interesting, but you’re getting cabin fever at the mere thought of spending any more time in your bedroom, there’s a solution – creative co-working spaces.
Also known as 'hot desking', you rent a desk to work or study, mix it up and meet other like-minded people. East London’s Hatch is a great option, and at only £12 a day, it won’t break the bank. There are similar outfits all over the UK.
Spending a year exploring and learning doesn’t have to mean you can’t travel the world as well. If you’ve got some money saved, you could rent a room abroad and live like a local in another city. Or you might go with a cheap hostel and hot desk option. Explore by day, feed your brain by night – you decide.
Now more than ever, you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to designing your education. Whether your passion is applied mathematics or circus arts, law or industrial design, you’re in creative control, and the tools you need are just a click away...

Monday, 30 January 2017

Is work experience important?

A recent survey showed two thirds of employers look for graduates with relevant work experience because it helps them prepare for work and develop general business awareness. Importantly, one third of employers felt that applicants did not have a satisfactory level of knowledge about their chosen career or job.

To gain a better understanding of a career, organise some work experience or a few days’ work shadowing with an employer. It may not give you time to develop job-specific skills, but it can give you insight into the work involved. It also shows you have motivation and commitment. Some schools, colleges, and universities may be able to organise this for you but if not, research and contact companies yourself.

Alternatively, you could gain relevant work experience as part of a vocational programme, such as a BTEC diploma or apprenticeship. You could also consider an internship, a higher education course which offers a work placement (a sandwich course), or a foundation degree.

Internships can last from a few weeks to up to a year, and could be something you organise for a summer holiday or a gap year. Depending on the type of contract, you may or may not receive a wage. Internships are available in many sectors and industries such as business, law, marketing, engineering, and hospitality, and can give you the opportunity to gain more career-specific skills and knowledge. They are very popular and competition for places is high, so you’ll need to apply as early as possible.

Sandwich degrees normally last four years and include a year working in industry with an employer. Most placements offer a salary and they are a great opportunity to gain in-depth experience of work in your chosen field.

Foundation degrees are vocational/work-related degrees. They combine academic skills and knowledge with workplace performance and productivity. They focus on a particular job role or profession and are designed in conjunction with employers.

“The first thing to look for when searching for a great employee is somebody with a personality that fits with your company culture. Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality. If you can find people who are fun, friendly, caring, and love helping others, you are on to a winner. Personality is the key.” 

"One area that many young people underestimate is their inherent digital expertise. Having grown up in the digital world, many tools and technologies are second nature to them. Now is the time to capitalise on these skills and show potential employers exactly how valuable they can be."

Want to find out more?  Here are some reports and surveys which give detailed insight into the careers of the future:

Top tips and guidance from people who recruit – a great guide produced by CIPD. It’s packed full of advice directly based on what recruiters say – what they look for when they pick out the best job applications, the kinds of questions they ask at interview, and how they choose who to give the job, apprenticeship, or work experience opportunity to. You’ll also find a section on what to do if you haven’t got any work experience, including information on volunteering and how it can boost your chances of finding a job.

What are the 21st century skills every student needs? An insightful article from the World Economic Forum about the skills needs of the future, with references to key research and reports.

Working Futures (UKCES) – based on detailed labour market information, this report offers a forecast for job opportunities in the UK up to the year 2024, based on past behaviour and performance. The report isn’t intended to offer precise predictions, but an indication of which industries might expand, which might contract, and on what scale.

Careers of the Future and the Future of Work: jobs and skills in 2030 (UKCES) – a piece of research exploring the future of work, and how jobs and the skills needed in the workplace will change by 2030.

Sector Insights (UKCES) – a collection of reports that look at particular sectors in the UK to identify the outlook for jobs and skills, identify major trends affecting each sector, and how the mix of skills needs is likely to change over the next decade. These reports also investigate employers’ perceptions of the skills needs of specific occupations, and the challenges employers have in meeting those needs.

Education and skills survey 2016 – the Right Combination (CBI/Pearson) – this report provides useful insight into the skills employers are looking for, based on the results of a survey of nearly 500 organisations in the UK.

Skills Matter (OECD report): – a survey of adult skills in 28 OECD countries. It was developed to provide a picture of the match between the supply and demand for skills, how labour markets are changing, and how well equipped their citizens are to participate in and benefit from increasingly knowledge-based economies.

Social enterprise – the stuff dreams are made of

If you’re motivated by your values, have an idea, and want to make the world a better place, social enterprise could be for you.

VIDEO BOX:  to include variety of case study vids – here’s an example.

Social enterprises are businesses or projects people set up to focus on tackling social problems, improve communities, or create opportunities to improve people’s lives. There are various definitions of social enterprise, but a key feature is that they have a social or environmental objective – they’re driven by values.

You may recognise these examples of social enterprises – The Big Issue, One Water, the Eden Project, Divine Chocolate, and Jamie Oliver’s ‘Fifteen’ restaurant.

They make a profit and make a difference. Yes, they need to succeed and make money, but a key feature of many social enterprises is that half or more of the profit they make is reinvested into sustaining or growing the business. They often receive income from grants and donations, but also generate income from trading or delivering their service.

Social enterprise is growing in the UK – according to government statistics, in 2014:

  • there were an estimated 741,000 UK social enterprises – an increase of around 58,000 since 2012. The majority were small or micro businesses, employing 2.27 million people (an estimated 300,000 increase since 2012)
  • women and those from minority ethnic groups are more likely to lead social enterprises
  • higher education is actively involved – as well as offering courses to develop the knowledge and skills to become a ‘social entrepreneur’, hundreds of universities and colleges support social entrepreneurs. These social enterprise case studies give you a taste of how some of the UK’s universities and colleges are supporting students and staff in an inspiring range of social ventures. Find entrepreneurship courses on UCAS’ search tool.

Where to find out more
Social Enterprise UK – a national membership body for social enterprise, with lots of useful information and FAQs on its website.

UnLtd is the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs and a leading provider of support and access to funding social entrepreneurs in the UK. It also works with universities and offers a range of resources where you can find out more.

Year Here offers a course for graduates in social innovation. There’s lots of information on their website and in their 2017 prospectus.

Social Enterprise Market Trends 2015 – you can find more of the most recent government statistics in this Cabinet Office report.

Association of College and University Entrepreneurs – find out how university and college students are setting up and growing their own social enterprises.