Monday, 24 July 2017

What NOT to do on the run up to getting your exam results.

Iwan Williams, one of the Exam Results Helpline Careers advisors, give his top tips on how to keep it together as D-Day approaches.

  1. Panic! It seems inevitable to feel some nervousness as you get closer to the results coming out but stay positive that your hard work will pay off and think about the fantastic experiences that await you. Feel reassured that even in a worst-case scenario, you will still have a range of choices and options to help you move forward with your plans. 
  2. Stick your head in the sand. You probably already have a clear ‘Plan A’ scenario in mind. But things can change very quickly and what if you suddenly need a ‘Plan B’. Or even ‘Plan C’? If your results aren’t quite what you were hoping for or you have exceeded your wildest expectations then it doesn’t hurt to know what choices you have.
  3. Isolate yourself and turn away from loved ones and friends. I often talk about the importance of students building and maintaining a support network. Your own personal cheerleading squad, there to celebrate your successes and help you up when you feel down. It can be made up of friends, family and teachers; anyone that knows you and cares about your wellbeing. 
  4. Be inflexible. Understandably, your eyes will be fixed on a September start in your first choice university. I always think it is worth knowing about alternatives to that option though. And I don’t mean only consider this in a worst-case scenario! There are many pathways to success and while a September start at your chosen university is undoubtedly one of them, what could a gap year offer you? How would building work experience that supports your career choice be really beneficial later on? What options are there in the world of apprenticeships? Each option has pros and cons, right for some, not for others. If you are unsure of what these good and bad points are, it might be good to investigate things now. 
  5. Rush your decisions. Remember only you can take these steps and that no one can pressure you into doing so. Think positively but dare to think about the ‘what if’ scenarios too. You do have the time and space – even on the results day itself – to look at all options, learn what they offer and make the best decision for your future. 
  6. Not call the Exam Results Helpline! This is the most important thing that you should not not do! We’re here for - and genuinely love - helping thousands of students with their individual circumstances and range of choices. We are open from 8am on results day so please do get in touch. If any of the above has left you any unanswered questions, then we can help you unpick the tricky stuff.

The Exam Results Helpline is 0808 100 8000 and opening times can be found here.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Exam Results Helpline is back for August 2017

Careers advice service on hand to help stressed-out students 

The Exam Results Helpline is preparing for another busy August helping stressed-out students and their families as 2017’s major exam announcements approach.

The 40-strong team of career advice experts provide free, specialised information, help and guidance to students who have higher or lower exam results than expected.

The helpline number 0808 100 8000 opens in Scotland first on August 8, when Higher, Advanced Higher, National and Scottish Baccalaureate results are announced and closes North of the Border on August 16.

It is then open for students in the rest of the UK on August 17, the day A Level results are issued and closes on August 31 following GCSE results on August 24.

Students make the bulk of the calls, but a quarter are parents reviewing options for their children.

A full timetable of opening hours can be found here.

The three top reasons for calling:
1. What are my options for clearing? (26%)
2. My results are lower than I expected - what now? (20%)
3. I don’t know what to do and need careers advice (12%)

Last year (2016) more than 7,500 students called to speak with an adviser on the Helpline’s 0808 100 8000 number as well as through dedicated Twitter and Facebook accounts.

One of them was Molly Claridge, from Colchester in Essex, who had just received grades that resulted in her thinking she would not be able to achieve her first choice degree of Media and Communications at Bath Spa.

Molly, who is now 19 and just finished her first year at Bath Spa, said: “When I looked online and saw my grades I really freaked out as I got lower than I thought. It was so nerve wracking anyway with all the build up to it and so the day itself was pretty traumatic.

“The thing that was confusing was that it said I was still going to get into Bath Spa but I couldn’t really believe that without checking it out properly.

“I called the helpline number and spoke to someone who was so helpful and immediately told me what to do. Their advice is common sense, things like calling the university itself, speaking with tutors, looking at all the other options available – things you really need to hear if you’re worried and don’t know what to do.”

The Helpline is supported by the Department for Education and run by UCAS from its headquarters in Cheltenham.

The advice covers what to do if students haven’t secured the grades they predicted, or if they’ve changed their minds about their chosen course. There is also guidance on next steps for students whose grades are better than expected, help with Clearing and information on apprenticeships and vocational courses.

School Standards Minister for England Nick Gibb said: “Following the culmination of years of hard work, the day students open their results is an exciting yet nerve-wracking time.

“The government has reformed GCSEs and A levels so young people leave school with gold-standard qualifications, which ensures students are taught the knowledge and skills to succeed in the next stage of their education or career.

“The experts at the Exam Results Helpline provide a vital source of information to students and their parents as they carefully consider their options for the future.”

Annie Dobson, one of the career advisors who will be supporting the helpline this year, said: “This is an exciting but sometimes worrying time for students and their families. There is so much expectation on the morning of the results days for A Levels and GCSEs that having a friendly, expert, safe pair of hands to turn to is beneficial – for students and parents alike.

“Through the years advisors have helped tens of thousands understand the best way forward no matter what they are facing. The team for 2017 has already been assembled and are looking forward to supporting this year’s young people as they move into the next stage of their lives.”

Further information including opening hours can be found at 

My teacher training experience: part 2 – Stephen Pearce

This is the second my blog where I’ve been reflecting on my experiences of initial teacher training. You can read part one here. But now, I’m going to look at some of the questions trainee teachers frequently ask themselves:

1.    Is my subject knowledge good enough?

I am going to probably upset a few people but the answer is no, your subject knowledge is not good enough. Before you grab your pitchforks let me explain. You may be an expert in your subject and have a degree to prove it, however, teaching a subject is vastly different to being able to do it yourself. To really exaggerate this point, let's take 2 + 2. This would be mathematics most of us would have seen at a very young age and now you can tell me that the answer is four. You have learnt to do this basic arithmetic but to get that stage someone had to teach you what numbers where, what symbols we use for them, the concept of addition, and what symbols we use for operations. Your knowledge will become greater on the course as you won’t just have to be able to do your subject, you will gain the ability to explain every aspect of your subject from the ground up. If you love learning and am guessing you do if you are reading this, this is a lot of fun.

2.    Will the kids like me?

When you first enter the classroom some of the students may not like you. They may dislike your subject or just resent you are messing up with their routine and they miss the teacher they had before. But ultimately time heals most wounds and eventually you will have an interest(s) that resonates with pupils and they will at the least get to the point of begrudgingly not giving you much hassle. And yes, you will have classes you prefer and some you don’t look forward to. My biggest piece of advice for this is to set the atmosphere in the classroom. If you enter the room unhappy and deflated, pupils pick up on it and you will seem less approachable. Try and smile or at the very least go in neutral, it goes a long way.

3.    What if I forget a student’s name?

You will, you’re human, and it's great opportunity to show it. What would you do if you forgot someone's name you haven’t seen in a while? You would ask, right? Same applies for students. Like-wise, what if you called Tim, Tom or Chris (yes sometimes you get it that wrong)? You as a teacher are a role model and students likely will have had this awkward social interaction happen their lives as well. Just apologize, again this humanises you and makes you more accessible to students. Do try and learn pupil’s names as it shows you care and is useful for engagement but it is not vital or something you should worry about.

4.    How will I control a class of students?

Honestly, this is the most difficult one for a lot of teachers, new and experienced. Schools change policies frequently as everyone is trying to find something that works. Not every technique will transfer from class to class but the best advice I can give is try and be consistent. Fairness is important to students, so if you praise or warn a student for an action, you have to give that same praise or warning to the next student. You will find something that works for you, it may be frustrating at times but ultimately you will be fine and remember they are people too but they are only just starting to learn what appropriate action is and what is not. I’m sure you can think of something that you did at school that you would do very differently now.


Feeling inspired?

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My teacher training experience: part 1 – Stephen Pearce

As the end of the PGCE course seems in sight, I have taken the opportunity to reflect on my experiences. If you are reading this you are probably at the same stage of your career or where I was last year, considering if this is what I want to do. If you are in the latter, please just do it, I won’t say you won’t have moments that you regret that decision but on the whole you will love it.

I am going to start off with one of the best things about the course. I started teacher training successively from an undergraduate course and your new classmates will seem very different. Mainly, you will notice the range in ages. This diversity means that your new classmates will have a variety of professional experience that you can learn from.

Honestly though, the other people on the course will be great for support and for letting off steam but your main asset on the course will be the more experienced teachers. Hopefully what convinced you to go into to teacher was a fond memory of a teacher you had or the thought that you can truly inspire young minds. If that's the case you will meet a lot of like-minded individuals who are doing exactly what you want to do the following year.

Teachers each have their own individual style and techniques but there is never anything new under the sun. You will steal what has come before but just add your own spin to it. That is while it is vital to see current teachers try and perfect their own teaching to try and analyse what they do and implement it.

My three top tips

·       More experienced will have their own style of marking and planning. This is a good year to experiment or create something that works for you. This likely won’t happen straight away, took my about two months before I was happy with how I was planning and the time it was taking me.

·       Each school is unique, try and learn as much as you can from the school you are at right now. It will be different from next school and to be employable you want to be seen as a chameleon that can work with everyone while simultaneously having a special set of skill that no one else applying will have.

·       Enjoy it! This is a job and quite a fun one but just as if I played FIFA all afternoon, eventually I’ll want to snap the disc. Have a life outside of the classroom and try to have friends outside of teaching. Groups of teachers often end up talking about teaching, why? Because one it's common ground and two we either love it or love to complain (usually a bit of both). If you have a hobby, make time for it. You need the time to switch off, you are human.

Hopefully I haven’t put anyone off so far. In part two of my blog I reflect on common worries and questions for teachers starting out.


Feeling inspired?
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Friday, 7 July 2017

Wondering what to pack?

Before you know it, it’ll be time to pack and get on your way to uni. Here’s a quick guide on what to pack.


  • Clothes – there’s no need to pack your entire wardrobe, especially if you’re going to head home at the end of term!
  • Bedroom bits and pieces – duvet, sheets, pillows, hangers, and towels. You might want to think about ear plugs if you’re going to be in a lively area, or a mini fridge for your room if you’ll be in shared accommodation. 
  • From the bathroom cabinet – toiletries, glasses, contact lenses, medication, and a small first aid kit.
  • Laundry – washing products, laundry bag, and drying rack.
  • Electronics – laptop, tablet, printer, extension leads, and chargers. You may need an adaptor if you’re coming from outside the UK.
  • Kitchen essentials – check what is included at your accommodation. As a minimum, you’ll need enough cutlery, crockery, glasses, pots, tea towels, mugs, baking trays, and pans, plus basic gadgets such as a kettle and toaster for yourself. 
  • ID – passport, driving licence, NHS medical card, online card reader (if you use one for online banking), National Insurance number, and all important correspondence with your university. 
  • Food basics – while you’ll do your first food shop when you’re settled, it may take you some time to get settled into your room, so think about taking enough for the first day – stuff like coffee, tea bags, cereal, cooking oil, tins, and condiments.
  • Course essentials – if you can, try to get hold of any reading lists before you go and buy books in advance. You may be able to get a deal on second-hand books before term starts, and everyone tries to buy the same copies. You should also consider the stationery you’ll need. 
  • Little touches – if moving to uni is your first time away from home, take some keepsakes that will help keep you from getting homesick.
  • ‘Just in case’ items – things like an umbrella, torch, batteries, alarm clock, and plenty of change for washing machines.

Monday, 26 June 2017

What I know now: A message from the other side of teacher training - Gabrielle James

As I reach the end of my teacher training, I’ve started to reflect on how far I’ve come. Deciding to apply for teacher training was a big step for me and I’ve had to overcome many challenges since starting but as the end draws nearer, I can see that it’s all been worthwhile.

I applied for teacher training whilst working as a Library Manager at an Upper School in Bedfordshire. I took the job straight after graduating with the hope of it leading to a teaching career. I spent the next two years in that job veering from one emotional extreme to the other; yes I was totally committed to working in education, no I absolutely did not want to work in education, and back and forth etc. This rollercoaster of emotions hasn’t abated since starting my training – you have days where you wonder if you’re really cut out for this, and then the next day you’re dancing around in front of your year 9s (as I am want to do) feeling pretty smug about how good you are at your job. I’m reliably informed that this feeling never really goes away either, but half the time, the excitement of not knowing what will happen next is what gets me out of bed each morning. And when you’re working with young people, you never can predict the outcome…

“We are in the business of changing lives” a colleague told me, and he’s right, but changing lives isn’t easy. What eventually made me commit to applying for teacher training was my need for a new challenge, and teaching provides you with new challenges on a daily basis. The first two years in teaching are the hardest, so if you can make it through this then you’ll be ready for anything. It’s OK to question if this is the right job for you, even after you start your training. Training is hard but your mentors and colleagues want you to become the best teacher you can possibly be so it’s always in your best interests to listen to the feedback they give and act upon it. If, in your darkest hours, you can still hold your head up and make it through the day, then you’re going to be fine. In fact, you’re probably going to be more than fine.

Ultimately what strikes me most about my training year is how far I’ve come in such a short space of time. I am a totally different teacher now to the one who started teaching only 9 months ago. The amount of progress you make in such a short space of time is staggering, and you will continue to grow and develop as a teacher every year in your job. That’s the beauty of teaching; you can never stop learning and you can never stand still (sometimes very literally when teaching a class of 30 eager year 7s!) Best advice I can give? Expect the unexpected and you’ll be prepared for anything.


Feeling inspired?
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Monday, 19 June 2017

From teaching assistant to qualified teacher - Tom Savagar

As I come to the end of my teacher training, I’ve taken the opportunity to reflect on my experience of moving from being a teaching assistant (TA) to becoming a qualified teacher. As this is a transition which many teachers have made, I thought that I would share some helpful things to bear in mind when making the jump. As a TA, you’ve already shown that you can offer a great deal to the children you work with, so with the right support, there’s no reason you can’t become a fantastic teacher.

A new role

As a TA, you get a daily look at how teachers work. This means that you’re uniquely positioned to learn more about the path you’re about to embark on. The role of a teacher differs from that of a TA, and it’s worth taking this opportunity to speak to the teachers in your school, or any friends or relatives you have who are teachers, about how. 
  • What does their day look like?
  • What responsibilities would you have as a teacher that you don’t currently have? This will also give you a better idea of which areas you could focus on when you begin your teacher training.
  • Do you have experience of whole class teaching?
  • How confident would you feel about planning a lesson?

Don’t worry if you’ve not got experience in these areas, the whole point of your training is to learn and practice new things, but it’s important to bear in mind that these are the skills which will make up your practice as a teacher.

Which route is right?

While anyone who wants to work in a school run by a local authority needs to have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), there are now many ways to achieve this.
  1. One-year university-based PGCE courses for those who already have a degree.
  2. School-based Teach First courses for those with degrees with first class honours.
  3. Three-year university-based ITE courses, for which you don’t necessarily need a degree.

With all of these available routes into teaching, it’s important to work out which one is right for you. While it’s tempting to go for whichever route would get you to QTS the quickest, your training is invaluable, so it’s important to make sure that your chosen route meets your needs.
  • Are you someone who has a wealth of work experience, but would like to learn more about the theories and ideas behind teaching?
  • Do you already have a degree, but lack confidence in how you would manage your own classroom?

Most people fall somewhere in the middle, so it’s important to research what each training route involves. It may be useful to talk to the teachers in your school. What type of teacher training did they do, and which aspects of their training have they found helpful? If you choose a university based route, open days allow you to talk to the academics who would oversee your training, so that you can get a better picture of which route is the right one for you.

How to make the most of your training

If you’ve gotten to grips with the role of a teacher, chosen a training route, and applied for your course, now you’ve reached the fun part; the training itself. This is your opportunity to make the most of your time, and ensure that, at the end of the process, you are confident in the classroom. Many teacher training courses offer you a number of choices; you might specialise in a subject, you might be offered a placement in a specific type of school such as a school for children with special educational needs, there might be volunteering opportunities. This is your chance to go outside of your comfort zone and experience something you may not have before, or work on something you find difficult.

The great thing about your training is that you have the freedom to experiment, and concentrate on becoming the best teacher you can be. It’s important to remember that, as a trainee, no one’s expecting perfection. If you work hard, care about the children you work with, and apply yourself, you’ll be doing a great job.

Feeling inspired?

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Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Frequently asked questions: UKCAT Admissions Test

What is the UKCAT?

The UKCAT (UK Clinical Aptitude Test) is a test used in the selection process by the majority of UK university medical and dental schools.

It is a 2 hour, computer-based test, which is sat in Pearson VUE test centres across the UK and worldwide. The test consists of 5 separately timed subtests which are designed to test the cognitive abilities, attitudes, and behaviours considered to be valuable for healthcare professionals.

Who needs to sit the UKCAT?

Most UK universities require applicants to medicine and dentistry courses to sit an admissions test in addition to their other entry requirements.

A full list of universities and courses requiring the UKCAT is given on the UKCAT website.

You can only take the test once each year, so make sure you use the official preparation materials on our website. There are over 1,000 free practice questions available throughout our practice tests and other materials.

When do I need to book?

Your first step is to register via the UKCAT website. Registration is open now and closes on 19th September 2017.

You then need to book and sit your test any time between 3rd July and 3rd October 2017. Bursaries to cover the full test fee are available for eligible UK and EU students.

Using your UKCAT result

You will receive your UKCAT result as soon as you have tested. Scoring and marking are explained in full on the UKCAT website.

There is no pass or fail, however different universities may use your results in different ways depending on their entry requirements. You are advised to check the individual entry requirements for the universities you are applying to before you submit your UCAS application.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up to date with the latest information.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Changing lives and getting paid for it – Pranav Patel

I want to share with you my journey into teaching. An honest version of this journey because in this career you will face different challenges to any other career you undertake. Never doubt however that this is the best undertaking you will ever have.

My name’s Pran and I’m currently a Lead Practitioner in an inner London academy. The son of two immigrant parents, one from the West Indian state of Gujrat and the other hailing from the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

After graduating from the University of Birmingham with a Bachelor of Science in Physics, I flittered from a variety of career options until, by chance, I ended up supporting in a secondary school for a day. At this point for me it clicked. I’m changing lives and getting paid for it, does it get any better than this?

Born in a typically British Asian household I was always pushed to excel; be successful in every aspect of my life from academia to career. The day I told my father I wanted to be a school teacher, he looked down, disappointed. I'm pretty sure he cursed under his breath in Gujrati. “Why have you worked so hard? Don’t you want to be a REAL success?” he asked.

Real success in our household, like many BAME would experience, meant careers of high money and status. My response at the time was that I just wanted to make a difference and cause ripples of good karma in the world (I thought I’d sweeten him up with a bit of our culture).

Undeterred I went to a secondary state school in Wolverhampton for my teacher training. This was hands down the best experience of my twenties. It felt like I was bettering the community that raised me.

During my NQT year on our food shopping trips in our local town centre, week after week I was greeted with "Sir! Sir!" This was the moment my father recognised the value of what I do; when he finally told me how proud he was and saw that my success wouldn’t be measured in just money, but in the commodity of deeds.

This is my core purpose. The reason I teach is to serve the pupils in my care; to give them the best possible start in life regardless of their background. This I have taken with me to every lesson in every classroom I have ever taught in. When you choose to teach, choose your core purpose and it will serve you well through the years of your career.

Teaching has taken me to three continents and now to the hustle and bustle of the capital. I have given students a taste of culture similar in some cases but very different to the stereotypes in others. I am the purveyor of so much more than a curriculum.  More than this I would say teaching has taken me to back to myself, my true calling and a place I call home.

In recent years I have developed myself as an educational leader to extend my impact on pupils to outside my classroom and outside my school. Last year I achieved my NPQSL (National Professional Qualification in Senior Leadership) with a focus on Teaching and Learning coaching.

My focus is about impacting on as many teachers’ practice as I can, then in turn this will impact on as many pupils as possible. My ultimate aim is to lead a school and propagate my vision to teachers and pupils alike.

To get there I will continue to use those sources of support that have taken me to this point now. One of these has been #BAMEed network. There is currently inequity between ratios of BAME pupil to BAME teachers and senior leaders. As such the support of others to engage more BAME into the profession is as important as the support to keep them positively progressing.

I work with the BAMEed network to ensure our diverse communities are represented as a substantive part of the education workforce for teachers and leaders in education. Fundamentally it’s about making school leadership reflect the communities they serve and letting our students see the leaders they want to be.

When you decide to join us in this fantastic career then do join our network. That is ALL you, all colours of the rainbow including you wonderful allies. Diversity benefits us all.

Pran @MrPatelsawesome

Feeling inspired?

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Monday, 5 June 2017

Quantitative social science? Find out more…

If you’re thinking about taking a social science degree course, you might be interested to know that there are some specialist programmes which combine social science and quantitative skills.

So, what are quantitative skills, and what’s different about these courses? We asked Dr Simon Gallacher, Head of Student Programmes at the Nuffield Foundation.

What are quantitative skills?
‘Put simply, these give you the ability to handle data and use numerical evidence –  essentially, how to design and undertake your own research using data to help you get to the heart of challenging questions. This means you can design surveys and experiments, then analyse and interpret different types of data, and learn how best to use this evidence to make decisions. The key thing is, it’s using data which can help us answer some important questions.’

So, can you tell us more about the social science and quantitative skills degrees?
‘They’re called Q-Step degrees and are a new kind of social science degree that enable you to ask the important questions about society, why people behave as they do, and give you the necessary skills to answer them.’

So, social scientists are interested in finding the answers to questions such as:

  • why does life expectancy vary depending on where you live?
  • why do opinion polls sometimes get it wrong?
  • what is the link between family background and educational attainment?

You can study for a Q-Step degree at 18 leading universities across the UK, in social science subjects ranging from area studies, to political science, to sociology. All these degrees include developing your quantitative skills – in other words, your ability to handle data and use numerical evidence. These skills are invaluable in today’s job market.

What will I learn? 
Courses vary depending on the subject and university, but on a Q-Step degree programme, you could learn how to:

  • design surveys and experiments – essentially, how to design and undertake your own research
  • analyse and interpret different types of data, such as social media data, survey data, government data, and longitudinal data
  • evaluate the quality of data and analysis, and learn how best to use evidence to make decisions

Many Q-Step degrees offer work placements, which will enable you to gain experience of using data to answer big questions about people, their behaviour, and the circumstances in which they live. A range of employers offer placements, from think tanks, to marketing agencies, and research institutes. Q-Step students make a positive difference to the work of their host employers, including authoring published reports, presenting to international audiences, and even giving evidence to parliamentary committees.

What do Q-Step students say?
‘My Q-Step internship at Ipsos Mori gave me the opportunity to apply and develop the knowledge I had gained in the first two years of my degree. I then embarked on a quantitative dissertation in my third year. My Q-Step experiences were a huge contributing factor in my selection for a graduate role at [leading professional services firm] PwC.’
Amy Abbate, Q-Step graduate

‘The focus on quantitative methods allows you to start a different conversation with employers – one about politics as an exciting, forward-thinking, and data-driven degree. As a student competing to get a job at a top company, it has really helped me stand out from other applicants and to secure my position as Marketing Executive for [customer acquisitions company] MVF Global.’
James Potter, Q-Step graduate

Where can I find out more?
Firstly, visit the student pages on the Nuffield Foundation website. Then you might want to download the Q-Step prospectus featuring details of all Q-Step degree programmes across the UK. After that, check out the course descriptions at the individual universities, and perhaps register for an open day to help you get a better understanding of what would be involved.

Unconditional changed course

Some providers may change your status to a changed course offer. If this happens, you’ll see something like this in Track.

If this happens, don’t panic! It means one of your choices has offered you a changed course offer.

This could be a change to the course, the start date, or the point of entry.

Why has my offer changed to an unconditional changed course?

The most likely reason is that you didn’t meet the conditions of your original choice but the university or college wants to offer you an alternative course.

If you have any questions or concerns about the change, you’d need to speak to the uni or college to find out why they’ve made this change.

How do I respond to the unconditional changed course offer?

You can only reply to an unconditional changed course offer once BOTH your firm and insurance have a Confirmation decision. How you respond will depend on which choice has changed.

     1. If your firm choice offer has been updated to unconditional changed course

You can accept it now if you’re happy with the change. If your insurance offer has been confirmed and you decline a firm choice that is now an unconditional changed course offer, your insurance choice will become your firm.

      2. If your insurance choice has been updated to unconditional changed course

You’ll have to wait to see if your firm choice confirms you. If you’re placed at your firm choice, you won’t be able to accept your insurance place. If you’re unsuccessful at your firm, you’ll be able to respond to the unconditional changed course offer at your insurance choice.

How long do I have to reply?
Once you have a final decision from both your firm and insurance choice, you’ll have five days to reply.

Need some help with your results? Take a look at the advice on or get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Getting behaviour right from the start – Tom Bennett

Anyone who wants to be a teacher should know this: getting behaviour right from the start is one of the most important things you can do. If you hope they'll behave, good luck. Maybe they will. Maybe some will. And maybe they won't and you'll need to know what to do. In-school training can be patchy. If you're lucky you'll find a school that knows how to train you in the craft of classroom management. Or maybe you won't; maybe your training schools will be civil and ordered and you won't see what it is that makes that happen.

I investigated behaviour training in 2015 for the Department for Education, and in 2016 we published our guidelines about what a new teacher should know in order to be 'classroom ready'. Running a room isn't a small part of our jobs - it's an essential component. Without good behaviour, learning is massively impeded. Don't believe those who tell you a noisy classroom is a learning classroom - it normally isn't and what learning there could be is impeded by distraction and chaos.

So what do you need to know and be able to do? We boiled it down to three areas:

1. Routines
These are your main super power. Students need to know what they are expected to do in the classroom and corridor. Don't expect them to know, or if they do, to do it. They need to know what you want them to do. That means laying down some tram lines for them. Think of every behaviour they perform in the classroom. What ones do you want them all to do, the same every time (pretty much)? Take entering the classroom. Do you want them to line up? In pairs? A queue? Do you want them to come straight in? Do they hang their coats up? Do they sing a song? It doesn't matter - what matters is that there is a routine, and that they know what it is. And if they don't do it, practice it until they get it right. That way they start to form habits, and habits become part of them. And that means they behave the way they need to behave, without thinking. And that means you save time and head space to think about the things you want them to think about- the learning. Routines are the foundation of good behaviour. They take time to communicate and imbed. But nothing is worth your time more.

2. Responses

Routines help to build your classroom. But no routines are bullet proof. Things will go wrong. What will you do? There are only a finite number of things that normally go wrong in a classroom. So rather than simply what for things to break before you fix them, ask yourselves, 'How will I deal with this situation when it happens?' What will you do when someone comes in late? What will you say? Loosely script your responses so you don't have to think on the spot. Know your school consequence system inside out. What are the sanctions and rewards? What are the lines they can't cross, or should reach for? The school system is your ally here, so use it.

3. Relationships
This is the hardest part: how to build relationships with students. It takes time with some students; with some it takes years. But the magic trick...well, there is no trick. But if you work on (1) and (2) above then (3) starts to happen. It is rarely (maybe never) achieved directly. You cannot make children respect or heed you or view your directions with value. But you can build it over time if you are reliable, resolute, obviously care about them academically and as people, but are stubborn enough to be consistent and retain high expectations wherever happens. Don't try to curry favour with children. Don't bribe them; don't fawn or beg them to behave. Build a culture where they want to behave. Be the teacher.

New teachers frequently walk into schools that are less than perfect, teaching children who are less than perfect. Once we acknowledge that we start to understand that school systems sometimes have to be made to work. But the good news is that with patience and hard work, teachers can make a huge impact with every child. And that starts with good behaviour. It's the invisible curriculum that we can't afford to ignore.


Tom Bennett is the founder and director of researchED. He currently advises the Department for Education on behaviour policy, recently leading the ITT behaviour review group, and independent report on behaviour in schools. A former teacher and TES columnist, he’s written a number of books on education and teaching including The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher. Follow him on Twitter @tombennett71

If you liked this…

It’s one of a series of blogs to help make your introduction to teacher training a little easier. Get up-to-speed with some of the topics you’re likely to encounter in your training:

Common myths about the brain and learning

There’s more to assessment than meets the eye

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Why is identifying estranged young people in HE crucial?

There are hundreds of thousands of young people who have a difficult and unsupportive relationship with their family in the UK. For many, family problems subside as children grow to become independent adults, and make their way to university. But for those students with family problems which grow and develop into wider rifts, the journey through school and into higher education is not always a smooth transition.

Estranged young people have no contact, support, and/or approval from their family. Our research shows there are three common causes of family estrangements, which can leave young people with no choice but to go it alone.

Families may experience mismatched values and beliefs between generations, where the choices a young person makes do not fit with the ridged expectations or traditions of the family unit. A common cause is persistent abuse, and particularly emotional abuse, where a young person does not receive the emotional validation, positivity, love, and care we typically associate with a functional parent/child relationship. Changes following divorce and remarriage play a large part in estrangement, and young adults can find themselves unwanted or unaccepted in a new family form, with the addition of one or more new family members. Importantly, our research shows such family issues often go unidentified by social services, meaning estranged young people lack the statutory visibility of care leavers, who have been removed from family and placed in residential or foster care. These young adults have taken the difficult step of removing themselves.

Many of these young people are studying in our schools and colleges and are grappling to find a place in our communities. A significant number of people reading this blog will have worked with such young people, who have been held back, hindered, and thrown off track by their lack of family capital. It may be that you, as professionals, have seen the barriers that independent young people, studying without family support, will come up against.  

How does this present itself? 

Visibility has been one of the most fundamental issues for both students and professionals in this area. As there is no formal divorce or removal process in place to emancipate young people from their families, it is hard for students to be given the necessary support, or feel confident in coming forward to access it.

Our research has shown that shame and stigma a
round self-removal from family acts stop young people from trusting that they can find support, and not judgement. Furthermore, these young people and their unique needs do not fit neatly into pre-existing support policies. For example, estranged students need support or flexibility with finding a lump sum deposit for halls of residence prior to entry, yet have little statutory status to give credence to their needs.

Furthermore, community and belonging is important for young people, who may feel they do not matter to anyone. If the first interaction a student experiences with a higher education provider is with an inflexible policy, defended to the hilt, barriers and frustrations are built. Our research and work in this sector has indicated that understanding staff, who are willing to advocate and challenge rigid policies, are crucial in the journey into higher education for estranged young people. Developing relationships with student support services early on, pre-entry, will maintain aspirations that the student community can accommodate their needs.  

We are therefore really pleased to have been working with UCAS to help improve visibility for estranged students

It is our intention at Stand Alone to ensure such students become more visible, and can be brought into the support networks of higher education providers sooner rather than later.

Stand Alone is a charity supporting people of all ages who are estranged from their family, or a key family member. We have a strategic focus on estranged young people between the ages of 18 – 25, who are entering higher education.

How a UK Degree Can Boost Your Career Opportunities

The main reason for anyone attending university is to get one step further to achieving their desired career. It’s important to attend a university where you are not only taught skills for future jobs in your studies, but also to learn from new cultural experiences, friendships, social life, and the everyday independency that may be new to you. Studying abroad allows you to learn these skills on another level, and why not do that in the country that is home to top English-speaking universities? Here we outline some more reasons why students from around the world should study their degree in the UK.

Recognised institutions

As the UK is known for schools with high academic standards, earning a degree from an accredited UK university connects you to an institution with a prestigious reputation recognised internationally. Across The Pond are partnered with over 40 top UK universities, each offering excellent programme teachings and great academic and career support. Having any of these universities on your résumé will look highly impressive to employers.

Less time and more intensive programs

The quicker the better, right? Not only will you have the opportunity to study at one of the top educational institutions in the world, you are also able to squeeze all
your studies into a short time. A three-year bachelor’s and one-year master’s get straight to the point, requiring you to take only those classes which relate to your major. Not only that, with funding always being a big stumbling block to studying abroad, less time spent studying a degree means less money spent!

More specialised degrees

UK universities tend to offer specialised degrees at master’s level. This can be attractive if you don’t want to wait until studying a PhD or entering the workforce to start narrowing your interests and delving further into a specific field of study.

Having the freedom to pursue a specialty degree early on in your academic career allows exposure to educational and/or professional communities which you may join one day.

Boosts your employability

Across The Pond’s UK partner universities all offer programmes that you can utilise when applying for jobs at home after your studies. Employers seek applicants who are flexible and show an aptitude for independence and leadership. Having an international degree demonstrates that you took the initiative to live and study abroad, and international experience is highly valued by employers.
As former students at British universities, the Across The Pond advising team understands the difficulty of choosing whether studying abroad is for you. If you would like to find out more about studying in the UK and the vast opportunities it may offer you, please contact one of our advisers.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

From application to induction – Dave Stephenson

In December 2015 I was working as Assistant Inclusion Manager in a secondary school within the West Yorkshire Teaching Alliance. I enjoyed this role immensely but knew that moving into the classroom was the way forward. I had been contemplating applying for the Schools Direct training programme for some time and had enough in-school experience to feel confident in my application. With the encouragement of my colleagues, I submitted my application on the last day of term before Christmas.

The application process was swift and expertly facilitated by Clare, West Yorkshire Teaching Alliance Manager, and Heidi, Initial Teacher Training Secondary Manager. On the first day back after the Christmas holiday, I was required to deliver a twenty minute lesson in my chosen subject (History) before sitting down with Clare and Heidi for an interview. Prior to planning my mini-lesson, I found out which year group I would be working with (in this case year 8) and researched the topics that they had recently been studying. I decided to focus on the English Civil War, designing an activity that involved identifying which side various historical figures would have fought for based on evidence that I provided. My main concern prior to the lesson had been about filling the entire twenty minutes, but this proved to be baseless – if anything, I struggled to fit the entire activity into the allotted time. With hindsight, it was the quickest twenty minutes of my life. I was pleased with the outcome of the lesson; the students seemed engaged and the planned learning objective had been achieved.

I found the interview to be far less nerve-wracking than the lesson (children really are harsher critics than adults), and Clare and Heidi immediately put me at ease. The questions explored my areas of interest within my subject, my previous experiences in education and a self-critique of the lesson that I had just delivered. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, and it was a nice opportunity to discuss my hopes for my future career and raise any concerns that I had. I was told that I had been successful within days of my interview and my place on the course was confirmed.

The nine months between my application and the start of the course involved a great deal of preparation but I was guided the entire way by the WYTA team. Perhaps the most stressful aspect was the undertaking of skills tests in numeracy and literacy. Literacy has always been a passion of mine, yet numeracy has never been one of my strengths. To prepare, I asked a Maths teacher friend to tutor me in the areas that the test would cover, working from the book Passing the Numeracy Skills Test by Mark Patmore. My advice to future applicants would be to prepare yourself fully before undertaking the tests, especially if you lack confidence in a particular area. The tests are very difficult and applicants are only allowed three attempts, so failing to pass can derail your place on the course before it has even begun. This was the hardest part of the entire process and one that I was glad to get out of the way.


Dave Stephenson is a School Direct PGCE student at West Yorkshire Teaching Alliance. This was originally posted on the WYTA ITT blog and is published with kind permission.

What are professional skills tests? 

In this blog, we answer three of the most frequently asked questions.

Monday, 15 May 2017

My biggest achievement so far - Lucian Huxley-Smith

The moment when I smiled the widest was when I got a child to write for the first time I'd ever seen them write. After three months of trying to get them to write. That was my biggest achievement so far, I think.

Coming into teaching I thought that, if I didn't provide every student I met with a C or with the highest grade they can possibly get, I'd be failing, and I've soon realised that's not necessarily the case at all. If you can get that person who's never picked up a pen in front of you to pick up a pen and write, then you've achieved something huge. If you can get across the importance of a comma or a full-stop to someone who's previously not even understood what those concepts are, that's huge. You are making a difference to people's lives potentially on a daily basis, and that's massive.

We all remember our best teachers from school and, when you're in the bubble of teaching, it’s very easy to forget that you could be that teacher; that someone could have walked away from your lesson that day with a thought they're going to keep for the rest of their life. It's important to recognise those small wins, because actually they're not small, they're massive to that individual.

Right now, I certainly intend to stay with teaching. Any other job I've ever done I have probably loathed a good 60% of it. Of course, there are tough times as a teacher, but actually I love about 80% of it. The lows are hard, but the highs always make it worth it, unquestionably.

When I was script-writing I was happy, but there's a great unknown, there's no measure of your impact. With teaching, any time I mark a book, any time I see a kid smile at something, I see that impact on a daily basis.

I've grown up more the last nine months than I think had for the previous nine years. I'm much better organised than I ever used to be. I now no longer feel that any challenge is insurmountable. I'm filled with a greater confidence that, anything that comes my way, I will be able to take it on. It may not be easy, but that doesn't mean it's not doable. I can do anything I really want to turn my hand to. It's just a matter of overcoming those initial stumbling blocks.

I have felt supported every step of the way. I've never felt left alone at any time with Teach First. Any time I'm feeling like I'm struggling to meet the challenge, other participants are your key network. We all have a common goal and having that support network is unquestionably one of the most useful things I have. We go for a beer, discuss what went well, moreover what didn't go so well, and have that common understanding that we're all going through this together.


Lucian Huxley-Smith is a former script-writer who is now teaching English in London. This was originally posted by Teach First and is published with kind permission.

If you liked this…

Shane and Janie share their stories about why they chose a career in teaching:

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Five tips for preparing a UCAS personal statement – what every parent needs to know

This is the part of the university application process which causes a great deal of stress to teens – not to mention distress to their parents, who may not feel in the mood for an in-depth analysis of their son/daughter’s career prospects when they are trying to cook tea or put out the bins!

The truth is, we are ill-equipped to give that advice, and therefore need to be careful what we say. This time last year, I was going through the personal statement process with my eldest daughter, so I thought I’d share my thoughts and experiences just in case you are going through the same right now.

The UCAS personal statement
I started off full of optimism that I would be a great asset to my daughter as she prepared this extraordinary piece of writing. It wasn’t long before she had to point out my paragraphs were peppered with clichés, and I over-used the word ‘passionate’ – both of which are classic mistakes, apparently, so I turned out to be more of a liability than an asset.

Since then I have found this great summary of what not to do in personal statements, which I wish I had read a year ago.

Thankfully, the other adults advising my daughter were far more tuned-in, which brings me to my list of top tips.

Five top tips for preparing a UCAS personal statement
1. Your child’s school or college is where the expertise lies, so make sure they use it. They will probably be allocated a specific mentor or tutor for this, so make sure they keep in touch and submit draft after draft, until it’s perfect.

2. Don’t pay someone else to do it. It needs to sound like a 17 year old has written it – albeit with some guidance. Don’t be tempted to pay online to get one written for you. Your child will be questioned about their statement in interviews, and it’s important their personality shines through.

3. The word count is very strict (4,000 characters), so start off with a longer draft and then cut it down. It will take a long time. Estimate how long you think it will take, multiply this by four, and you may be somewhere close.

4. Three main areas MUST be covered: why the course is right for your son/daughter, why they are right for the course, what extra-curricular activities they do, and how these activities are relevant to the course.

5. Perfect spelling, punctuation, and grammar is vital. A parent can help with this, or you can find someone else who can!

The main lesson I learnt
Your child will be expected to have a career path in mind, extra-curricular activities relevant to this career path, and a clear vision of how their chosen degree course will help them on the road to their career.

Quite rightly, teens often get a little spooked about being asked to fix their life’s journey at such a young age. The best thing to do is reassure them that things change; we can all have many changes of career throughout our lives. So, advise them to pick a direction and follow it until something comes along which makes them want to change. Help them explore as many potential career paths as possible.

Dr Sharon Parry is a Mum of three and a former public health research fellow. She now works as a freelance writer and shares useful tips and her thoughts and experiences of having kids in primary school, high school and university in Wales on her website

Top five food hygiene tips for freshers

Thousands of young adults fly the nest this month, as halls of residence up and down the country fill up with students. Many of them will be responsible for preparing their own food, which should not be a big deal if they’ve picked up a skill or two at home. Two things, however, are very different. They are now sharing a kitchen with complete strangers (who will admittedly become their friends in a week or so), and they do not have a parent overseeing their hygiene arrangements. This presents a few problems, so here are my five food hygiene tips for freshers, which I hope will keep them well.

1.   Do not reheat takeaway food
The obvious option for cash-strapped students! It saves them having to buy another meal, and avoids any sort of washing up. If they don’t get up until after lunch-time, chicken tikka masala or pepperoni pizza is an entirely appropriate meal to start the day. Tempting as it may be, don’t do it!

This food has spent the last 12 hours on the arm of the sofa/bottom of the bed/lounge floor, at the nice warm temperature pathogens love. So, by the time you come to eat it for the second time there could be millions of them. Yes, you can try to blast them with your shiny new microwave, but you will not necessarily reach them all, and will have no chance of getting rid of heat-stable toxins.

2.       Treat raw chicken as if it is nuclear waste
This should apply to all meat, but I have picked on chicken because it is a fairly cheap meat which comes in conveniently small portions, making it a popular choice with students. While stereotyping is quite rightly frowned upon in almost all walks of life, it is perfectly acceptable when it comes to food hygiene. Raw chicken is the bad guy, and you are perfectly within your rights to assume every piece of raw chicken is contaminated with bugs which can make you very ill. Don’t handle it much. Don’t put it on lots of surfaces. Do keep it wrapped up in its plastic tray and then empty it straight into the pan you are cooking it in. Then chuck the wrapping straight in the bin and wash your hands.

3.       Protect your cooked food
If raw chicken is the bad guy, cooked food is the vulnerable victim. It needs protection. Anything which goes straight into your mouth without going in the hob/oven/microwave falls into this category. Cover it up, put it in a sealed bowl. Buy cling film – lots of it. If it is not covered up, you do not know what your flatmates may accidentally drop on it or drag across it.

4.       Wash it before you use it
In an ideal kitchen, all utensils, cutlery, chopping boards and plates would be meticulously washed straight after use and put away. This is not what is going to happen in most student kitchens. Instead, you will find a chopping board skulking under three saucepans and a wok next to the sink. You do not know what it has been used for, so make assumptions and always think the worst. It may have been used to chop raw meat so don’t just grab it and use it. Wash it first.

5.       Keep it cold
Fridges in student accommodation are mainly used for drinks, chocolate and tomato ketchup. They may not be big enough for everyone to get all their food in. You need to adopt a nightclub-like priority system. Things like cooked ham and pasties are on the VIP list and get guaranteed entry. The pickled onions may make it in if numbers are low, but they shouldn’t get their hopes up.

I have made light of this advice, but food hygiene is no joke. I worked as an Environmental Health Officer for many years, and have investigated countless outbreaks of food poisoning where people have had their lives ruined by food-borne disease. It is preventable, so please do share these five food hygiene tips for freshers with your young adults.

Dr Sharon Parry is a Mum of three and a former public health research fellow. She now works as a freelance writer and shares useful tips and her thoughts and experiences of having kids in primary school, high school and university in Wales on her website

Exam stress season

Dr Sharon Parry is a Mum of three and a former public health research fellow. She now works as a freelance writer and shares useful tips and her thoughts and experiences of having kids in primary school, high school and university in Wales on her website‘Tis the season not to be jolly – otherwise known as the ‘exam stress season’. It’s like the flu season, but without the cough.

So here I am, juggling the very different needs of my three daughters, two of whom have exams this summer.

Here are the steps I have found useful in achieving a successful exam stress season. Let me be clear about what I mean by ‘successful’. I do not define success as every one of my children achieving straight A* grades in all subjects. I define success as them getting through the stress of exams safe and well, and being able to look back satisfied that they gave it their best shot. The rest is for fate and the public examination boards to sort out.

Exam sympathy
This is a point in my parenting life when I feel I am required to be unreservedly sympathetic. Some parents may want to tell their children exams were harder in their day, or had taken on ten paper rounds before they were out of nappies. Even if these things were true, I realise this is not the best time to talk about it. Exams are hard and can be gruelling. I find it helps to acknowledge this and state clearly my acceptance this is not a great time for teens. I also remind them it will not last forever, and a long summer break will soon be here – although I don’t mention results day is right in the middle of it!

Exam support
If you have some knowledge about the subjects your child is studying, it is tempting to become over-involved in the revision process, but this is not always helpful in the long term. The objective of this process is for your child to become an independent learner, so it may be useful to keep this in mind as you hog the textbooks.  Personally, I can be a complete pain in the neck when my kids are revising a subject which interests me, and I’m sure this is a constant source of irritation to them, but they humour me nevertheless.

On the other hand, don’t assume they will have everything available for the learning process. Revision skills are taught in most schools these days, but your teen may not have taken them on board. Therefore, you may want to encourage them to discover what works for them, and this is a matter of trial and error. I personally need to write everything down in note form when I am learning, and I also find it helpful to talk out loud as if I am explaining it to someone else. Some students find a whiteboard and pens useful, while others need a huge notebook. If you support them in their chosen revision method, at least it shows you respect the process and consider them mature enough to handle their own revision. If they can revise according to their own style it will be more productive, and perhaps even enjoyable, for them. They will NEVER admit this, however.

Exam structure
A perfectly structured family life is, in my experience, almost impossible to obtain. I can, however, see the benefits of everyone knowing what is happening and when. The timetables for public examinations are published well in advance and shared by schools and colleges. As soon as you get yours, pop the dates into your calendar or simply pin the timetable up in the kitchen where everyone can see it. That way you can plan family events without clashes.

A revision timetable really is essential, but can and should be flexible. Subjects can be broken down into sections or topics which can each be allocated a ‘session’. There should also be scheduled breaks. These are some of the reasons I find a timetable useful:

  1. It makes it easy to appreciate the quantity of work needed. Teens approaching public examinations for the first time sometimes underestimate the quantity of material they will have to plough through. This can lead to a last-minute panic. 
  2. It gives a psychological boost to teens who are floundering and overwhelmed, because it provides a clear path and much needed structure. 
  3. It shares out time between subjects, so your teens don’t become bogged down in one subject to the detriment of another. 
  4. It can give a sense of achievement if they stick to it. 
  5. If they don’t stick to it, this can give you or them an idea of how far behind they have got.

Exam supplies
My thoughts on this subject are very clear: if you are leaving your teen at home to revise, make sure there is plenty of reasonably healthy food in the house. This will prevent them from either starving to death or ordering several pizzas using your credit card details while you are out.

I know the official advice is to feed your child healthy brain-enhancing food at this time, and I feel this is absolutely the right thing to do. I also know there are moments in your life when you really have to have a chocolate biscuit, and halfway through an algebra equation is very likely to be one of those moments. So, once again, I try to reach a compromise. This is really not the time to have a blazing row over organic wholegrain crackers and humus.

Help with exam stress
There is no escaping the fact teens are put under a lot of pressure around exam time. Some will sail through with no problems, but others will struggle, and a few will become seriously affected by mental health issues.

There is plenty of help available if you are worried about your child’s exam stress. If you feel your child is really not coping with exams, and their physical or mental health is deteriorating, you should contact your GP, who will be able to give you some further advice. Organisations like ChildLine and Mind can also offer support and guidance.

Dr Sharon Parry is a Mum of three and a former public health research fellow. She now works as a freelance writer and shares useful tips and her thoughts and experiences of having kids in primary school, high school and university in Wales on her website