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?

Find out more about becoming a teacher

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?

Find out more about becoming a teacher.

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

A level results day – five things parents cannot do

As the parent of an A level student, you will have faced your share of exam seasons and results days already. Your experience may have been pleasant, and your child may have been delighted with their results, in which case you could just join in with the celebrations. However, if your experience of results day was a little less positive, you will have already had a lot of practice picking up the pieces and mopping up the tears.

This results day is different. This is the one that REALLY matters, because it determines whether the student will gain a place at their chosen university or whether they have to adopt a new route. If they have their heart set on a particular path, it can be very painful to witness their disappointment.
Thankfully, there is a raft of excellent advice provided by websites, and social media feeds set up by organisations like UCAS. There is already a great deal of excellent advice out there on what parents can do to help, and I don’t want to duplicate this. Instead, I want to give a brief insight into what you cannot do. This is probably just as important – at this stage of our children’s lives we need to recognise our limitations.

Five things parents cannot do on A level results day:

  1. Make it all okay. This was our job, wasn’t it? We liked to control the environment in which our children existed, deftly removing anything which threatened to hurt or upset them. Those days are in the dim and distant past. The results are outside your control. An A* is an A*, and a U is a U. As a parent you are not able to change that. If your child, or their teachers, feel the grade they have been awarded is an error, you may have a role to play. Only a school/college (examination centre) can make an enquiry about an exam, but you can go with your child to speak to the school and pay the fee for them.
  2. Brush it under the carpet. This situation cannot be approached in the same way as a tumble off a scooter. You can’t kiss it better and encourage them to forget about it. Someone has to DO something. Hopefully, you have raised a supremely resilient young adult who will brush off the transient disappointment and forge ahead to bigger and better things. Or, like me, you have raised normal human beings complete with vulnerabilities and insecurities, and you can hold their hand while they sob for three hours. Then, you can hand them a tissue and let them construct a plan.
  3. Be in control. It is highly unlikely you have the necessary skills and experience to give them the best advice on results day. You must call in the professionals. It may be a UCAS adviser on the phone, a university admissions tutor, or the staff at their examination centre. Schools and colleges are very slick at this. They are the experts, so let them do their thing. Some very big decisions may have to be made around this time, so make sure you are available should your opinion or practical support be needed.
  4. Give in to your emotions. Yes, the results may be bad, but it really is not the end of the world. It simply offers a different set of opportunities, which may turn out for the best. If you start acting as if the sky has just caved in it will not help. It also doesn’t help if you mention they didn’t do enough work / went out too often / didn’t take it seriously enough, even if these things are true. What’s done is done. A cool head is needed. Bite your tongue.
  5. Run away. This is tempting, because you are definitely just the support crew and not the main act. However, your presence will be much appreciated, and your support will be valued. Take a day off work (or get someone to look after younger siblings) and think of yourself as the St John’s ambulance at a rock concert – no-one wants to be in a situation where they need you, but they like to know you’re there!

My final thought is this: enjoy the day if you can. It is a big milestone, and some life-changing things are going to happen. It is hugely exciting. Do what you need to do and then open a bottle of bubbly, because whatever the results, at least it’s all over!

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

Meningitis in students – what you need to know

In the frenzy of excitement and emotion between A level results and a young adult leaving for university, it is unlikely that vaccinations will be one of your priorities. I hope this blog post will change that. There is a new meningitis vaccine available for young adults, and you will have to book an appointment with your GP practice to get it.

Five reasons why you need to think about meningitis in students – right now!
  1. Meningitis is one of the major health risks for young adults in their first year at university. They are the second most ‘at risk’ group for contracting this disease.
  2. Most first year students opt to live in halls. Here they will be living in very close proximity to hundreds of people who they have never encountered before, and who come from all four corners of the country (and from overseas).
  3. One in four of these new friends (15 – 19 year olds) WILL be carrying meningococcal bacteria, which can cause meningitis in the back of their throats, compared to one in ten of the UK population.
  4. The bacteria can be passed to your young adult by coughing, sneezing, and intimate kissing. Absolutely everyone gets a cold in their first year at university, so that’s a lot of coughing and sneezing. You can use your own imagination about the intimate kissing!
  5. They do not have a diligent mum and dad watching over them. They may become seriously ill without their friends and flatmates being aware. Meningitis does not hang around – it makes people very ill, very quickly.

This is what you should do

A particularly aggressive strain of Men W is causing disease in all age groups, but there has been a significant increase in university students. This is what you can do to help:
  • Make an appointment with your GP surgery for your young adult to have the vaccination today. Your GP will know which one – it is called the Men ACWY, and was introduced in August 2015
  • Talk to your young adult about meningitis. Tell them about the symptoms and what to look out for in themselves and friends. Make sure that they know how to call for medical help if they’re concerned
  • Get some resources from Meningitis now and Meningitis Research Foundation. There is even an app which can be downloaded, and symptoms cards to use as a reference

I stumbled across this information accidentally and, as an epidemiologist, researched it a little more thoroughly. My own daughter will be moving into halls in less than a month and she was vaccinated a few days ago. She is a capable, independent young woman who makes her own decisions, and because I want her to stay that way I got involved and made the appointment for her. As I’ve said many times on this blog before, you never stop being a mum.

Please do share this post with anyone you know who has children leaving for university next month, so we can raise awareness of meningitis in students. 

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

Friday, 5 May 2017

Starting my second placement – Dave Stephenson

After the Christmas holidays, it became pertinent for trainees to begin looking for employment. The University held a seminar on seeking and gaining employment, with senior members of staff from a variety of local schools coming to talk to us. This was very useful in preparing for job applications and interviews, and our West Yorkshire Teaching Alliance and University tutors have continued to support us in seeking out available positions. I have been very fortunate as a school just five minutes away from my house advertised for a History teacher position to start work in June. My application was accepted and, during my interview day, I knew immediately that this was an institution that I wanted to be part of. I was required to teach a lesson to a Year 7 class and was then interviewed by the head teacher, assistant head and head of department. The lesson went well and the interview was a great experience, as I was able to discuss my passion for my subject and the wider role of being an educator, as well as talk about my hopes for the future. Within an hour of the interview ending, I was contacted to say that I had been given the job. I am absolutely thrilled to have gained employment at such as fantastic school and cannot wait to begin teaching there once the course has ended.

I am now teaching five days a week in my second placement school, with thirty-three lessons spread over a two-week timetable. As well as History, I am teaching one class of English and Sociology respectively. This has been really useful, as it has forced me to step out of my comfort zone and explore teaching methods outside my specialist subject. With my History classes, I have had to do a lot of private research to ensure that my subject knowledge is detailed enough for topics that I myself have never studied. For instance, I have recently completed a scheme of work on the Korean War, which I had very little prior knowledge of. However, with the help of my host teacher, I have been able to develop my knowledge and understanding of the topic, and have successfully delivered a series of lessons on it to my Year 10 students. There are few things more satisfying than looking back over the work that my students have completed, highlighting their progression over the course of the last half-term.

With just five weeks left of placement two, it feels like the end of the course is in sight. I have thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of my ITT year so far, yet I am excited by the prospect of completing my training and embarking on my NQT year. The course involves a lot of hard work and is relentlessly fast-paced; it is crucial to remain on top of the workload as it would be very easy to fall behind. However, the support of fellow trainees, University tutors and colleagues makes life so much easier, and the professional satisfaction that comes with teaching is a singular experience that makes the job one of the best in the world. I recently spoke to potential West Yorkshire Teaching Alliance applicants and was able to honestly say that this has been the best few months of my life. I look to the future with a great deal of excitement about where my path will lead.


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.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

What I wish I had known – Hannah Londorf

1.    Stay on top of things from day one
In those first weeks of starting your training you’ll only be teaching a few lessons and keeping on top of writing lesson plans and reflecting on your teaching practice will be relatively straightforward and not all that time consuming. However by the time March swings round and you are 6 months in, it’s a different story; with 15 or more lessons a week to plan and teach and all the responsibilities of a regular class teacher (think assessments, marking, homework…), you’ll be wishing that you put the time in to keep on top of things from the start. Getting into a routine early also means it can feel a lot less stressful later on in the game.

2.    Get to know your classes – make that extra effort
For me this has been the single most valuable string in my teaching bow. Make a seating plan or ask the class teacher if they already have one and learn those names! Find out which pupils might need extra support, or those who might need additional challenges. Not only will this help you to plan engaging lessons which support all pupils to progress in their understanding and learning, it will allow you to quickly adapt teaching or information to support your class. By greeting your pupils in the hallway and engaging with them you are showing them that you have a genuine interest in their wellbeing and this will speed up your ability to develop a strong relationship with them, in turn allowing you to develop into an outstanding teacher.

3.    The topic all student teachers worry about…
How will I manage behaviour? Read point two again… knowing your pupils and using their names to manage classes is the first step in effective behaviour management. It’s very hard to call out pupils who consistently talk or disrupt lessons if you don’t know their names. Don’t forget though, that the names of the pupils who consistently behave and work well are also important. Praising positive attitudes in the classroom is just as important as disciplining negative ones, and will ultimately help you to manage the behaviour of your pupils.

4.    Just keep smiling, smiling, smiling
You’ll soon find that your mood will swiftly become the theme for the atmosphere of the lesson. No matter how rubbish your morning has been, how tired you are or how many books you know are waiting for you to mark, you’ve got to keep that cheery face on and the positivity flowing. Pupils seem to have a sixth sense, so if they can feel that you aren’t on top it’s often hard for them to be on top. So greet them with a smile and a good morning, ask them if they are ok. It really can make the difference between an awful lesson and outstanding lesson.

5.    Look ahead: planning
Planning from day to day is fine and this is how you’ll roll in the first weeks but quickly adapting, to plan weeks and then months ahead will be crucial in reducing your workload and getting a handle on where your pupils are at. Developing your own schemes of work (SOW) – a plan for 10-12 lessons which follow a certain topic or theme – will allow you to plan materials which support your pupils’ natural progression through a topic and enable you to get an overview of what your objective and outcomes are with regards to their progress and learning.

6.    SOW, SEN, WWW, EBI, SPaG….
Acronyms… teachers love them. A cursory glance on Google revealed that there are just over a 100 different terms or phrases related to teaching which use abbreviations. Scheme of work becomes (SOW), Special Educational Needs (SEN), what went well (WWW) or even better if (EBI) and don’t forget that when correcting spelling, punctuation and grammar that it’s really all about SPaG! Whilst it might seem daunting you’ll learn them as you go along, and by the end of your training year you’ll definitely be ‘au fait’ with knowing your SCITT from your ITT and your WILF from your WALT!

7.    Love your subject
It may seem obvious, you’ve chosen to teach your subject. You’ve probably studied it at University and A-Level. You love your subject. So let your pupils know that.  Use your knowledge and personal experience to bring the subject to life. Something you’re not interested in? Don’t let them know that. Being a teacher is part actor, part door to door sales. Sell your subject to your pupils with your own enthusiasm and watch the sales (results) come rolling in!

8.    Tweet, tweet, tweet…
I’ll admit, I was a sceptic. Twitter, how can that help me to develop my teaching? But apparently Twitter is the place to be if you are a teacher. Set up an account (making sure to take all the usual security precautions) and off you go. Depending on your subject, start by following relevant blogs, news outlets, and organisations. Twitter will suggest other people for you to follow as you go along but there are hundreds if not thousands of other educators out there sharing innovative and creative teaching materials and ideas. Some of my best teaching activities and ideas have stemmed from an idea I found on twitter. It’s also a great opportunity to showcase and share your own materials! Who knows your first job might come from something you shared on Twitter!


Hannah Londorf is a geography School Direct trainee teacher at the Associated Merseyside Partnership SCITT.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Tips for teacher training interviews – David Douglass

All teacher training providers have their own format for interviews. Some Higher Education Institutions and School Centred Initial Teacher Training providers will have individual and group tasks as part of their selection process. My tips below are therefore not an attempt to second guess interview questions, rather to act as food for thought.

Key areas to consider
 A provider may wish to explore these key areas:

  • Why you feel you want to become a teacher.
  • How your experience and qualifications to date have prepared you for the role.
  • What specific qualities, skills and knowledge you'd bring to the role/school.
  • Your ability to reflect on lessons you've observed.
  • Areas of strength and areas you feel you'd need more support with.
  • How well you understand their course (vision, structure and aims etc.).

On the day
If your interview is at a school it is wise to attend in a suit or appropriate smart clothing. You may well be asked to interact with students or teach a short activity so it’s best to be dressed for the occasion. Tasks on the day will vary between providers but expect some/all of the following:

  • Panel interview.
  • Written task (lesson plan, review of a student’s work etc.).
  • Teaching task or lesson.
  • Group task / discussion.
  • Meeting with students.

If you are asked to prepare a lesson or to talk through a lesson for the day – always bring a copy of the plan for the panel.

What are we looking for in a great applicant?
Through your answers and the activities of the day, we’d hope to uncover most/all of the following:

  • Passion - for the subject or phase you want to teach.
  • Knowledge – good teachers have a breadth of knowledge beyond their formal qualifications.
  • Confidence – we know you will grow and develop as a teacher but we need to see potential!
  • Care – this is a profession where putting the student first is a given.
  • Highly Literate – Able to speak well in formal situations and be comfortable in correcting the spelling, punctuation and grammar of students.
  • Motivation – Do you have the drive for the multifaceted nature of the role? Can you motivate others?
  • Empathy – Can you see both sides? Can you demonstrate you’d be firm but fair especially when under pressure?
  • Sense of humour – if I need to explain this one… you’re probably not quite what we’re looking for :)

It’s a cliché but above all else – be yourself in the interview! The process is a supportive one, we are trying to find a good fit for us as the trainer, and you equally want to feel that you can work with us. At the end of the formal panel interview you’ll be asked if you have any questions, the most common two questions are:

  1. Will I be here (the school doing the interview) for my placement? ANSWER – often, but not always. This is the point to mention any travel issues you may have (no car, moving house etc. so that school placements can be made which work for both parties)
  2. How does the training work? ANSWER – Most providers run some ‘block’ training at the start of the course with ‘training days’ scheduled throughout the rest of the year. The rest of the time you will be in your first placement school (often called your host school) followed by a half term placement in a Second School Placement (SSP) before returning to the host school for the rest of the year.

Good luck!


David Douglass is Director of Sacred Heart Newcastle SCITT. He has over 20 years’ experience of working in Secondary schools in Yorkshire, Northumberland and Newcastle upon Tyne. He is currently Deputy Headteacher at Sacred Heart Catholic High School. This was originally posted on the Sacred Heart Newcastle SCITT blog and is published with kind permission. Follow him on Twitter @NewcastleSCITT

Thursday, 6 April 2017

How to handle the stresses of the university lifestyle

Your time at university can be an especially challenging period of your life. Adapting to a new routine and a different environment isn’t always easy. Moving away from home is exciting because it gives you a level of independence, but this also means taking on responsibilities you might not have considered before – such as managing your own time, living with a group of other people, budgeting, and cooking for yourself.

With all this in mind, it’s not surprising that a recent survey of 2,460 students nationwide (conducted by The Student Housing Company) found that more than 96% of students experience stress throughout their studies.

Learning how to best handle stressful moments when you’re at university is really important, to ensure you look after your physical and mental wellbeing.

Organising your study time

The structure of university learning is very different to that of school and college. There are usually far fewer contact hours, which means you need to put in your own study time outside of the lecture halls. Depending on your course, you may have daily lectures and seminars, or only a handful. You’ll be completely responsible for your own study schedule – from managing your timetable and preparing for each lecture, to completing the necessary work to meet each assignment deadline.

It’s a wise idea to get organised and create your own study routine from the offset. Plotting your lecture timetable and all your assignment deadlines into a calendar will help you decide how to structure each day. It’s worth setting your own deadlines a few days before the assignments are due, to avoid the stress of completing work last minute. If you miss a lecture, contact your lecturer to see if you can get any information about what you missed, or ask one of your course mates if you could share their insight or notes.

Budgeting and paying bills

The thought of being in charge of your finances can be rather daunting. Paying rent, managing bills, and budgeting for your groceries and other essentials – all with the money from your student loan – can seem like an impossible task, and it’s no wonder that many students worry about money. Making your money stretch far enough each month requires you to be thrifty and wise when it comes to spending.

There are many easy ways that you can relieve the pressure of handling your finances, to ensure money doesn’t become a preoccupation. Just a few things that can help you save include:

making the most of discount codes, loyalty schemes, and coupons (including getting an NUS card and a 16-25 railcard)
cooking meals from fresh, rather than buying takeaways or ready meals
sharing kitchen essentials, such as milk and condiments, with your housemates
getting books from your university’s library where possible, instead of buying your own copy of everything on the reading list

Coping with homesickness

Feeling homesick can happen at any time while you’re at university. Whether this is your first time living away from home or not, it’s normal to miss your family and friends. Adjusting to an unfamiliar environment in communal living, settling into a different city, and struggling to make new friends can be an isolating experience, so it’s only natural to miss the comforts of home.

You can ease feelings of anxiety and loneliness (which in turn can trigger homesickness) in a number of ways. When you first move to university, you might feel nervous about making friends, but getting to know your housemates and course mates is a great place to start. Building friendships and socialising with the people you live with, or those on your course, can act as a good distraction if you are feeling low.

Striking up a conversation with your housemates can be as simple as popping on the kettle to share a cup of tea, or sitting down to watch a film one evening. With your course mates, you could suggest setting up a study group to share ideas (this can also ease some of the stress associated with assignments), or you could ask if they want to grab a drink after a lecture. If you feel comfortable, tell your friends that you’re missing home – the chances are they will be too.

Overcoming stress

University is a really exciting period that opens up many different possibilities and experiences. In order to have the most enjoyable time during your degree, it’s important to look after your wellbeing. Overcoming the various stresses associated with the sudden lifestyle change is essential. For more advice, take a look at The Student Housing Company’s mental health infographic.

Author bio: The Student Housing Company provides private student accommodation in cities across the UK, giving you a vibrant, social, and comfortable place to stay during your time at university.