Applying for Teacher Training – I

In a previous post I told you about my plan to become a teacher, and said I might give a few comments about the process so far. Here goes nothing.

So far, I met the requirements of an application, submitted it, was interviewed in a couple of places and accepted a conditional offer. I’ve mostly completed the conditions of the offer, and the course’s advance induction starts in a couple of weeks. So I can tell you little or nothing about the training itself, and certainly nothing about working as a teacher (if you want to hear those things from me, you’ll have to remind me in a year or two’s time).

I’m going into secondary teaching (11-16/18); much of what I’ll say probably applies to primary too, but I never really looked at that. Some is probably relevant to further education too.

If you’re going to apply (or you otherwise haven’t yet stopped reading), here are some things you might want to know about the process.

It’s Time-Consuming

So, you’re in the workforce and considering a career in teaching. They’re after people like you, at least for certain subjects (at time of writing, physics, maths and computing are especially in demand). So they’ve made it easy, right?

Well, yes and no. There’s a bunch of support available, and most people I’ve met along the way are very happy to help prospective trainees, but the system is complicated for both good and bad reasons.

The main thing to understand is that an application for teacher training isn’t something you can rattle off in a couple of evenings, like applying for a job within your industry. Even if you do much of your research and writing outside work hours, be prepared to need almost two to three weeks of daytime holiday to observe in classrooms, take crazy tests and go to interviews.

Thankfully I had a flexible job and a helpful boss. (Who am I kidding: he’s a pushover. Useless boss.)

You should also allow plenty of time. At time of writing (June), applications may still open for September 2017 entry (especially in shortage subjects, since applications often stay open until the places are filled), but if you’re just starting to think about it now you should probably aim for 2018 instead. In popular subjects if you haven’t started by now you’ll have a hard time meeting the requirements before 2018 places run out.

A Note About Safeguarding

The first thing you’ll notice when you try to visit a school is that there are a lot of slightly arcane rules, most notably that as a person without a Disclosure and Barring Service (formerly CRB) certificate you’ll need to be guarded all the time. This is basically your first test: if you see this as an unnecessary imposition and you haven’t appreciated the need for it (and the importance of safeguarding measures in general) then maybe teaching isn’t the career for you. (And yes, I say that in a slightly preachy voice even though it remains to be seen whether teaching is the career for me. But downplaying the importance of safeguarding will be seen as [and is] a big risk.)

At one school I read all the safeguarding and related policies because the visitor details form included the promise that I had (I initially wasn’t provided with them, so I refrained from signing the form until I’d had a chance to read them). At another I was challenged by a member of staff because the person escorting me had popped into an office ‘for a moment’ and I wasn’t supposed to be in the corridor on my own. (Related note: nothing in the real world ever takes ‘just a moment’.)

Get a DBS Certificate

If at all possible, once you start discussing observation visits with a school, ask if they can arrange a DBS check. Potential trainees don’t count as volunteers, so the check will cost; the only advantage of doing without is that when you do need one your training provider might pay for it. Disclosure still has to be requested by an appropriate organisation, and still applies only to them, but nowadays you can sign up for a (relatively inexpensive) subscription service that keeps your certificate up to date and allows other organisations to check it immediately, using just your details and your consent. (Plus, the school that filed my initial check did so through the county council’s web portal, so it’s probably valid for other schools in the county even without rechecking.)

You may even be able to do some volunteering to get the check for free, then subscribe to allow others to do non-volunteer checks. If you want to try that you should find some Ts&Cs and read them carefully.

Once you have a valid DBS check you’ll be far less of a burden on school staff. They’ll still be bound to keep an eye on you, but not the constant supervision that an unchecked visitor requires (up to and including escorting you to the toilet and waiting for you to come back out). They can relax a bit, you can relax a bit, and you can all get on with what you’re there for.

Having said that, the DBS check proves only that you’re not currently a known threat to children. It says nothing about what may be unknown, or what may happen in future. So expect to be supervised, and make that easy for staff. Don’t go disappearing. Read some policies: if the first school doesn’t require you to, ask to see them anyway. A thorough understanding of and respect for safeguarding and related issues will help with your application and will be important to becoming a safe and effective teacher.

If you can’t get a DBS check (and it may well be that there isn’t time, at least for your first observations), then have some respect for the system. Don’t go wandering off. If you’re asked to do something and you’re worried it might not be properly supervised (e.g. staying in a classroom while the teacher leaves it, being escorted somewhere by a student rather than a member of staff), gently ask about it. It keeps you and your supervisor out of trouble, but ultimately it’s for the good of the students.

End of Part One

I’ll stop there, and put the next bit (Observations) in its own post. As always, let me know if there’s anything in particular you want me to write up.