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How do I get school experience?

Discover how you can gain school experience to help you in your teacher training application.

A major part of completing your training will be time spent in school, working with pupils and fellow teaching staff. Here, we’ll look at some of the things you need to keep in mind when it comes to identifying and arranging these placements.

Arranging experience independently

If looking to arrange school experience independently, it is important to:

  • Identify the right school: you may need to get in touch with a number of schools in your area to arrange school experience, and to do this you can use the register for schools in England tool to filter by location and local authority to find a suitable school.
    • The DfE also provide a school experience service, where you can search for opportunities in participating primary or secondary schools.
  • Do your homework: in other words, don’t simply send enquiries off to email addresses at random. Get in touch with the school you’re considering and ask for the person responsible for arranging in-school experience. This way, you’ll have a direct line to the person who can answer your question.
  • Be flexible: classroom experience may have to fit in around a school’s activities (exams, etc.).
  • Invest the time: when it comes to gaining the valuable experience you’ll need, the more time you spend getting in a school, the better.
  • Network and be creative: you never know where the best and most valuable opportunities will come from. Don’t neglect friends, family and anybody else you might meet when it comes to finding the right school/placement for you.
  • Consider volunteering: to improve your chances of gaining school experience, you could offer to volunteer at a school. Many additional volunteering opportunities (after-school clubs, sports coaching or youth schemes, for example) take place during evenings or at weekends, so you can fit them around existing commitments.
  • Be patient: schools are very busy so may not always reply right away. They may also require a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check as a matter of policy, which can take time to arrange so get this sorted early on.

Teaching internships

By embarking upon a teaching internship, you will be able to gain experience in teaching, hone your skills and be paid.

These types of programmes take place in schools across England and present a variety of benefits, such as:

  • Vital classroom experience: helping with lessons and providing subject support
  • The ability to shadow teachers and observe lessons, perhaps also helping to plan and deliver lessons
  • One-to-one mentoring and guidance from established teachers
  • Opportunities to network with qualified subject specialists

Impact of COVID-19 on school experience

We ask learners to note that organising work experience may be affected by the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has impacted the way schools are operating across the globe. This does mean many schools may currently be closed to visitors. Despite this, please don’t be disheartened if you struggle to gain school experience in the current climate. Some schools are offering online alternatives to allow aspiring teachers to get a taste of what it is like to be a teacher. Use the above links to search for participating schools, or try and speak to local schools to see if there is some flexibility on you gaining experience, they might also be able to involve you in some remote teaching depending on their provision.
At NSET, our PGCE course is continuing to run despite current restrictions, and we successfully placed over 100 trainees in schools in September 2020. Our course management team is working closely with the placement schools to ensure our trainees can complete their teacher training within government guidelines.
There is a link to more detailed guidance from England’s Department for Education on how COVID-19 is impacting teacher training applications in the Further Reading section below.

What do you think?

Discuss with your fellow learners the relative merits of each of the approaches detailed above and decide which you think would be best for you.

Further reading

Department for Education. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 on teacher training.

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
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Teacher Training: Choosing the Right PGCE for You

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