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Calling all KS1/Foundation Phase teachers for some advice please!

13 replies

Bibithree · 17/08/2009 13:26

I am thinking of doing my PGCE in Primary Education next September, KS1, and in particular have interest in the early years. I'm 30, have a degree but in an entirely unrelated subject. I'm just looking into funding etc and our finances to see if we could cope with me going back to uni for a year but what I really want to know is ...

Pros and cons, particularly the ugly bits I might not have thought of. I'm fully aware I'm going into this with a happy, smiley view of it all, so think I need some balance here too. DD1 has just completed 2 years (pre-nursery and nursery at her school)
and I've seen how much she's enjoyed every single second of it, how much she's grown in confidence, abilities and how just everything about her school life seems to inspire and delight her. She adores her teachers and they are so good at their jobs and clearly take great pleasure from what they do, I would like to be able to do that too.

I have had some insight as DH is a primary school teacher, but KS2 mostly Y6. I know about the long hours, the after-school commitments, etc and I plan on using the next year to volunteer in DH's school while I'm working part time so can get a better all-round view and some proper experience (I have gone in and helped out in his class on an ad-hoc basis for many years).

Any advice you can give me would be great though, thank you.

OP posts:
trickerg · 17/08/2009 13:41

Have you considered a GTP (Graduate teacher programme)? Link here:

It offers on the job training, with pay and the added bonus of being able to learn classroom management techniques during your training with children you know.

mrz · 17/08/2009 17:14

I think volunteering is a good idea it gives you a glimpse of what is involved but remember it isn't the full picture. Early Years in particular is more physically demanding than KS2 perhaps not all the books to mark but lots and lots of paperwork (unless Jan Dubiel can get the evidence message across to LAs).
The ugly bits - nappies - vomit - low furniture that causes back problems and dare I say it according to my doctor .....piles!
You will either love it or hate it there doesn't seem to be an in between
Having said that I can't think of a more rewarding age to work with. Good Luck

dinosaurus · 22/08/2009 18:52

Hi bibithree

I've been teaching for 3 years in KS1 after a career change and did my degree and teacher training when my children were small. Get as much experience as you possibly can in school settings - preferably in different schools and accross year groups. You will need this anyway, to be accepted on a PGCE and it will show the good and bad parts of teaching!

I love my job, but it is extremely hard work and the most tiring thing I have ever done. During term time I work about 50 hours a week, and also during holidays, although obviously during the long summer holiday I do give myself a break!

Its a very consuming job - not one to be done half heartedly and as another poster said you either love it or hate it.

I wouldn't worry too much that your degree isn't relevant. You have life experience due to being a (slightly!) older student and will have the experiences of being a mother.

In terms of KS1/foundation stage specifically, there does appear to be a move towards a smoother transition in the curriculum between foundation stage and year 1, with a focus on the 6 areas of learning in foundation stage possibly being carried into KS1. It will help to be familiar with the Renewed Primary Framework for Literacy and Numeracy and there is also a renewed emphasis on phonics. Different schools follow different programmes and obviously phonics isn't anything new, but the Rose Report (which is well worth reading)highlights the most up to date methods of teaching and phonics is a major part of foundation/KS1.

Have a look at Every Child Matters, and there is also a real focus in Primary on outside learning with initiatives such as 'Forest Schools.

Another area to get your head round in year 1 and 2 is 'Assessing Pupil Progress' which is a fairly new nationwide method of assessing children which many primary schools are using or at least piloting.

Obviously different schools in different counties put an emphasis on different things so the above may not all be relevant. However, it will really help to swot up on as many recent publications/edcuational reports as possible.

Let me know if you need any more specific info.

whatreally · 23/08/2009 09:28

This is a really interesting thread. I passed my PGCE in my early twenties but for a variety of reasons never stepped into a classroom & years later I really regret it & have been wondering for some time whether to try again.

Dinosaurus, your description of a 50 hour week really hits home. I have a 7 year old with special needs & a 5 year old. ATM my work allows me to work from home for half the week & is totally flexible which enables me to drop the kids off, pick them up & spend almost as much time as I want with them. It sounds perfect but it is an unfulfilling job. I am worried that if I pursued teaching then everything else would fall over. Also I fear I am getting on a bit - nearly 40 (how did that happen?!) so worry that no one would want me anyway because of my great age. Bibithree - go for it!

dinosaurus · 23/08/2009 09:46

Hi what really

It is difficult with small children. I only have one child and a supportive dp, and other family 'back up' for childcare. It is possibly one of the least flexible jobs in terms of dropping your own children off at school and picking them up. My day's work is 8 - 5, then I normally do a bit some evenings and during the weekend.

The only plus in terms of the job being family friendly are the summer/christmas holidays that you get with your children.

Don't let your age worry you - at my school, the PGCE student last year was in her early 40s and the school thought she was fantastic because she had so much life experience. There are a high proportion of special needs children at my school as well as children from deprived backgrounds, and to be honest, her experience helped her to deal with all of the issues that come from teaching the children with confidence. Perhaps, like the OP you could do some voluntary work in schools to see whether its for you?

trickerg · 23/08/2009 11:59

IME of interviewing recent NQT candidates, the ones who'd done a GTP really shone through, because of their practical experience in the classroom. Did you have a look at it? What did you think?

I did a PGCE when my son was about 2 and in full time nursery. I didn't think it gave a great deal of practical experience - classroon management, particularly, and I was very green around the ears for the first couple of years. A real baptism of fire!! You soon come to realise that a soon as you have adequate classroom management skills, everything else starts to fall into place, and the children actually start listening and learning!!! Saying that, some people have these skills naturally - I didn't!!!

Having always said I'd never be a teacher, I love it. I like the way each day is different - some evenings you might need a pint of gin, other evenings you come home with a warm glow inside! And I love the way the KS1 curriculum is evolving (creative, outdoor, practical, child-initiated learning) - just what little children need.

It also satisfies many of my own work needs: creativity (planning and resources); admin (assessment spreadsheets); being part of a team; sense of achievement; giving someone else access to learning; learning about new things (yes, I now know loads about dung beetles!).... the list goes on.

....but the best thing is hearing a child in fits of laughter because they're enjoying something that I've made possible. It gives me a fizzy feeling inside!!

ohjustgrowup · 23/08/2009 16:48

I completely agree with trickerg. I also did my PGCE with a 2 yr old and have just finished my NQT year. I graduated in 2000 with my first degree (which was also irrelevant and not National Curriculum related) and worked as an event manager before ds was born.

I did a SCITT (School Centred Initial Teacher Training) course, which involved more time in the classroom than a pure PGCE, but which gave me the PGCE qualification too. It worked really well for me, but was financially difficult.

I teach year 1 and completely love it. I've done a lot of different kinds of jobs and I would say this is by far the best and most satisfying. It is hard work - especially training. I gave up my entire life for a year and it killed off my marriage (seriously - it was HARD) but I love my job so much now. It is hard work, but you NEVER get the boredom and clock-watching you experience in some other jobs. Days at school fly by.

I often hear people say 'ooh - teaching must be so convenient as a parent' but you have to make enormous sacrifices as you can't choose when you take time off - I have never been to a Christmas play or sports day for my own ds - and the hours are long. I arrive at school at 7.30 and rarely leave before 5, but that is mainly because I don't like to take work home with me.

Having said that, you seem to be thinking along the right lines and guarding against having too rosy a view. However, I would also warn you off listening to the minority of jaded teachers who will tell you not to do it and try to put you off - I've met a lot of them and it's a really strange opinion. I say spend some time in school to see whether you like it and then go for it. You won't regret it!

manyhands · 27/08/2009 17:20

I did my PGCE (admittedly part time) with a 16 month old and three year old. I love the job but have really struggled to get my first job as there are 200 applicants for each job. I found the course great but feel I still have a lot to learn. The hardest thing I found about the job is having children in your class who are being mistreated and watching the painfully slow social services process do very little.

Millimat · 27/08/2009 20:36

I have now been teaching for .......just working it out...OMG 17 years - where did they all go?!!! Initially I was very much early years, then taught Y2 for a while. I porgressed to snior management level and head of Key Stage 1 and Foundation Stage and loved it. Had DD and returned to work in the same capapcity full time. Then had DS and realised i couldn't be wonderwoman. By choice I reduced my hours to part time and gave up my managemnt role.
As a result my new role was covering the other teachers PPA time which meant i tuaght in every class from Rec to Y6. Before this, the thought of Y6 filled me with horror. Now I love it.
If given the choice I reaaly don't know where i would say is me fave year group to teach. Y6 is extremely demanding and marking is a major issue. But the chn are independent. In contrast, I love watching the progress Rec make from the beginning to the end of the year. It is hugely triing and quite often there is only 1 teacher in Foundation stage in the chool if 1 form entry and can feel very isolating, esp when a new teacher in the school.
Overall, from my experience, I think that Y6 has more pen pushing if you are going to mark to the level the chn deserve, but this can be done at home when your own chn are in bed. Rec needs a lot more hands on in the actual classroom.
Our GTP student has been fab and tuaght in Rec, y1 and y2 within a years raining between 2 school.Good luck, go for it.
BTW which LEA are you nearest to?

Millimat · 27/08/2009 20:38

OMG I am a teacher and just noticed all those appalling spelling mistakes .
Think I need a typing course ...

Berryred · 27/08/2009 20:53

I am looking long term at going into teaching, some great advice and not rose tinted

jennifersofia · 28/08/2009 17:11

I would echo what many of the other teachers have said re: long hours, inflexibility in term time but also job satisfaction.
I did a PGCE, but think GTP would be better, judging from my colleagues experiences. PGCE is very intensive (not that GTP isn't) and has a lot of theory. I too have found that behaviour management skills have been one of my biggest challenges, and I feel that we received very little training in that area, and that more in class experience would have been more valuable.

Two other things to think about:

  • make sure you have good wraparound childcare, preferably with a back up. I have 3 small children, and can only do it because I have a supportive DH and MIL.

  • think carefully about the borough / LEA that you work for, and talk to people for the 'word on the street'. Being in one that is progressive and well run can make a real difference. Being in a well resourced school is fantastic! I have spoken to colleagues who had to search the floor every morning to find enough pencils for students to use, or who had to sign for each photocopy that they did, etc.

    Don't worry about your age, don't think it makes much difference. It is well informed enthusiasm that takes you further!
lilac21 · 30/08/2009 22:27

Don't worry about age - my friend starts her first teaching post next week, aged 54 and with a history of chemotherapy for secondary breast cancer within the last 12 months. She is an inspiration.

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