UCAS Teacher Training's blog

Advice from current trainees, newly qualified and experienced teachers, teacher mentors, and tutors.

How to support children with SEND in the mainstream classroom - Cherryl Drabble

There have been many changes to education for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in the last few years. The 2014 ‘The Children and Families Act’ brought a clear expectation that most pupils with SEND would be taught in a mainstream school, and that every teacher is a teacher of SEND. This is all rather daunting for new teachers and NQTs.

As a trainee teacher or NQT, you will be aware there is very little training out there to prepare you for the challenges you face in the classroom. I suggest you read around these five main areas of special challenges that you are likely to find in your classroom:

1. Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC)
The first thing to remember is that no two children with special needs are alike. They may share the same label or diagnosis but they may present themselves and behave very differently in the classroom. For example, Autism, including Asperger’s syndrome is a huge spectrum and you may find that you have children displaying all manner of signs and symptoms. Some will have communication difficulties, some will have acute social anxiety and some may have behaviour challenges. These children can be anywhere on that spectrum from mild to severe.

2. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Similarly, children diagnosed with ADHD will display different signs and symptoms. Not every child will display all the signs all of the time. The main challenges seen include difficulty waiting their turn, wanting everything their own way, no sense of danger, emotionally incontinent, impulsive and restless and a lack of focus.

3. Dyslexia
There are many children diagnosed with Dyslexia within our mainstream classes and it is important to understand how to teach children with this diagnosis. Be aware that some children are wrongly diagnosed with Dyslexia as it is actually a language based disorder rather than a visual difficulty. Once you are clear on that fact you will see that signs and symptoms include delayed speech development, difficulty expressing themselves writing, difficulty sequencing instructions and difficulty with organizational skills.

4. Learning Difficulties and Disabilities (LDD)
Learning Difficulties and Disabilities is an umbrella term for any learning or emotional problem that affects a child’s ability to learn in the same way and at a similar rate to their peers. Some common types of LDD include Dyscalculia, Dysphasia, Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy and delayed development. Of course, it is possible that that ADHD and ASC may co-occur under this heading. Some children will be mildly affected and others will need much support. The terms Moderate Learning Disability (MLD), Severe Learning Disability (SLD) and Profound and Multiple Learning Disability (PMLD) are also used interchangeably with LDD although all these conditions are very different.

5. Behaviour challenges
That brings us to behaviour challenges. Children who display severe challenging behaviours in mainstream classrooms will generally have an underlying cause for this. All children will try to push the boundaries at some point but these are children who regularly disrupt lessons and may be violent. Try to remember that all behaviour is a form of communication. What is the child trying to tell you? If you can work that out you will be able to help the child.

My advice

Inclusion is the main aim for all of these children. As a teacher, it is your job to work out how to include these children in all lessons and activities. My advice is to ignore the label and to look at the child in front of you. Think about how you can help them. Remember, every teacher is a teacher of special needs and you must not hand them over to a Teaching Assistant.

My top tips would be to make it visual. Many children with SEND are visual learners often due to lack of verbal communication. Provide visual instructions and give plenty of time for the child to process what they have been asked to do. Think about communication methods. Give the child a way to let you know if they don’t understand as this will make many behaviour problems magically disappear. Create a SEND friendly classroom. This might include plain walls, fewer bright colours, less clutter, easy access, calm environment and a place to go to if feeling stressed. Remember that a classroom fit for a child with SEND is a classroom that is good for all children.

Above all else have fun! These children will stretch and challenge you but they will also bring you great rewards when they master something you never thought they would. Cherish those wow moments and learn from every single child.


Cherryl Drabble is an assistant headteacher at an outstanding school in Blackpool, and has 14 years' experience in teaching children with special educational needs. An ITT and NQT mentor, she has an MA in Inclusion/SEN and nine years' experience as a Senior Leader responsible for CPD. Cherryl is a successful blogger, and is the author of Bloomsbury CPD Library: Supporting Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (Bloomsbury Education). Follow her on Twitter @cherrylkd

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:

Five ways to ensure a successful ITT year

Common myths about the brain and learning

There’s more to assessment than meets the eye

Getting behaviour right from the start

Five ways to ensure a successful ITT year - Tracey Lawrence

Congratulations! You are about to embark on the best career and this year will, without a doubt, be your most challenging and most rewarding year professionally. To ensure a successful Initial Teacher Training (ITT) year you need to make sure that you are fully focused on developing the craft of teaching. To be where you are right now you will no doubt have an innate way with children but to learn the ever-changing skill of teaching, you need to be fully committed to continual professional development throughout the rest of your teaching career.

Behaviour Management is a skill that underpins great teaching. Without successful behaviour management in your class, you cannot have a learning atmosphere, you cannot deliver that incredible lesson that you have planned and you cannot achieve the outcomes nor the progress that you need to. Not only is it in the best interests of the children to get this part right but it is most definitely in the best interests of yourself to consistently revisit behaviour management.

Firstly, let me dispel the myth and there’s no easy way to say this: there is no magic wand. Strategies need to be added to your behaviour management toolkit and kept stored. Strategies will work with some children and not others. Some will work for a while then need changing but the following 5 ways will underpin the strategies that you develop:

1. Relationships

Relationships will be the foundations of your classroom and support you with all things education. They allow you to be able to develop a connection with a child, understand their likes/dislikes, understand the way in which they learn and enable you to support them with their emotional development. Relationships aren’t a given when you start your ITT year and you have a much tougher job to develop them during your placement due to the time pressure. The best way that you can do this in this short space of time is to immerse yourself in school time. Make it your job to get to know people. Go out at break times, get involved in an after-school club and even have your dinner in the hall a few times.

2. Parents

This links explicitly to relationships but take responsibility for passing on messages to parents from Day 1. Say hello, be friendly and show that you know the children. Teachers and Parents both have the best interests of the child at heart as this is the basis of your relationship. These positive interactions make it much easier to have the more difficult conversations. But don’t forget the positives. They often get missed when dismissing the children at the end of the day as you’re often spinning many plates.

3. Boundaries

It may seem strange having boundaries as number 3 on the list but before you even step into your placement school, I suggest that you read through the behaviour policy clearly. If it’s not on the website, then ask for it. It’s much easier to implement boundaries when you know the common ones for the school that you are in. The inconsistency of boundaries leaves room for errors which leaves room for disruption. It’s much easier to have tight boundaries then release if needed than to do the reverse so ensure that you are crystal clear on these.

4. Consistency

With implementing the behaviour policy, you must ensure consistency. Not only consistency from yourself but also consistency from your staff. If you are lucky enough to have a support assistant within your class, then you need to ensure that you are both clear on your classroom rules. Constantly revisit this with your classroom staff as people’s opinions on behaviour can vary.

5. Positivity

Reward the behaviour that you want to see. I am not advocating extrinsic rewards e.g. stickers, positive notes home although they are a great way of communicating with home. This can be anything from a smile or verbal yet specific praise. It must be specific in order for the children to understand expectations so instead of saying ‘Well done’ then you can amend this to ‘Well done for showing kindness to Jenny’.

Enjoy your ITT year and make sure that you network. The colleagues that you link with will be pivotal to the rest of your career. Welcome to the best profession on earth!


Tracey Lawrence has been a primary school teacher for nine years, and is currently a SEMH specialist leader for education and Assistant Headteacher in a mainstream school in Leicestershire. An author and TES columnist, Tracey is a regular blogger and host of the popular #behaviourchat forum. Her new book, Practical Behaviour Management for Primary School Teachers (Bloomsbury Education) is due out in September. Follow her on Twitter @BehaviourTeach

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

Getting behaviour right from the start

From trainee to NQT – Lauren Gaisford

My PGCE has been a tough but exciting year. It’s affirmed and re-affirmed my faith in the profession and my career path, it’s taught me to be patient and made me see that I can learn so much from others, but most importantly, it’s taught me that every single teacher is different.

Embarking on your journey from trainee to NQT is difficult, it’s a tough year that no one can really prepare you for. However, here are six tips that should help you along the way:

1. Ask for help
The most important piece of advice I can give is to ask for help. Seriously, I know it seems simple, but it’s hard to do. Whether it’s asking for resources, asking for advice on lesson plans, or just needing someone to rant to, you must ask for help. No one is expecting you to be perfect, so use the people around you!
2. Use the resources that are already there
When you first start teaching classes, it can be hard to know where to start, it might even seem like you’ll have to re-invent the wheel - you don’t. Chances are, the school you are placed at will already have a set of resources for the topic you are teaching, use them! Even if it’s just as a starting point, or to see the progression of the topic through the term, it will help!
3. Take time for yourself
This one is hard to do, especially in the months where the work is getting on top of you. But you must save time for yourself. Yes, there will be days where this seems impossible, especially in the week, but try and spend a day or even just half a day at the weekend doing something for you. Get enough sleep and don’t stay up all night working – it will do more harm than good.
4. Don’t worry
Do not spend time worrying. It can feel like the worst thing in the world when a lesson goes wrong or you just have a bad day in general, but the best thing you can do is draw a line under it and move on, this year is a learning curve after all!
5. Start your folder as soon as possible
Don’t leave it until the last minute! As soon as you get your first piece of evidence, file it somewhere safe, put it in your folder and compile your evidence as you go along, trust me, your future self will thank you when its hand in time.
6. Enjoy it!
Make jokes, have a laugh with the children you teach, don’t take yourself too seriously and try to stay positive. It can be tough at times, but try to think about the positives of every day at school, instead of focussing on the negatives!


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My teacher training experience: part 2 – Stephen Pearce

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

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


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

3. What if I forget a student’s name?
You will, you’re human, and it's great opportunity to show it. What would you do if you forgot someone's name you haven’t seen in a while? You would ask, right? Same applies for students. Like-wise, what if you called Tim, Tom or Chris (yes sometimes you get it that wrong)? You as a teacher are a role model and students likely will have had this awkward social interaction happen their lives as well. Just apologize, again this humanises you and makes you more accessible to students. Do try and learn pupil’s names as it shows you care and is useful for engagement but it is not vital or something you should worry about.
4. How will I control a class of students?
Honestly, this is the most difficult one for a lot of teachers, new and experienced. Schools change policies frequently as everyone is trying to find something that works. Not every technique will transfer from class to class but the best advice I can give is try and be consistent. Fairness is important to students, so if you praise or warn a student for an action, you have to give that same praise or warning to the next student. You will find something that works for you, it may be frustrating at times but ultimately you will be fine and remember they are people too but they are only just starting to learn what appropriate action is and what is not. I’m sure you can think of something that you did at school that you would do very differently now.

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My teacher training experience: part 1 – Stephen Pearce

As the end of the PGCE course seems in sight, I have taken the opportunity to reflect on my experiences. If you are reading this you are probably at the same stage of your career or where I was last year, considering if this is what I want to do. If you are in the latter, please just do it, I won’t say you won’t have moments that you regret that decision but on the whole you will love it.
I am going to start off with one of the best things about the course. I started teacher training successively from an undergraduate course and your new classmates will seem very different. Mainly, you will notice the range in ages. This diversity means that your new classmates will have a variety of professional experience that you can learn from.
Honestly though, the other people on the course will be great for support and for letting off steam but your main asset on the course will be the more experienced teachers. Hopefully what convinced you to go into to teacher was a fond memory of a teacher you had or the thought that you can truly inspire young minds. If that's the case you will meet a lot of like-minded individuals who are doing exactly what you want to do the following year.
Teachers each have their own individual style and techniques but there is never anything new under the sun. You will steal what has come before but just add your own spin to it. That is while it is vital to see current teachers try and perfect their own teaching to try and analyse what they do and implement it.
My three top tips
  • More experienced will have their own style of marking and planning. This is a good year to experiment or create something that works for you. This likely won’t happen straight away, took my about two months before I was happy with how I was planning and the time it was taking me.
  • Each school is unique, try and learn as much as you can from the school you are at right now. It will be different from next school and to be employable you want to be seen as a chameleon that can work with everyone while simultaneously having a special set of skill that no one else applying will have.
  • Enjoy it! This is a job and quite a fun one but just as if I played FIFA all afternoon, eventually I’ll want to snap the disc. Have a life outside of the classroom and try to have friends outside of teaching. Groups of teachers often end up talking about teaching, why? Because one it's common ground and two we either love it or love to complain (usually a bit of both). If you have a hobby, make time for it. You need the time to switch off, you are human.
Hopefully I haven’t put anyone off so far. In part two of my blog I reflect on common worries and questions for teachers starting out.

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

As I reach the end of my teacher training, I’ve started to reflect on how far I’ve come. Deciding to apply for teacher training was a big step for me and I’ve had to overcome many challenges since starting but as the end draws nearer, I can see that it’s all been worthwhile.
I applied for teacher training whilst working as a Library Manager at an Upper School in Bedfordshire. I took the job straight after graduating with the hope of it leading to a teaching career. I spent the next two years in that job veering from one emotional extreme to the other; yes I was totally committed to working in education, no I absolutely did not want to work in education, and back and forth etc. This rollercoaster of emotions hasn’t abated since starting my training – you have days where you wonder if you’re really cut out for this, and then the next day you’re dancing around in front of your year 9s (as I am want to do) feeling pretty smug about how good you are at your job. I’m reliably informed that this feeling never really goes away either, but half the time, the excitement of not knowing what will happen next is what gets me out of bed each morning. And when you’re working with young people, you never can predict the outcome…
“We are in the business of changing lives” a colleague told me, and he’s right, but changing lives isn’t easy. What eventually made me commit to applying for teacher training was my need for a new challenge, and teaching provides you with new challenges on a daily basis. The first two years in teaching are the hardest, so if you can make it through this then you’ll be ready for anything. It’s OK to question if this is the right job for you, even after you start your training. Training is hard but your mentors and colleagues want you to become the best teacher you can possibly be so it’s always in your best interests to listen to the feedback they give and act upon it. If, in your darkest hours, you can still hold your head up and make it through the day, then you’re going to be fine. In fact, you’re probably going to be more than fine.
Ultimately what strikes me most about my training year is how far I’ve come in such a short space of time. I am a totally different teacher now to the one who started teaching only 9 months ago. The amount of progress you make in such a short space of time is staggering, and you will continue to grow and develop as a teacher every year in your job. That’s the beauty of teaching; you can never stop learning and you can never stand still (sometimes very literally when teaching a class of 30 eager year 7s!) Best advice I can give? Expect the unexpected and you’ll be prepared for anything.

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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.

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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


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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 wait 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

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.


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