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UCAS Teacher Training's blog

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

Changes to the professional skills tests









The Department for Education has announced that from 14 February 2018, there will be changes to the professional skills tests, and all of these benefit you!

  • You’ll be able to take unlimited resits, and will no longer be locked out for two years if you don’t pass. Candidates who were locked out have had the lock removed.
  • You can attempt both the numeracy and literacy tests three times, free of charge. A charge will only be applied from the fourth test attempt for each subject.
  • If you took one – or both – of the above tests for a second or third time between 24 October 2017 and 14 February 2018, you’ll be entitled to a full refund.

Refunds will be issued automatically by 31 March 2018. If you haven’t received a refund by then, call learndirect on 0300 303 9613 and they can look in to this.

Need more advice on the professional skills tests? Check out our blog post or the Get Into Teaching website for more information.

If you have any further queries, please get in touch on Facebook or Twitter.

Three ways to engage students from day one – Jon Tait









100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Engaging Learners

There was a time when as a new teacher entering the profession, the first and most important piece of advice you heard from an experienced colleague was… don’t smile until Christmas! This was meant to make you a tough nut to crack in the classroom, and show your students that you were not to be messed with. However, times have changed and more teachers now live by the rule that you need to build strong and positive relationships with students if you want to get the best out of them. Ruling by fear will only get you so far, and will never get students to run through brick walls for you and give you their very best.

From compliance to engagement…

When I speak to teachers in my own school and others that I support in, or in my professional networks, I often ask them if they’ve got compliance or engagement from the students that they teach. Experienced classroom practitioners know that the two are very different from each other, but might be mistaken for one another by the uneducated eye. You might need to generate compliance to begin with especially if you work in challenging settings, but you very quickly need to move to engagement if you are going to stick around for the long haul.

Demanding compliance all the time when the students are not engaged can be a painstaking and extremely tiring experience. Nine times out of ten you’ll leave the classroom feeling exhausted because you’ve been working far harder than the students. On the other hand, when you’ve got a class truly engaged and you’ve built up high-quality relationships with them, teaching can feel like a doddle. Students hang off your every word, want to please you, take pride in their work, and generally love sharing an hour in your company. For every one of us entering the profession it takes some time to reach this utopia, but when you do, you’ll never look back.

Try these three strategies to engage your students and see if you can start moving just past compliance

1) Make it relevant
Far too often students ask ‘What’s the point of this?’ because they fail to see the relevance of what they are doing. You need to make your subject content relevant to your students so that they can engage in it.

Relevance to young people is key if you want them to really buy into what you are doing. They need to feel that it ‘has a point’ and that it’s going to benefit them. Many teachers in many subjects have had to cover content that is seemingly meaningless to the young people of today for too long. However, the shift towards a more skills-based curriculum in many subjects has given teachers more license than ever to use content and scenarios that are relevant to today’s children, so that they can engage them in their learning far more easily.

My top tips for making your subject content more relevant are:

  1. Find out the interests of your students and what makes their boat float.
  2. Use these topics or interests to build your lesson around.
  3. Get your students to demonstrate the skills that you have been teaching them, with the topic they are interested in.
If you ask a disengaged student to write a two-page essay on Macbeth to demonstrate their knowledge and effective use of subordinate clauses, you’ll probably get some resistance. By simply changing the emphasis, and asking them to write a two-page review of their favourite film, ensuring they demonstrate the correct use of subordinate clauses, you’ll probably find a much warmer response.

2) Make it real
Authentic learning experiences are crucial if we want students to really feel their learning. These are the moments that students make deep learning connections, and the moments that they will remember long after leaving your classroom.

We can all get students to learn from a book or via a YouTube clip, or even retell a story that has been passed on between many mouths. But get someone to talk to your students about a personal experience, or someone (even you) that can share emotions that are linked to a story, then you start to create a magical learning environment that students can really relate to.

Students remember real people, they remember real stories and they certainly remember real emotions. Whenever you can, try to tap into real people who can give authentic accounts of parts of your syllabus. You could talk about hurricanes in Geography, but imagine the extra engagement if you could get somebody to tell the real story of when they had to leave their home and run for safety in the eye of a storm!

You can also make subject content real by linking your lessons to things that are happening in the real world. Linking your subject to a big story that is happening in the world will not only engage the students into their learning that they now believe to be real, but it will also provide you with many opportunities to use the countless quotes, photos, videos and articles that are freely available on the internet.

3) Make it local
There are so many ways in which you can make your subject become even more real to your students, by linking it to something local. If your students understand the context and it is part of their local or family heritage, then there is far more chance of significant engagement by not just the student, but the whole family. Every town or village has history, culture and newsworthy events happening all the time. If you can use this to provide the subject content or context in your lessons, then you’ll be on to a winner with the whole community.

The best example of this I have ever seen was an example that Ron Berger
wrote about in his book An Ethic of Excellence. Ron talks about how his students had to do a project on water clarity, and it fit in perfectly with an issue that the town was having with radon testing. The students carried out experiments on the town’s water and even wrote a comprehensive report for the town council into what the town needed to do in order to make the water safe for consumption by the local residents.

The beauty of this project was that all of the students lived in the town, so their report was going to actually benefit the lives and wellbeing of their own families. The motivation to do well went through the roof! Imagine if your own students got involved in a project about their own town or school. Why not check your local council website to see what’s going on?

These top three strategies for engaging students in the classroom are an extract from Jon’s book ‘100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Engaging Learners’ that is published by Bloomsbury Education. You can follow Jon on Twitter @TeamTait

I used to be in awe of the teachers at my school – Ben Caven

I had a crisis around my 25th birthday. I was working in sales and wasn’t getting any job satisfaction. I wanted to do something worthwhile and working with young people seemed like a natural choice.
I’ve been working at Ark Putney Academy as a Teaching Assistant for a year. When I decided I wanted to work with young people, I approached Putney because it was my old school! I still knew some of the teachers and it was a setting I could relate to, it helped that I could picture myself in that school environment.
Being a TA at Putney has been great. I’ve been offered so much support and was always made to feel part of the team. When I first started, I was in awe of the teachers, but then as the year progressed I started to see the value I could add and began to think “I could do this.”
As soon as I started thinking about training to teach, it seemed like the most obvious thing in the world. It was a natural progression from what I’d already been doing and everyone at my school was really encouraging.
I’ve felt a lot of support throughout the process. The training programme with Ark sounded great and it was very clear. I knew exactly what the route would be and what it would look like.
I’m looking forward to putting what I learnt at summer school into practice. Prior to starting my training, I would just imitate what other teachers did, now I already have a better understanding of the theory behind teaching. There’s no doubt it was incredibly helpful having been a TA for a year, but summer school has been a great crash course, I feel like I’ve learnt everything I need to know to get started!
This was originally posted by Ark Teacher Training and is published with kind permission.

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My top five teacher training tips – Frankie Barrington


As an NQT, my first full year of teaching seems to have flown by. It's been a busy year, and I still find myself thinking “Wow, I'm actually a teacher now!” I trained through a School Direct route which put me right in the centre of school life from day one. I had training in Reception, Year 3 and Year 6, and I am now the very proud teacher of a Year 2 class. In light of my training period coming to a close, here are some tips that I have put together to inspire anyone who is about to take the leap into the best profession in the whole world.

1. Be prepared
In the world of teaching, organisation is key. I would recommend buying a USB with a large memory, and also splashing out on a portable hard drive. This allows you to back up everything. I keep every lesson that I ever teach, labelled so that I can find it easily if I ever need it again. Also, get a good, sturdy diary and use this to help you balance your time. My biggest help during the summer leading up to my training year, was Sue Cowley’s How to Survive Your First Year in Teaching. This book is fantastic in preparing you for the start of life as a teacher. She has also written a book called Getting the Buggers to Behave which brings me onto my second point…

2. Know your behaviour policy
As someone who has found behaviour management challenging, I know that the behaviour in your classroom can be a make or break factor in your lessons and observations. It is a good idea to read your school’s behaviour policy very carefully to make sure that you are able to apply rewards and sanctions consistently and as they are intended. If you do find yourself in a school where the behaviour management policy is minimal, don't be afraid to introduce rewards systems for individual pupils (after discussing with your mentor) or to try different approaches. Some approaches work well for one class but will have no effect on another. It's all about being flexible, and getting to know the children.

3. Try new things
Don't ever be afraid to try something new in the classroom. Just because you're a trainee teacher, it doesn't mean that your contributions and ideas are not valid. Are you experienced in using an iPad? Introduce it into your lessons. Have you thought of a school trip that would fit perfectly with a topic that you are teaching? Suggest it to your mentor. Some of my best observations have come from trying something new. Sometimes a trainee or someone who is new to a setting can provide a fresh perspective.

4. Share, share, share! 
In teaching, ideas get passed around and shared again and again. Sitting down to plan a lesson can sometimes end up in re-inventing the wheel. Be sure to check sites like Twinkl and TES for resources that could knock hours off of your planning time. If you do your training in a number of different settings then I would recommend asking in each setting if they would allow you to copy planning and resources from their school network onto a USB. You never know what year you might end up teaching so having a bank of plans and resources that you can tweak is really helpful. Similarly, if you make a resource or plan a lesson/scheme that has worked really well then share it on resource sites and with other teachers in your school.

5. Don't be too hard on yourself! 
As anyone in the education field will know, teaching is tough. There are days when you blame yourself for everything, and there are days when you feel on top of the world. There are days when everything bobs along nicely and there are days where you feel stretched so thin that you're sure you'll never ping back into shape. On all of those days, take one look at the children that you do all of this for. Remember the child that didn't speak a word of English on their first day and now won't stop talking. Take a moment to think about the children who say “I want to be just like you when I grow up.” You are doing all of this so that you can help and inspire young people, and you are doing it brilliantly. You are only human, and there is no such thing as a perfect teacher!


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Find out more about preparing for teacher training

How to prepare for your UCAS Teacher Training interview

So you’ve sent your teacher training application, but what happens next? You’ll hear back from the training providers within 40 working days of submitting your application.

Before you can be offered a place on a programme, you’ll need to attend an interview. Although interviews may appear daunting, a bit of preparation can go a long way.

Check out our top tips to help you prepare.

Show off your qualities.

Training providers will be looking for a number of qualities to see if you’d make a good teacher, such as:

passion – show you care about teaching
confidence – and being respectful towards children
professionalism – in both your mindset and the way you conduct yourself
personality – this can easily be reflected in how you present yourself, so dress smartly
energy – enthusiasm is infectious
resilience – being a teacher can be tough, so you'll need to show you're up to the task
understanding the commitments involved in  teaching – even the most prepared interviewees can be nervous about some things. It'll be fine as long as you demonstrate how you can overcome this in order to succeed

Prepare for the types of questions you’ll be asked.

Interviewers will ask you a range of questions, such as:

asking you to demonstrate an understanding of what helps children to learn
why you’ve picked a school-based/university-based route
what you’ve learnt from your experience in schools
your understanding of the subject you’ll be teaching – take a look at the national curriculum before your interview

It’s a good idea to start thinking of answers to the above questions, and examples that demonstrate what would make you a great teacher.

Need some more inspiration? Check out this video on how to prepare for your teacher training interviews.

Good luck at your interview!
Please let the training providers know if you’re unable to attend an interview. They may be able to reschedule this to a more convenient time.

If you have any questions about your UCAS Teacher Training application, check out all the advice on You can also get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter who’ll be more than happy to help.

I always wanted to teach, but life happened – Tracey Brown

I had always known I wanted to teach, and it had always been in my mind to find a way to get into the classroom. But life happened and I found myself working in a bank for 18 years, dreading going into work. One day I decided to do something about it. At that stage I didn’t have a degree, so I started by going to evening classes to try and find a subject I was interested in. It wasn’t until I took an evening class in Biology that I even considered science. I took my HNC and then secured a place at university studying Biomedical Science. Having completed that, I was offered a funded Masters and eventually I did a PhD. 
All the while I was learning, I was still aware that the ultimate goal was to teach and during my PhD I secured a place on SCITT programme. Unfortunately my situation changed, and I realised that paying to train wasn’t an option. I came across Teach First and went along to the Milkround Presentation at the Newcastle University campus – and immediately decided to apply. Having my training funded and going into a school where I would really be needed definitely appealed to me. 
I had lots of support throughout my application process, right through until I finished my training. I remember having a particularly difficult period during the Summer Institute, whilst training in my local area. I had a complete panic, I had kids at home and I was away from them – I thought ‘I can’t do this!’ But there were lots of people to speak to, giving me gentle encouragement and advice and I just kept going. Taking it day by day, using the support systems in place and even just knowing that there were people who were there to help me through it was reassuring.
I’m now in my third year, I stayed on in the school I was placed in through Teach First and my job couldn’t be more different from working in that bank. I can say that 90% of the time I love my job, and in comparison I remember quite literally hating the idea of going in to my old job. I used to dread it. I love my job now, and yes I have a huge work load, but it’s so rewarding.
My highlight from the last three years was in my second year. I had a really low ability year 11 Additional Science class who were really struggling.  We were set to do a lesson on the heart, and instead of working through diagrams on a Power Point – I contacted a local butcher and organised for him to save me a batch of pigs’ hearts.  We dissected the hearts in class and every single person got involved somehow.  They were all engaged with the subject, and energised by it for the first time. They were the only class to experience working on a real heart – it was the talk of corridors. Another teacher even asked to use the spare hearts I had left over, his pupils were envious. 
I think that’s when I first learned a really valuable teaching lesson – not to rely on Power Points too much. It’s easy to go into minute details and over-plan. Good lessons need to be flexible, which is really hard to do when you first start teaching, but you need to be able to work with your pupils and accept you might need to adjust your plans to keep them engaged.

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Shane and Janie share their stories about why they chose a career in teaching:

I can think of no career more rewarding – Rachel Mowbray

Prior to starting my training with Ark, I was a Captain in the British Army Intelligence Corps. During my service, I worked with vulnerable people from across the world. What I witnessed during my time in Helmand, Afghanistan, was a society where children were born into mostly hopeless futures. Futures where basic security was absent, hospital care limited and education non-existent for most. At home in Britain, I can think of no career more rewarding than one that is dedicated towards offering a fair chance and future for our next generation.

While there are many other teacher training providers, for me, Ark’s mission of giving every young person, regardless of background, a great education meant that I could take forward the sense of purpose I had serving in the Army into my next career.

Having just finished summer school, what really stood out the most were my fellow trainees and the sense of camaraderie that quickly developed; being with a like-minded group of people, with an assortment of fantastic achievements already behind them, was very inspiring. As a complete teaching novice, I found the training that we received was easily digestible and hugely supportive.

I am looking forward to taking the techniques and lessons from summer school forward into the classroom and really getting to know my year ones.


This was originally posted by Ark Teacher Training and is published with kind permission.

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Gabrielle and Tom share their stories about why they chose a career in teaching:

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

From teaching assistant to qualified teacher – Tom Savagar

Training later on in life – Ness Cohen


I went into teacher training at 34, which was ten years after I originally thought about doing. However, for me, it was far better timing to have trained later on in life. I believe that there are pros and cons to training at various ages, but for me, I entered into the profession with a lot of life experience behind me, having been fortunate enough to do a lot of travelling and seasons living in the French Alps I have the ability to offer pupils an insight into potential life adventures and hopefully inspire them to want to explore the world and a variety of careers.

I believe that the SCITT programme I completed was the best pathway for me into teaching and am a strong advocate for this route. It offers a gentle approach into teaching that isn't weighed down with too much paper based university assignments. 

I happened to teach six subjects in my training year which is unusual, but I do feel that it has proved the possibility to be multi-disciplinary and that subject variety can really motivate a trainee to be diverse from the beginning of their teaching career. This can be an advantage as once you become a qualified teacher you can be asked to teach various subjects.

I originally wanted to teach Art at college level, but after research I realised that there were redundancies in further education. I then looked at secondary level but there wasn't any financial help for Art, so I trained in Design Technology (having obtained a degree in Art & Design). In a large school, such as the one I trained at, there are several subjects in a D&T department, enabling me to teach several subjects. I quickly realised that I was best at Food Technology (having cooked in ski chalets in the French Alps for two years I had the experience behind me to be competent enough in this subject and it fuelled me to become passionate about food and cooking). My Food Technology mentor urged me to follow a path into specialising in this subject.

After applying for a couple of design jobs, I realised that my passion lay in food and so I applied for two jobs to teach this and got the second one, which is at a small, local grammar school. It has been a fortunate first teaching post, and there are plus points to working in private schools, for instance extra holidays and a more relaxed atmosphere.

My NQT year so far has been tough but manageable and helped by having picked the most suitable subject and working for a really great school.


Feeling inspired?

Find out more about becoming a teacher.

UCAS Teacher Training: Before you apply

You can apply for teacher training programmes in England and Wales from 26 October. Here are some tips to help you prepare.
Get your certificates ready
You need to enter your GCSEs and A levels (or equivalent) on your application, as well as your degree. Dig out all your certificates so you know your grades and the awarding bodies.
For your degree, you need to enter the modules you completed, or are in the process of completing, that make up your final grade. If you’re not sure what they are, speak to the uni you studied at – they should be able to tell you.
Prepare your personal statement
Your personal statement can be a maximum of 4,000 characters or 47 lines of text, whichever limit you hit first. While you’re waiting for Apply to open, get ahead by drafting your personal statement in a word processor, so you’re ready to copy and paste it into your application.
Check out our personal statement advice to help you compose the perfect personal statement.
Think about your referees
You need two references before you can submit your application. If you’re still at uni or got your degree in the past five years, one reference must be from someone at your university who can comment on your academic ability and potential. Neither of your referees can be a family member or friend. Familiarise yourself with how the reference process works so you know what to expect.

Get in touch with your chosen referees as soon as you can to ask if they’re happy to write you a reference. It’s also worth sending them a link to our
advice on how to write a UCAS Teacher Training reference.
Sign up for our UCAS Teacher Training info pack
Our free online pack is full of all the info and advice you’ll need to complete your UCAS Teacher Training application – sign up now!
If you have any questions about applying to teacher training programmes, check out our website or send us a message on Facebook or Twitter.

From PGCE to NQT – Karishma Raja

I moved to China straight after graduating and taught abroad for two years before applying for my PGCE course at UCL Institute of Education (IoE). I chose this course because I enjoy the academic side as opposed to going through another route. I’m now looking forward to starting my NQT year.

Interview tips

  • Make sure you brush up on your subject knowledge, they will test you. You should bring in your own experiences of what happened at school and what inspired you.
  • Usually the university will give you tips and a brief of what you need to know and bring, but going the extra mile - showing how much you care, and how you are willing to learn - will help you nail the interview.
  • In addition to this, it is important to be calm and relaxed, and enjoy the interview. You will get to meet new people on the day, so talk to them, and get to know about their experiences.

Teacher training tips

  • You usually get one day of seminars and the rest in a school. This was the way I wanted it as you are supported and you get to understand the pedagogy side of it. We have had some of the best talks given to us at university and this had provided invaluable information to us.
  • Remember if you choose this route to expect a multitude of lectures and seminars, these are all very engaging. At UCL IoE, we had voice trainers where we were all singing in our lecture, in addition to this, we have had professors that have come from around the world and all over the UK and have had them give us advice and opinions. I also set up a twitter account @MissEconomics for the student body to keep updated with work, and also pointing them to the right articles.
  • Talk to the people you meet on your course (if you choose a PGCE course) and pool your resources together. In addition to this, plan your lessons with someone else, and see what ideas you may come up - don’t be stingy about it! Remember, this profession does entail sharing.
  • What I learnt was to make your resources from scratch, although it may be tempting to use what has been produced. It works out a lot better to build your own as you’ll be able to cut down the time you spend planning.
  • In class, keep things current and up to date - talk about the new Ed Sheeran album and keep students interested, bring your life into it. I certainly did with my travels and discussed the pollution I faced when I was working in China. I brought in real life examples as much as I could with the cars in China and how they are regulated on number plates, then relating it to government policy and how that affects China as a society and their quality of life.


Feeling inspired?

Find out more about becoming a teacher.