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Joe Nicholson – Computer Science – Cohort 2018

One of the requirements of completing teacher training is to have exposure to teaching at a second school. My training provider, e-Qualitas, recommend/insist that you do an extended placement at a ‘contrasting’ school for 6-8 weeks, i.e., a full half term. I know that several of the 2018 cohort who did ARK Teaching Training did much shorter spells in other ARK schools, however I found a complete change of environment very useful. 

When training in an inner-city co-ed London school, the definition of a ‘contrasting school’ for me was either a single sex faith school or an independent school. My training school did not have experience with e-Qualitas and did not have links to other placement schools, so I organised a placement myself through my own contacts. I was able to find a place at an independent boys school in South London, where I spent the half term after Christmas until mid-February. The experience was transformational. 

Prior to leaving for my second placement, I did an e-Qualitas learning sequence with the Year 11 group and there was a germination of a seed that “I might be able to teach”. At my second school, this seedling flourished into something that convinced me a) that I could teach and b) I could teach A-Level. During my second placement I taught: 

  • KS3 (Year 7 and 8) Informatics: Microbitscode.org and some word processing 
  • KS4 (Year 10) iGCSE Boolean logics gates and boolean arithmetic 
  • KS5 (Year 12) Floating Point Numbers 
  • KS5 (Year 13) Graph Traversal and shortest path algorithms 

The whole process stretched me – from new systems, operating the photocopier, using online classroom environments to differentiation for a much higher range of wellbehaved classes. The pace of lessons was much higher than my training school, as the underlying/default behaviour was better. Much of the curriculum material was new to me – I had never formally studied floating point number representation or Dijkstra’s shortest path algorithm and had to stand up in front of sixth formers and sound convincing! My badge of recognition came early on, when one of the students said “Thank you for the lesson, Sir” – apparently a complement only meted out to “real teachers”. 

  

I went into the second school placement thinking that I would absolutely love the second school and that would be where I wanted to work for the rest of my (short) teaching career. I ended up really enjoying the experience, but also missing the kids at my training school. The real benefit to me was the realisation of the type of environment I wanted for my NQT year: 

  • Teaching lots of GCSE 
  • Teaching A-Level 
  • Teaching in schools where the underlying default behaviour is better 

I chose to not remain at my QTS school due to lack of opportunities to teach A-level, which I very much enjoyed during my second placement. This guided my filtering on TES and prompted me to get an NQT role at Wallington County Grammar School – a state grammar school with a strong group of 60 boys at GCSE and a mixed Year 12 cohort of 30 A-level students. 

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