“What? Why? That doesn’t make sense when you’re training to become a Scottish Primary Teacher?” – A common response when I explain to my friends and family that my second year placement cannot be within a Scottish primary school. At first I shared a similar opinion, studying Languages and Science and Mathematics modules, then going to a workplace where we couldn’t reflect upon our learning in a practical setting seemed like a waste of time. However as we have progressed throughout the year, and the placement is becoming closer, this idea has changed dramatically and I cannot seem to contain my excitement about the amazing opportunity I am about to experience.
The University of Dundee is unique for having the Learning from Life module. The placement aims to broaden the horizons of student teachers whilst developing transferable skills for teaching and learning. Indeed the 2015-2016 Handbook states,
“This module aims to:
- enable students to integrate and extend their knowledge and transferable skills in educational work through practical application in a workplace setting;
- complement and extend students’ knowledge and skills developed in Educational Studies and Pedagogical Studies;
- provide opportunities for making connections between teaching and learning in different educational settings and working collaboratively;
- help prepare students for effective transition into the workplace;
- build confidence in key skills.”
Over the next two months I am hoping to use my blog as a reflective tool for placement in addition to my portfolio. Therefore it seemed appropriate, now that all of my assignments have been completed, to explain the content of my placement and justify why I chose the setting. I must add that due to the nature of my placement, the content that I am allowed to publish online is restricted therefore I cannot mention names of the school or staff.
I will be travelling down to England to work in a Children’s Centre for 6 weeks. The Children’s Centre combines the local community primary school and a primary special school and also houses nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech and language in one integrated building. I am fortunate to be working across all of the areas mentioned above and I will discuss the outline of my placement later in this post.
Additional Support Needs (ASN) is an aspect of education that is not covered, in-depth, within the MA Education course at Dundee University. Within a recent Interagency module, we covered the area slightly but the aim of the module was primarily to discuss how all agencies work collaboratively to improve outcomes for children. I found it of paramount importance to learn about ASN prior to graduation so I could gain an understanding of the individual need and strategies to support the child.
I had contact to the school through family who live in the surrounding area, and I am very lucky to be staying with family for the duration of the placement. The setting seems like to perfect place to learn about ASN and also gain an understanding of how the different professionals work collaboratively in the integrated building. I think it is important for me to see interagency working in action as it will enhance my understanding of the Interagency module content.
When contacting the school, I provided the Head Teacher with my proposal form that included my aims for the placement. I specifically looked through the GTCS Standards for Provisional Registration when identifying these aims to highlight aspects that I felt had not been addressed in much depth. My aims are:
- “Exploring special needs education through observation, professional dialogue and academic reading [which] will enhance my understanding of the needs of the pupils and the impact this has on curriculum content, communication and assessing academic progress etc. (SPR, 2.1.1; 2.1.2). Within my placement I would also like to gain experience teaching in a special needs classroom in order to continue developing my teaching and incorporating my new knowledge into planning.
- Through the assimilation of the two schools I will learn how to facilitate inclusive learning by liaising with the specialist teaching team and the community school teaching team. I am intrigued to investigate how the National Curriculum differs to the Federation’s ‘Learning Challenge curriculum’ and how this was created to develop an understanding of the processes of curriculum design and developing contexts for learning. (SPR, 2.1.1; 2.1.3)
- Several professions work on-site at … including speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and social work. I would like the opportunity to work closely alongside the different professionals in order to gain a better understanding of their roles in promoting the well-being of every child and how interdisciplinary practice is achieved in the learning community. (SPR, 2.2.2; 3.1.5)”
In November I went to visit the school to see the building, meet the staff and pupils and discuss the plan for my placement with the Head Teacher. I was astounded at the facilities available within the building and the layout of the school. In addition to classrooms specified to the childrens’ needs and areas for various shared activities, the schools share a multi-sensory theatre with bubble tubes, vibrating wall pads, projectors and a soft play area neighbouring it. There is a sports hall with physiotherapy facilities such as a heated pool. I am keen to see how these are used in practice and how they enhance the learning and teaching experiences for children. However the ethos of the school was the one aspect of the Children’s Centre that left the biggest mark. There is a really strong sense of community that exists within the pupils, staff and volunteers in the centre and I was able to see that in an hour walking around the school!
My Next Steps…
With all this in mind I will now begin to construct my portfolio. For each area I intend to complete a daily ROTR task, similar to first year placement. ROTR tasks include Reading, Observation, Talking and Reflecting on a specific subject. Therefore I must carefully select a topic for each day and consider discussion points and questions; highlight areas for observation and begin exploring academic literature.
In addition to ROTR, weekly reflections, and blog posts, I am hoping to do a research project over the duration of the week surrounding the safeguarding of children and critically analysing the difference between Every Child Matters and Getting It Right for Every Child. I think this will be beneficial for me as it will require me to gain an in-depth understanding of both policies and raise an awareness of potential facilitators and barriers to safeguarding children.
I am looking forward to sharing my experiences on my blog. Please feel free to comment – any suggestions for resources or reflection points would be appreciated!!