Five minutes with the employer – East One Partnership

Continuing the teaching theme from last week’s post, this week we speak to Iqra Bibi, who represented East One Partnership at the recent Teaching Fair on campus, and is currently undertaking a 5-11 PGCE at Fagley Primary School.

A profile picture of Iqra Bibi from East One Partnership

Iqra Bibi

Can you tell us about your experience of the PGCE course so far?

I was originally a teaching assistant at Fagley Primary School and absolutely loved working there due to its pleasant atmosphere and outstanding staff. As time went on, I acquired skills and great experiences which lead to the initial teacher training mentor to approach me and ask if I would be interested in the (5-11) PGCE course, as they saw potential in me to be a great teacher one day. After doing some research and speaking to other students, I took the plunge and applied for the course and have been enjoying it ever since.

The course started off with some university and lead school training at Fagley Primary School and Leeds Trinity University. I then went to complete my stage 1 placement in a Year 6 class at Thackley Primary school (which is one of the many schools in the East One Partnership). The experience I received there was amazing, and it was totally different to where I had worked before providing me a lot of new outlooks and strategies to use in my teaching in the future. During this course you have three placements in different year groups, based at two different schools. This is great as it’s very interesting to see how varied schools can be and so helpful when figuring out what works for you as a teacher. I’m currently back at my lead school (Fagley Primary School) to complete my stage two and three placements and the support I’m getting there is amazing! – I’ve been teaching many different subjects and been working with really well qualified teachers who have been giving me guidance. I think I’m on a good path at the moment.

What’s the structure of the course?

The course started in September and it starts off with a lot of training at the Uni (Leeds Trinity University) just to make sure that your subject knowledge is there, because most of the students including myself have been out of the education system for a while, so I was a bit nervous thinking “I’m going to start teaching primary school students but I’ve forgotten how to do things like fractions and division”, but the university and training school provides you with all of that, alongside practical information on teaching, which was a life saver!

I then started my first stage one placement, that lasts for about six to seven weeks up until to Christmas. From there we have a break and then an assignment is due – my assignment was based on inclusion in teaching, I had to focus on my teaching in stage one and how I was an inclusive practitioner. I had to provide examples of when and how I was inclusive in my teaching and elaborate on that. It seemed difficult in the beginning, but the university lectures were very informative.  After this I moved to Fagley Primary School for my stage two placement. The intensity of the course did build up a bit more – before I was just observing the class teacher to begin with and then teaching some Maths, English and other subjects, whereas now I have to be more independent with my planning and start teaching more lessons including extra-curricular subjects.

I’m now due to go back into university for a week of training, including information an assignment that’s coming up, and more training on teaching subjects such as computing, science, maths, and English. This is helpful as my stage two and three placements are in different year groups, so the more subject knowledge I have the better. After some training it’s the half term holidays soon, which is a great plus.

What do you think are the key skills for a teacher?

In my experience I have found that to be a great teacher you need to be passionate and enthusiastic to inspire a child. Children need to know that you want to make a positive difference to their lives. The smallest steps in teaching make the biggest differences and you’ll see that as time goes on. It is a challenging but very rewarding role. Positivity is what the children need.

Another thing that’s really helped me is organisation – if you’re not organised, you can become buried in paperwork, which isn’t the best feeling. There’s the teaching side of things where you’ve got to plan lessons and then the assignments where you’ve got to gain the knowledge and absorb it and elaborate on it. This can scare people, but it’s not too intense if you organise yourself and create a balanced routine.

Iqra and her colleague at the recent Teaching Careers Fair on campus

Iqra and her colleague at the recent Teaching Careers Fair on campus

What did the application process look like?

It was very simple. I was very surprised in the beginning as I was expecting pages and pages but the thing that needs attention is the personal statement.  You should outline what your previous experience is, why you want to teach and how are you going to make a difference to a child’s life.

Applications are open now and there’s a bit of time to apply to start in September.

Can you tell us about your career journey so far?

In terms of my career plans, teaching was nowhere in my thinking at all (even though my sister is also a teacher). I’ve always loved the social work side of things, helping families and children in challenging situations and went to Open University to pursue this. I wanted a job alongside my studies and saw a job advertised for a teaching assistant. It was a very difficult job in the beginning as I was a one-to-one assistant with an SEN (special educational needs) child. Prior to this I did volunteering in other schools to gain more experience. I was building my responsibilities, like helping the teacher out with interventions and building positive relationships with children and families and eventually my class teacher and friends encouraged me to apply for the PGCE course, and I‘m glad I did it!

What’s next for you?

My last assignment is due in May and if it all goes well with my placements, I get to throw my hat in the air when I qualify with QTS in June. There’s a lot of opportunities across the East One Partnership and I have built relationships in the schools I have done placements in, so hopefully I’ll find my first teaching role in one of the schools.

Thanks for your insights Iqra! Find more details of the opportunities available on the East One Partnership website.