School Experience

School experience is essential if you are interested in becoming a teacher. Before you apply for teacher training, you’ll need to gain as much experience in the classroom as possible in order to strengthen your application and prepare you for potential interviews.
 
The ‘Get into Teaching’ website (https://schoolexperience.education.gov.uk) runs the school experience programme, which offers prospective trainee teachers the chance to see what it’s like to be a teacher.
 
Spending time in a classroom is the ideal way to strengthen your application for teacher training. School experience gives you the chance to watch lessons and see for yourself what it’s really like to be a teacher – and allows you to draw on your own examples in your application and interview.
 

The school experience programme (SEP) is offered through the ‘Get into Teaching’ website and offers places to those wishing to commence initial teacher training.  Once you sign up to the ‘Get into Teaching’ website, you can request a School Experience placement in your locality.

 

Arranging your own school experience

Getting some experience in a school before you apply for teacher training will provide you with an invaluable insight into what teaching is really like through observing classes and shadowing teachers. It will also strengthen your application to your preferred training courses.

 

Whether you’re still studying or looking to fit it in around your work schedule, these eight tips on getting some classroom experience should come in handy.

Find the right school

You may need to contact a number of different schools in your area to arrange your school experience. The Edubase portal has a list of all the educational establishments in England and Wales, and can filter your search by education phase (primary or secondary) and location to quickly find a suitable school.

“It’s also worth contacting your old school as many schools are more receptive to requests from ex-students. You never know, some of your old teachers might even volunteer to show you around.”

Daniel Wilkins, English teacher

Do your homework

Don’t just send enquiries off to generic contact email addresses. Telephone the school in question and ask who would be best to contact. This varies from one school to another – sometimes it will be the person responsible for organising work experience, at others it could be a head of department.

Be flexible

Classroom experience may have to fit in around a school’s training placements, exams, and other activities. Schools might find it difficult to accommodate you if you only have fixed availability for a school visit.

Less is never more

The more time you spend getting experience in a school, the better. Most schools and universities expect you to have gained at least 10 days’ school experience before you start your teacher training course.

You can check on different schools’ and universities’ requirements for school experience when you search for courses on the UCAS Teacher Training website.

Ask your university

If you’re a student thinking about teaching, find out if there are any schemes led by your university. These can offer you the chance to gain some structured experience and school placements before you apply for teacher training. Depending on your degree, there may even be the option to complete a module that includes classroom experience at a local school.

Consider volunteering options

To improve your chances of gaining school experience, you could also offer to volunteer at a school – perhaps as an unofficial classroom assistant. Volunteering in general is a great opportunity to gain experience of working with children. You could also volunteer to work in a youth club or as a Scout or Guide leader.

A lot of volunteering opportunities, such as after-school clubs, sports coaching or youth schemes, take place during evenings or at weekends, so you can fit volunteering around your existing commitments.

Be patient and persevere

Schools are very busy places, so may not always reply immediately. They also have to be careful about welcoming visitors. Schools may require a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check as a matter of policy – so don’t leave things until the last minute as these can take four weeks or more to complete.

The time you spend in a school will be invaluable. You’ll gain a better understanding of how schools work, how you can fit into teaching, and important insights you can take into your training. It’ll also help you prepare the strongest application possible and get you fully prepared for the interview stage.

So while school experience may not always be easy to arrange, you can rest assured your efforts will always be worthwhile.

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