Women’s Development Course 2020: National Education Union

At the start of this year I attended a two-day Women’s Development course with the National Education Union, celebrating the journey of women in history, with a particular focus on education. The themes included: ‘Celebrating the journey’, ‘Women at work and in society’, ‘Women’s rights at work’, ‘Tackling sexism and sexual harassment’, as well as enhancing our awareness and understanding of the work the NEU is doing to promote women’s rights. The most important part for me was networking with and learning from inspirational educators and leaders, and sharing our experiences as a network of women working to create safer and more inclusive spaces for all.

We started with activities focussing on the history and journey of women in society and the NEU over the last 150 years. The first activity allowed us to see the changing nature and the improvement of women’s rights in the UK. Examples included: the women who protested for the equal right to vote, the women from Dagenham who protested against unequal pay, a protest which directly led to the passing of the Equal Pay Act, Diane Abbott, the first Black woman member of Parliament, and Shirin Ebadi, the first Muslim woman to receive a Nobel Peace Prize. The activity also highlighted the endless work being carried out by women members of the NEU, in order to ensure there is more equal representation at the top. For example, the Women United roundtable held in 2003 at a Union meeting, where 97 women NUT members attended. It is clear the NEU is constantly doing more to ensure women teachers of all backgrounds are correctly represented.

We then moved on to discussing and learning about whether we really have equality in society today, and as we knew, there isn’t 100% equality present, however women are in a much better position today – and that is definitely worth celebrating! This activity was by far one of the most important ones of the training event, as it highlighted the fact that there is still a long way to go, in order to achieve full equality for all. We discussed the notion behind why 9th November 2015 was called the ‘Women’s No Pay Day’ – it signified the fact that when the gender pay gap is applied, women start to work for free while men get paid year-round. Another important take-away from this activity was that ‘Childcare’ is the poorest paying sector for apprenticeships, which generally attracts more women than men, compared to Construction and Engineering.

Throughout the course we also discussed barriers to girl’s education and how we could do more to tackle this.

The course allowed everyone to share any experiences of discrimination or judgement they had experienced or heard of. Allowing us to discuss policies implemented by the NEU to protect all women’s rights, such as a model menopause policy. An important part of the course was learning about the extent of Sexism in education, by learning about the research carried out by the NEU and UK Feminista. We were provided with a very informative yet easy-to-understand report on the different types of sexism experienced by students and teachers in UK schools, how this is reported, and what we can do to notice and eradicate this.

We were also provided with the latest NEU newsletter for Black North West NEU members, which included a detailed overview of the NEU Black Educator’s Annual Conference in 2019.

We were given time to discuss our plans to celebrate International Women’s Day 2020, all of which I will be including in my next blog post. It was enlightening to see the NEU views the rights of all of its members as equally important and worthy of being celebrated.

I came away feeling motivated, educated and ready to be a part of the campaign to improve all women’s rights in society and the education sector, especially because women make up the majority of the teaching workforce.

I’m glad I attended this course, as it allowed me to learn about the important work being carried out by the Union to champion the rights of women from all backgrounds, regardless of age, race and religion. It was empowering to be part of a group of women determined to break barriers and create more safer and inclusive spaces for all.

PGCE REFLECTIONS…

In this post I’ll be sharing my PGCE journey, for anyone who isn’t aware this stands for Post Graduate Certificate in Education; your passport to becoming a teacher. This post is for anyone who is thinking about teaching, particularly 14-19/ post-16 teaching.

I completed the PGCE at Edge Hill University, the first non-denominational teacher training college for women from 1885 until 1959, and in 2005 it was awarded taught degree powers and became Edge Hill University. It is one of the most-reknowned teaching universities in the UK, with a strong primary, secondary and Further Education professional teaching team. I was aware of a few people who had studied their PGCE at Edge Hill and had only heard good words, so knew that was the place I wanted to study at too.

As my course was focussed on teaching young people aged between 14-19 or 16+, my placements and the modules I studied were geared to this age range, however the course itself did not differ hugely to the secondary PGCE. I studied a total of 5 modules, which illustrated the journey of every PGCE student: The Developing Teacher, The Research-Informed Teacher, The Employable Teacher, The Outstanding Teacher and a year long Reflective Teacher module. The module titles are pretty much self-explanatory and when asked for feedback from my tutors about whether the content of each module reflected its title, I said it did, perfectly!

I think, historically, most Further Education/Post-16 PGCE students have wanted to teach either English and/or Maths, or the vocational subjects, such as Catering and Hospitality, Health and Social Care, Engineeeing, Construction, Health and Beauty courses and so on, therefore most placements were geared towards Colleges that offered these courses. However, there has been an increase in Post-16 PGCE students wanting to teach the A-level subjects too, such as Religious Studies/Religion & Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, Law…. the list could go on but you get the jist! Some of these subjects are now taught at GCSE level too, so a secondary PGCE could also work, but there are many teachers (myself included) who want to strictly focus on the Post-16 sector.

I was able to start the placement aspect of the course by the end of October. I spent a total of 4 months at a Sixth Form College in Warrington where I shadowed some excellent Religion and Philosophy specialists, as well as planned and delivered my own lessons. Both of my mentors at this College had different teaching styles, one mentor had taught a variety of Philosophy and History at University level in Australia before migrating to the UK where he started to teach in the Further Education sector. My other mentor was previously a secondary school teacher and now in Further Education. I was able to learn key elements from both of their teaching which I have managed to implement in my own lessons.

Throughout the year, I had 8 official observations and several informal observations too, so that I could maximise the amount of feedback I was receiving in order to constantly improve my teaching skills and understanding of the A-level specification. I also completed 30 hours worth of lesson plans, and plenty more paper work! (The PGCE is known for the amount of paperwork student teachers are required to complete).

I began applying for jobs from January onwards, and had lots of interview practice with my tutors and peers at University. In February 2018, I was informed of a fixed-term job, and after speaking with my mentors and university tutors, decided to accept the offer. This was by far one of the best decisions I made, as I was offered a full time contract in June 2018, and started my first official full time role as a lecturer of Religion and Philosophy in July 2018.

It is well-known that the PGCE course can be intense, you are training whilst more or less doing the equivalent (or more!) of a full time job without being paid! However, I can confirm that the PGCE year is NOT what your entire teaching career will be like. If, like me, you are a super organised individual, you may struggle at some points in the year, you will find at some points during the PGCE year that you feel out of your depth, like this is not the career for you, and that it isn’t getting any better. However, I and the 1000s of other teachers in this field can confirm that it does get better.

There were, of course, some not-so-good moments throughout the year – I will be sharing some of these in a future article, as we all know the life of a teacher is most definitely not a walk in the park. However, there are by FAR, more great moments that I cherish. I always try to view the challenging times as lessons that can teach me new approaches to teaching, as well as help build my confidence, resilience and character. I am at the very start of my career, and hope that these challenges will shape my career for me.

So, there it is, my PGCE journey! If anyone has any questions, please do not hesitate to drop me a message on this post. I would also love to read about your journey and for those who are considering teaching, I hope this post has helped a little!

My story!

Welcome to my blog!

In this post I thought I would share with you my journey to becoming a teacher of Religion and Philosophy.

I have been intrigued by the importance of Religion and Theology from studying GCSE RE; I more or less knew then that I would one day teach this subject and aim to become just half the teacher my inspiring GCSE RE teacher was.

After my GCSEs I went on to study A-level Religion and Philosophy, alongside English Language, History and Politics and then undergraduate and Masters degrees in Religion, Culture and Society (the best decision I made!). After this, I spent a year working in an independent secondary school, shadowing subject teachers and members of the Senior Leadership team in order to really understand the life as a teacher, although I knew working in a state school would differ to an independent one.

In September 2017 I started my journey to becoming a qualified A-level teacher, as I knew A-level teaching was the one for me – what drove me to teaching at this level was a culmination of the maturity levels of students and their understanding of this topic in the contemporary world, the scope of the specifications and the chance to really engage with key topics and issues at this level with 16-18 year olds! It was at this age that I had decided to become a teacher and I relished the opportunity to inspire young people at this age.

I graduated from my PGCE course (more on this in the next post!) in July 2018 having already secured a full time position at a Sixth Form College.

So here we are today… a couple of years into my teaching career I decided it was the right time to create a blog where I would pen down my journey, thoughts and experiences of being an RE teacher. Over the next few posts, I will be sharing key points from my first year of teaching, hopefully to help any new teachers starting out in their career. I would love for you to send me a message with your thoughts and to share your experiences too. I will be focussing on Religious Studies and Philosophy as much as possible, as I believe we need to be discussing this subject now more than ever!

In the following post, I’ll be sharing my PGCE journey and any words of advice for those starting their own teaching journey.

Thank you for reading!