It’s been a tough year for LJMU’s six hundred or so trainee teachers, but they will be uniquely skilled, argues Jan Rowe.
"When our students started on the road to New Qualified Teacher status at the start of September 2020, they knew that they were embarking on a journey unlike any other.
"Although schools had reopened, Covid-19 cases on Merseyside remained high, and, after a brief few days on campus, their LJMU programme moved fully on-line and has remained virtual throughout the year.
"Thanks in no small part to the strength of our partnerships with schools, and In line with our commitment to them, all trainees have nonetheless attended their placements.
"For our postgraduate students, school experience started with four days a week in the Autumn term and increased to five days a week from the 4th of January until February half term, (the lockdown period for schools). This also coincided with the placement for our final year Undergraduate cohort, who had started their final school placement in October.
"Even after schools closed to all but those deemed vulnerable or the children of key workers, 50% of secondary and 90% of primary student teachers continued teaching in schools. 95% of secondary trainees and 60% of primary have also taught classes remotely from their own homes.
Following a further period of LJMU training, and now that schools have returned to full opening, our trainee teachers are back in their classrooms and the vast majority are on track to successfully complete and to qualify to teach by the end of June.
The resilience of this cohort and their contribution to their adoptive schools have been widely commended by headteachers across the North West. Adaptability and teamwork have been paramount to schools functioning effectively and such skills have become part of our trainees’ learning experience.
Moreover, this is a cohort which has faced challenges like no other and will be uniquely skilled.
For a start, they will have had a lot of training in using technology effectively and a fair amount of experience of teaching remotely, which is an increasingly essential aspect of a teacher’s practice. This will place them at an advantage as schools look to recruit new staff with an understanding of a blended school curriculum offer. They are also well-positioned to judge effective on-line teaching and learning strategies; the best practice offered by the LJMU Initial Teacher Training team and its partner schools has offered a positive model for them to follow.
Power of teaching
I also believe, having had this experience of stop-start schooling, they have seen the crucial importance of being in school and the influence that the teacher-pupil relationship can have on young lives. This will give them a stronger sense of the power of teaching and their own vocation. Although it has been hard, student teachers have seen schools at their best and felt more intensely part of the school community than in previous years.
As we acknowledge these benefits, we must not however forget that trainees have not had a uniform experience and their learning has often been interrupted by a need to self-isolate or bubble closures.
This may mean that as NQTs they need a little more time to develop and reassuring mentoring support, but it is incumbent on school teams to explain to them that it is normal to feel unprepared, and that they are not at a disadvantage (on the contrary!)
Lucky to have them
Every student in every year group feels that he or she is not ready to take on their first teaching position. Although their experience has been different to the norm, this cohort will be just as, if not more, ready, they just don’t know it yet.
What is also certain is that the Class of 20-21 will make a big impact on the teaching profession when they secure their first posts. They truly will be able to cope with whatever their professional future holds, and schools will be lucky to have their enthusiasm and expertise.
If you or a member of your family are thinking about going into teaching, come visit us here
Jan Rowe is Head of Initial Teacher Education at Liverpool John Moores University.