PSHE/Citizenship/Personal Development. A subject with many titles. 

When I joined my current school, I received my timetable through and it had two periods a fortnight which just contained a code of letters and numbers. I emailed back and they stated it was their ‘project’ subject. As the year went on I learnt that this was their PSHE subject, it was taught as projects to bridge the gap between primary and secondary. 

Over the course of the year I taught year seven about: staying safe, different style of reading, how to be healthy, careers and a business module. My class were fine, the lesson was fine, the subject was overall fine. 

Then came November and the Paris terrorist attack. I created a short PowerPoint about what happened for form tutors. I sent it to SLT and I couldn’t believe their shock. They had never created something like this. Unfortunately since then there have been several power points. However, students are now ready for a conversation. A colleague told me that her year ten tutor group ask the morning after an attack ‘are we going to work through what Miss Nolan sent us?’ They’re so used to it now. 

We have started stronger communications with parents. We sent home a copy of the PowerPoint and the guide from the PSHE association on how to talk about attacks. If we think it’s a difficult topic to talk about, I can’t even imagine how parents feel. 

Then came October 2016, on the vacancies board the role of ‘Personal Development Lead’ came up. I went in with a two year plan for each year group. I explained how I would fit in British Values, PSHE and citizenship. The headteacher told me in my feedback that as far as he was aware he was giving me a job that I was already doing. 

So I’m eight months in to the job and so far we have: 

  • Held a self harm production for year nine. 
  • Had teacher training on self harm 
  • Supported 17 children who came to us after the production. 
  • CV writing sessions with year ten. 
  • Mental Health workshops with year ten. 
  • Planned a charity day with year nine. 
  • Looked at wellbeing, careers, democracy and year sevens reflected on their first year at Little Heath. 
  • Healthy Relationships day (they did an hour with Science for the Biology of it all, then came to us for period talks, FGM and what healthy relationships look like). 

I still have so much I want to do. I’m so looking forward to having a whole year to run everything I want to! 

Life as a KS3 lead of RE

Last March it was announced that two members of our department were leaving. Half of the only department I’d ever known abandoning me mid-NQT year. (I worried that I’d said or done something, but it was time for pastures new).

A quick conversation with my line manager and all of a sudden KS3 leader of RE was up on the board, internal candidates only. It may as well have said ‘be Clare Nolan’ on the ‘desirable’ qualities. With nerves and excitement I went for it and was given the job.

I changed everything. I made it more me. I could justify lessons and activities if I wrote them myself, I couldn’t do that with work someone else had created. So started the four month process of reviewing current work with staff and students and creating plans.

By September we had work ready, a folder for each of our teachers (three specialists and seven non-specialists). Everything was ready to go.

The year has been a challenge. The biggest one being changing to life without levels. Six months of refining and renewing and we think we’ve got something we’re happy with for September.

In my naivety last year I thought if I planned all the lessons then I’d be ready for a nice easy summer term. Oh no. I’ve found lots more that I want to include, ways to do things differently. I’ve realised that my perfect KS3 plan does not exist. So the hardest part of the job has been realising it.

Roll on year two and seeing the impact it has had on the transition to KS4.

This year…

So… I’ve finally had the kick up the backside to blog again.

What’s happened?

  • I’ve (nearly) survived a full year as KS3 Leader of RE.
  • I’ve become PSHE lead and I absolutely love it.
  • There was a failed attempt at re-starting the Duke of Edinburgh award at school. I’ve learnt and ready to launch in September.
  • Asked to open my own little Guide unit (ahhhh!!) and I cannot wait.
  • Supported leaders to run events and trainings in GirlGuiding.
  • Ran my first sex ed day.
  • Marked books, planned lessons, had good lessons, had bad lessons and met amazing pupils.

So my plan is possibly a blog on each bullet point?? I’ll see how I get on.

Here’s to a busy but exciting term!

Parents Evening 

When I was in year six we put on a play. It was people in 2056 looking back on their lives. One part was parents evening. A teacher was ready to say to a parent that they needed to adapt learning to suit the pupil better because she wasn’t very bright. Her mother had other ideas and wanted her to go to Cambridge. 

The other parent had a child who was very bright, but his parents want him to be a thug. In other words, you can’t win. 

As this was my first year, parents evening made me nervous. I quickly realised that some parents were more nervous than I was. 

I found parents evening fascinating. I learnt so much about the pupils. Sometimes it was a new respect for how much they do at home. My mentor suggested I recommend appointments for my top ten and my bottom yen from each class. This has balanced my parents evening nicely. 

Next year is the first year I have a sixth form parents evening. That should be interesting…

What happens in Key Stage Three? 

In February two members of our department handed in their notices to move on to pastures new. This resulted in huge changes in our RE department. Our KS4 lead is now Head of Department. We have a new member of staff joining us as KS4 lead and then myself as KS3 lead. Something which both excites and terrifies me. 

In our school key stage three is only years seven and eight. We start our GCSEs in year nine. Part of my role is to create new schemes of work for these year groups. Not only this but they must be non-specialist friendly as we have seven non-RE teachers teaching KS3 RE from September. 

This led to mass panic. What do I plan? Where do I begin? What do they need to know? What skills did they need? These are just a few of the questions that swarmed my mind. 

I began at the Local Agreed Syallbus and took it from there. I took out key points from syllabus and then I compared these to the skills for GCSE. I built in reflective tasks, research homework and peer assessment and remodelling. I edited and edited until I realised I was wasting my time. The only way I’ll know if these lessons are effective will be once they are taught and rolled out. Until then it’s really not worth stressing over (I still will though!). 

All KS3 hints and tips are greatly appreciated! 

‘Miss you look about 16’

Just to clarify, I do look very young. No matter where I go people comment on it. ‘Oh you must be ID’d wherever you go’ yes, yes I do. This is something I’ve grown used to and something that has been highlighted across my NQT year. 

September to December was my toughest time as an NQT. Pupils didn’t know who I was. I was new and young and they were going to test me. I didn’t stand for it. Four months of sanction and praise galore and it took until after Christmas for pupils to realise ‘oh she’s here for good’. Everything has settled down and my classes eventually were lovely.

However, there’s always a but. Many pupils liked that I looked and am young. They found me relatable and someone they could talk to and be honest with. There were some pupils who no matter what will still push it. I’ve been asked by a pupil if I’d have children with him, his friend stated it is because I look so young, he forgets I’m a teacher. Needless to say, he was quickly removed from my classroom. Both of them were actually. 99.9% of pupils will make a harmless joke, I’ve quickly realised the tone and the way you say things can change the meaning completely. 

It doesn’t bother me as much as it did at first. I’m fully qualified, have a good subject knowledge and the school I teach in are very complimentary of my teaching so does it really matter if I look young? 

My experience of completing a PGCE 

Let’s start as I mean to go on, I loved my PGCE year. 

In the three years leading up to my PGCE everyone told me that it was going to be the worst year of my life and that I may as well become a hermit. In reality it was my favourite year of my academic career. 

It could well be down to the fact that during my undergraduate degree I ran a Girlguiding unit in Liverpool whilst living in Chester, worked three shifts a week in a pharmacy, completed two dispensing qualifications, completed a degree, had a social life and in the final year had a long distance relationship. Whereas, my PGCE year I lived at home and I dedicated my time between visiting my boyfriend on weekends and doing my PGCE. 

However, it was a rocky start. A week before I began I had my tonsils removed. Five days later there was a complication. I wasn’t meant to be out in public yet but I was determined to start. 

After two weeks intensive training with the Guru (our course leader Francis) we were allocated schools. I was in a small school in Burscough three days a week and university two. I was eased into it. Two weeks of observations, a week of just starters, a week of starters and plenaries, a week of full lessons then just a week of assessments and it was already half term. Due to this gradual induction I felt prepared to take over the classes after the half term. Also, the balance of having university two and then one day a week really helped. 

I was very fortunate during my PGCE to have had two wonderful in school mentors and a fantastic course leader. 

I know I’m biased but if you were intending to go into teaching to go through PGCE (if you can get a space!). 

The importance of maintenance grants

When the media first reported that the government were planning on scrapping matenance grants my boyfriend and I were talking about it. 

He wasn’t eligible for one due to his parents income. I was given full grants and loans due to my dad being retired. I wouldn’t have been able to afford to go to university without this grant and I worked too. 

I then thought about how many of my friends would have recieved the maintenance grant. I realised that it was quite a few. All of them couldn’t have attended university without these grants. That means there’s a generation of teachers, doctors and solicitors who all got to where they are because they were supported. 

I went to university when the fees were £3000. My PGCE cost more than my three years of university and doubled the amount I owe to student finance. 

What worries me, in a time when there is already a teacher shortage, does this mean that more people will be put off university because they haven’t got the finances to attend? 

Why I won’t be buying a house anytime soon…

This time last year I was preparing to move to Didcot from Liverpool. When we were looking at rental prices we worked out that we would have to put a deposit of £3,500 and then use over a third of our wages on rent. That’s not including other bills.
I’m then expected to save enough money to save for a house?

I have a number of friends who are the same age as me who are buying houses in Liverpool. If they haven’t already bought one they have a plan of when they intend to buy one within the next year. Parents have not donated money to the deposits, they have saved this money by themselves.

In January I realised that I could move home and save roughly £1000 a month, with those numbers I would have a house in Liverpool in no time. At that rate of saving, it would take me three years of living at home before I could afford a three bedroom house in Didcot.

If I lived in Liverpool I’d be on the same wages but I would be paying half the rent I do.

I then debated, was it worth three more years of a long distance relationship to buy a house or live with my boyfriend and enjoy being 23 and living together. I chose the latter and I don’t regret it.

However, I would love to own a house. The way we see it is that we have at least two more before we can even start saving. Fingers crossed, I might have a house by 30!!!

Role Models

Two years ago a became a committee member in GirlGuiding. We were creating resources for young women aged 14 -25. The key topic was ‘Real Role Models’. We looked at local role models from each county, national role models and then international role models. I did not realise how important this was until we began the resource.

I have been involved with Guiding longer than teaching so my experiences are mainly with them. One Thinking Day (a day marked by Scouts and Guides all over the world as it was Lord and Lady Baden-Powell’s birthday) we were looking to the future and what our goals were. I was a seventeen year old young leader of a unit full of girls aged 10-14. One girl wrote that she ‘wanted to become a WAG’. Even at that age, I despaired. The girl couldn’t have been older than twelve and this was her life goal. She was quite a level-headed Guide too so then I panicked what the others would put.

Fast forward to summer 2013 and I’m running a training session in Tanzania with GirlGuiding. We created mini posters with our goals for life and how we would get there. For example; mine was to become a teacher and end up in a nice role. My aims were to finish my degree to a high standard, gain a place on a PGCE, pass my PGCE and apply for jobs. The young women were roughly the same age as my Guides and they wanted to be astronauts, designers and accountants. This is because they were surrounded by strong, female role models.

I’m not saying the girls in the UK weren’t. The rise of social media and reality television means that they’re looking to the women most popular on them and wanting to be those women. This was the moment I knew that young girls (and boys) need solid role models.

Sometimes you don’t even realise you have a role model. My year seven RE teacher was an NQT. She was young and wanted to make lessons interesting. It was the only lesson I made sure my book was to the highest standard, if I was off sick I would borrow a friend’s book to catch up in time for the next lesson. I was enthusiastic towards RE. Unfortunately, I was not taught by her past year eight. However, she was a constant source of support. She would stop and chat it I walked past her at break time or lunchtime, she cared. She eventually became my mentor for my second placement of my PGCE. There were regular jokes that I was a ‘mini her’. Something we both laughed off, but I’ve never been prouder to be regarded in a similar light. If I could ever be half the woman she is, I will have achieved what I want.

For my NQT year I moved to the other side of the country. Something which was initially tough. However, one female SLT member made me feel right at home. Our informal chats regularly put me at ease. She encourages me to try new things and to go for opportunities that without her encouragement I would never have gone for. Pupils both look up to her and respect her. She is who I want to be when I grow up.

I am very fortunate to have been surrounded by strong, hardworking female role models all my life. My mum, grandmother, cousins and aunties. I have been spoilt. As I undertake new ventures I regularly meet more role models. Young women I have shared experiences with in Guiding and other teachers during placements. It’s not until you stop and think how important it is to have good role models. I can only hope that maybe one day I will have that effect on someone else and become their role model.