Alistair was an engineer who ran his own business before going back to education and re-training to become a secondary music teacher.
He took some time to come to the decision but decided to pursue his passion and go back to university to do an undergraduate degree and masters in music, before enrolling on the PGCE in Music at the Institute of Education (IoE).
As a mature student returning to study, Alistair did not want to re-locate so Reading was the ideal choice in terms of location, but he was also aware that the University of Reading was well known for high quality teacher training programmes, which made it an easy decision.
"I thoroughly enjoyed my year at the IoE - I love music and was concerned that there might not be as much music in the PGCE programme as my degree and masters, but there was! Our group was full of amazing musicians with distinct talents. They were great people and it was a very collaborative environment - we supported each other."
The course is run by experienced music teachers, which helped Alistair build his confidence as a subject expert. This strong grounding from an expert team has been vital as Alistair has found that a lot is asked of teachers and sometimes you have to push back and say no. This not only takes courage, but also the ability to research contemporary thinking and be a reflective practitioner, backing up your argument with evidence and intellectual thinking. These are core skills embedded within the PGCE programme.
"The course not only expects a high level of professional practice but sends you into industry as a music teaching expert. In secondary music there isn't always a set scheme of work, and specific text books to follow, as per other subjects. The Ofsted inspection framework is different too. This can be an opportunity to be creative and give you flexibility on what to teach, how to teach it and when, but it also presents challenges - especially if school leaders perhaps do not have a background in music and don't necessarily appreciate the differences in approach."
Alistair found the course leaders supportive and caring, with great respect for the students and their individuality. He also found their music network a valuable addition to the core programme. He said:
"The music network in the area is a strong one and being a student at the IoE taps you in to networks such as the regional music hubs. Schools and partnerships work together on concerts and performances - as a trainee, this is a great opportunity to learn from experienced music teachers and see how they operate."
As a mature student Alistair approached the course with an open mind and would advise other mature students to do the same. He also realised he still had a lot to learn. He thought he was good at time management but learnt that you can do a lot in ten minutes - a vital skill for a teacher!
"Remember that you will have transferable skills and life experience which will stand you in good stead. You can take useful things from interactions and know to leave the rest. I learnt a lot of new things about myself in my forties, which was a surprise!"
Alistair used some of these transferable skills in school as he also teaches Maths. "I actually teach a lot of Maths and at one point was teaching Maths around half of the time, alongside Music. It was useful to give me a whole school perspective."
Now Alistair is not only Head of Music at a local Secondary school, but also lectures on composition on the undergraduate BA Primary Education with Music specialism course at the University.
He enjoys the flexibility of his role, which sees him working four days a week at the school, allowing him to pursue other interests, such as lecturing and composing, alongside.