We interviewed Kelly Lawless, a former student and here is what she had to say about her experiences studying the PGCE Secondary with English specialism at the Institute of Education.
Why did you choose to study at University of Reading?
When looking for a University I was looking for somewhere with a campus feel to it and on my interview day I remember being really impressed with the London Road Campus.
When I arrived there were students sat on the grass in one of the main quad areas reading and it was really peaceful. The fact that the whole campus and its resources and facilities are dedicated to education was a huge tick in the University of Reading column compared to the other two Universities I had interviewed at.
What sealed it for me was my interview and meeting the Lecturer of the English course, Rachel Roberts. Her passion for teaching and her pedagogical knowledge was apparent to me right away and I left the interview feeling really inspired and excited to start my teaching career.
With the other two Universities they were really pushing the 'you will become SLT' in two years' narrative which was not what I was looking for and made me feel like a number not a person.
Rachel took the time to get to know me, my passions and what had led me to apply for the PGCE in my interview and this left me with such a great impression of the course and what the University of Reading was all about.
What aspects of your course have inspired you most?
One of the aspects I was most concerned about when taking on the PGCE was the masters level academic writing side of the course as I had not written an academic essay since my undergraduate degree. However, this actually became one of the elements I was most inspired by. Engaging in the pedagogical theory side of teaching was fascinating and being able to put some of the theories into practice in the classroom really helped me find my own teaching style and encouraged me to be experimental in my practice.
Being actively encouraged by Rachel to develop my own writing skills and spend time focusing on this as part of the course has been something I have taken in to my teaching practice to inspire my own students to embrace their inner-writer. I do feel that this is an element of subject knowledge that was neglected on other courses I looked at and found my passion reignited with writing sessions in lectures.
What was the pastoral support like?
I found that I needed more pastoral support on the course than I thought I would at the start of the year. Rachel was incredible with the support offered and made herself available whenever I needed with swift and effective help given the same day. Sarah Marston, the Programme Director, was also incredibly supportive and helpful.
Every staff member I came in to contact with at University of Reading was very friendly and approachable which really added to the nurturing academic feel of the campus. This supportive environment really allowed me to grow in confidence and flourish on the course and in turn, my practice as a teacher.
Have you participated in fieldwork/placements/etc. during your studies? If so, what did you do and how has it helped you to develop?
One of the biggest highlights of my time at Reading was an academic trip to South Africa for our enrichment period. We stayed in the Cape Town area of the country and were lucky enough to experience teaching in four different settings; a secondary township school, a secondary private school and two state-funded primary schools. This trip was so inspiring and I was able to learn so much from the students and the teachers in the country - including how to teach a room of 60 students! The trip inspired me so much that I am now creating a community outreach programme in my school where students will learn about their local community and participate in local projects, as well as bringing awareness of their role in the global community, too.
Have you participated in any active research with an academic, or learned more about their special area of expertise through your course?
As previously mentioned, one of the elements of the course at Reading I was most inspired by was the active research we engaged with via our academic studies and in lectures. It became apparent to me very quickly on the course that I wanted to keep up to date with my academic reading and research to inform my practice in the classroom and I wanted to keep up with this engagement in my NQT year.
As such I joined the Professional Learning Group at my current school where we lead teaching colleagues in their own academic action research project for the year as part of their CPD. This has been such a rewarding role for me and has been a great way to keep up my pedagogical theory knowledge, whilst learning from other colleagues in a professional dialogue.
Where are you now?
I currently work as an NQT+1 in my placement B school, which I love. It's great that I am working in a school where I trained as I have been able to establish myself with students and build great relationships with parents, too. I feel very lucky to work at the school as it is incredibly encouraging of new ideas and nurtures their staff and their learning.
As previously mentioned, this year I am rolling out a whole school community initiative based on my experiences on the PGCE - I am getting to do so much that I am passionate about and feel incredibly fortunate to be able to do this. The University of Reading gave me all the tools, knowledge and support I needed to achieve my teaching goals and to be able to inspire future generations in their academic studies.