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Internationalisation at UCL IOE: supporting various students’ needs

Anne Robertson describes the ways in which students from various backgrounds are supported whilst undertaking a Primary PGCE at the UCL Institute of Education.

27 August 2015

"The Primary PGCE programme is designed for students to meet the Teachers' Standards for the award of Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), and prepare to be a primary teacher.

The programme has attracted a wide range of people from different cultural and social backgrounds, although it usually has only a few international students, mainly from Canada (out of about 400 full-/part-time students this year).

Students take three modules and gain experiences of teaching across the key stages from the Foundation Stage to Key Stage 2 at placement schools where their teachers serve as tutors, mentors and joint assessors for students alongside IOE staff.

Supporting various students’ needs

Students face many challenges when coming into primary education. Some of the challenges are exciting and make the job worthwhile and fulfilling. Other challenges are exhausting and worrying.

Some students find that primary schools in London are very different now from the schools they went to themselves as primary children. Students may have attended very different types of schools either in Britain or in other countries. When we approach difference we can be faced with interest, challenge and tensions. If the challenges present barriers to learning, support mechanisms are in place on the programme to help students achieve their ultimate goal – to be an effective primary teacher.

Regular meetings using a traffic light system

Tutors have regular meetings with each student and at key Review Points during the programme formative grades against the Teachers’ Standards (2012) using a ‘traffic light system’ are agreed.

  • Students graded “red” construct a Support Plan with their tutors and are invited to attend support workshops in various aspects according to need. These sessions can offer further development on planning effective lessons, support development of assessment of children’s learning or discuss behaviour management strategies, for example.
  • Students graded “amber” are also offered support and are able to attend the workshops too.

Establishing needs during induction

During the Induction of the programme, staff use various mechanisms to establish students’ needs so that support can be offered early where identified. For example, students are asked to meet with a member of staff from Student Support if they want a Learning and Teaching Support Agreement from the beginning of the programme. This may identify an area of disability or concern. For example, dyslexia or anxiety.

Students were asked to answer a questionnaire about their strengths and areas of concern to help staff meet needs appropriately. Many students identified concern over managing a heavy workload.

Some students identified that they may find primary teaching difficult as they come from different cultural backgrounds whose countries’ education systems differ from those in England. Tailored support can respond to various student needs and mediate a complex relationship between students and schools.

Organising cultural events

The programme addresses cultural difference alongside other differences as part of the Professional Studies element. Students discuss cultural issues, explore certain subjects in the international dimension and think about what and how they can address these with children in class. Several international speakers on relevant topics, such as inclusive education, and school teachers are invited during these sessions. Students generally enjoy sharing their own cultural experiences with others.

Students are encouraged to organise their own social events that allow other students from different backgrounds to attend.

Students are aware that if all the events take place in a bar or in the evenings some students will be excluded because of their family circumstances or for religious reasons. Some students have reported that there is a perception (among some non-white students) that the Institute is not open… or not welcome to non-white people.

One student said, “I was amazed that I was accepted as my tutors in college told me not to apply to IOE as I would not get taken”.

Restrictions on the programme

There is a little room for adding international elements to the current programme content. The curriculum is very intense and by regulation it has to focus mainly on the English context. From this academic year, the taught programme in IOE is 12 weeks (reduced from 19 weeks) out of the 36 weeks of the programme.

A lack of funds has ended the French and Spanish language specialists going to France or Spain for a month as a part of the programme. This year, we have offered 12 students an alternative teaching experience with a partner school in India. This is self funded but offered at a reduced rate to make it possible."