Setting up a school placement

In addition to the compulsory placements that are available to Social Work students, there are opportunities for those on other degrees to arrange placements that fit their interests and career plans. The University careers service offers extensive information on opportunities for career development.

In the post below, 3rd year Sociology student Becca shares her experience of setting up a school placement:

Since the beginning of this term, I have been attending a work placement at Moorside Primary School. I organised this placement independently, as I wanted to get as many placement days as I could to ensure that I had enough experience in a school to apply for teacher training this year.

It took me a couple of weeks to set up the placement; I had to email quite a few primary schools to ensure that at least one of them got back to me, which eventually they did. The reply from Moorside requested information such as what age I was interested in working with, which subject area and to let them know a little bit about me as a person. I sent back a detailed reply but a week passed and I hadn’t heard anything back.

A few days later I decided to ring the school as communication can be easier over the phone and I wanted them to know that I was keen to start; something that I’d been told schools like to see. A week after this phone call I started my placement.

Initially I was asked to undergo a DBS check to ensure that I was able to work safely with young children (a procedure for any new volunteer). After this I was placed in Reception for one day a week, working with two different classes alternating weeks.

This volunteering experience really opened my eyes to careers in education, whether it be the career of a teaching assistant or the career of a class teacher; it taught me that there are many roles within a school that have to work well together in order to make it successful. It also helped me to develop my confidence with working with children and ensure that I had made the right choice in the career path that I was seeking to take.

Over the next few weeks I worked in many different ways with the children. I was often placed with small groups from one of the classes, assisting with their numeracy and literacy lessons which often involved fun activities such as making play-dough hedgehogs or solving a crime scene in which someone had stolen Humpty Dumpty (it turned out that the headmaster was the criminal mastermind behind the theft and Humpty was returned relatively unharmed). I also underwent tasks that involved just generally helping the class teacher and assisting them with their lesson plans and also helping with things like playground duty.

This experience gave me a real insight into what primary teaching involves, an insight that I would not have gained anywhere other than within a classroom environment. I have only been attending the placement for a few weeks but I have already learned more than I ever expected to, such as different teaching techniques right down to how is best to organise a reception classroom. If you are thinking of going into a career in teaching I would highly recommend organising a placement as it is key both to the career and also to applications for teacher training. Institutions deem this experience to be the most important part of your application and like to draw upon what you have taken from it.

Overall, I have found this placement to be a really eye-opening and enjoyable experience that has really helped me to build upon my knowledge of the education system. It has proved vital in helping me to gain interviews to universities that offer teacher training and hopefully it will also help me to gain a place on these courses too.

- Becca, 3rd year BA Sociology