Sheffield teacher training programme aims to make schools 'an irresistible place to work'

For a career that once seemed so good on paper, the crisis in teacher recruitment is now hardly ever out of the news.

Wednesday, 28th March 2018, 2:27 pm
Updated Wednesday, 28th March 2018, 2:30 pm
Kathryn Muprhy and Fran Bray plan a lesson

There are not enough people signing up to become teachers and too many are dropping out - some experienced due to the stress and increase in workload but often the newly qualified leave the profession, unprepared for the life in the classroom.

School lead Andrew Truby, a national leader of education, is determined to change the narrative about teaching as a profession.

A hub session at the Learning Unlimited Teaching School Alliance

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He feels school leaders have it in their gift to change this situation on the ground by making brave decisions and by investing in the professional culture so that schools become irresistible places to work.

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At St Thomas of Canterbury School, in Meadowhead, where Mr Truby is executive headteacher, there is a 100 per cent school-based teacher training school which is going from strength-to-strength.

The outstanding Ofsted-rated school became a teaching school in 2015, and works with partner schools in the Learning Unlimited Teaching School Alliance.

Andrew Truby

The alliance, based in a modern training facility at the school, takes on School Direct trainees on a year-long programme.

Each student is placed in one of 14 partner schools across Sheffield, Doncaster and Chesterfield for the entire programme, where they will work for a year alongside outstanding and primary class teachers.

Teaching school manager, Anita Bray, said: "The beauty of this course is that trainee teachers are based in a school for the whole programme.

"They encounter children and liaise with parents. They do things like parents evening - all the nitty gritty.

Helen Price, Kirstie Norris and Nick Walker plan a lesson

"The trainee teachers have been there and have done it, they have had that experience which is much different from doing it in classrooms."

During the course, students spend time in another of the partner schools so they get to experience life in two schools.

They are given a mentor who, at first, they observe, then plan lessons alongside before the mentor oversees the trainee teacher planning and delivering the lessons.

Alliance director, Sarah Rockliff, and manager, Anita Bray

The trainee teachers meet once a week at the School Direct hub session for training, with specialist leaders of education or subject specialists coming in to take sessions.

Teaching school director, Sarah Rockliff, described the process as 'learning by doing'.

She said: "Trainee teachers are in classrooms and they are coming to hub sessions and picking up ideas about teaching and learning and then the next day they get the chance to put that into practice.

"Teaching is a craft and the only way to become a master of your craft is to keep practising it."

She added: "After only a few weeks the trainees start to refer to their partner school as 'my school' and they feel a real connection to the school they are working in and are invested in the children. That adds to the motivation.

"It's a hard course and requires a lot of hard work."

Sarah Rockliff speaks to trainee teachers

The alliance was established in 2015 and the first cohort of students all gained jobs after completing the course.

Trainees come from a variety of backgrounds, some have been teaching assistants or involved in education, while others are looking for a career change.

Trainee teacher Nick Walker, aged 31, taught English abroad before returning to England to further his career.

He said: "I have been teaching for five years already and I thought it would be beneficial to me to be in a hands-on situation and seeing what it was like day-today.

"I was at university 10 years ago. I wanted to carry on learning and this feels like a job whereas if I'd gone back to university it would have felt like a step backwards."

Former secondary school teaching assistant Kirsty Norris, 25, said: "You see the reality of life in a school. You experience parents' evening and when sometimes your lessons plans just don't work.

"It's hard work but you know that next year it will all be worth it."

Mr Truby, who is strategic lead for the alliance, said recruiting teachers ready for the classroom had been a challenge in the past.

"Recruitment of high quality teachers is an ongoing challenge for schools and in the past the newly qualified teachers who we did appoint were not ready for the classroom," he said.

"Through our 100 per cent school-based teacher training route, our School Direct trainee teachers experience the full school year in a primary school.

"When they start in their NQT year, they are confident in subject knowledge, planning, marking, assessment as well as knowing how the school works throughout the year."

He felt the perception around teaching needed to change because it is 'the best job in the world'.

He added: "Although teaching as a career gets a really bad press and there is a lot of talk about workload, we believe that the schools who invest in their culture will have an easier job recruiting and retaining the best teachers.

"We spend time making our schools a positive place to work because happier teachers mean happier children.

"It is time to change the narrative about this profession because we believe that teaching is the best job in the world."

The alliance is still recruiting trainees for September when it will start two new programmes. In addition to general primary, there will be a primary with maths and an early years route.

For more details visit or attend one of a number for information events listed at

Sarah Rockliff talks to Caleb Bastock and Mel Mycroft
A hub session at the Learning Unlimited Teaching School Alliance
Andrew Truby
Helen Price, Kirstie Norris and Nick Walker plan a lesson
Alliance director, Sarah Rockliff, and manager, Anita Bray
Sarah Rockliff speaks to trainee teachers
Sarah Rockliff talks to Caleb Bastock and Mel Mycroft