There tends to be an unlucky few, round about this time on a PGCE course, who start to have problems in their second placement. Most first placements are fine, you’re given less responsibility than on your second, they’re shorter, and you’re more likely to just get your head down and get out of there if it’s really that bad.
Second placements are different, as this is where you really start to get to grips with teaching regularly. If the support isn’t in place, this is now a massive issue for you, and the responsibility is on you to get this sorted out. There are no consequences for the placement school, they won’t get into much trouble at all for not supporting you, but you might have your career ruined forever.
The most common complaint I think is that there is not enough support. It is complete pot luck what kind of school you will be sent to on your placement, and some schools give more support than others. You may not be having enough meetings with your assigned mentors, or you may feel like you have been dumped in the deep end and used as free cover for lessons from day one.
Another very common problem is bullying. Although I don’t think PGCE students get bullied as much as NQTs and teachers, I sometimes think this is just because they are not there for long enough for the bullying to take hold. It certainly often happens that the student teacher will feel a member of staff has taken a dislike to them, and will be on the receiving end of all criticism and no praise.
Although there are no formal set of entitlements as there are for your NQT year, this does not mean that you just have to put up with it. Your entitlements really just encompass being given an opportunity to meet all the standards required of you, having regular lesson observations and regular meetings with a mentor. However, you do also need to be provided with a reasonable amount of support and encouragement.
Your first point of call should be your placement mentor. Ask for more meetings, tell them you are having trouble figuring out what to do, and you could even try diplomatically stating that you are having your confidence eroded by a member of staff and it is effecting your work. If this fails, you then need to contact your tutors at your ITT provider, who will simply do the same thing on your behalf.
Your ITT provider want you to pass the course, so if there is found to be a big problem, they will make arrangements so that you are able to pass the course. If the problem is very bad, this might involve you changing placements, or extending your PGCE to start the placement again.
You also should be a student member of a teaching union, and as membership is free, it’s recommended you join NUT, NASUWT and ATL all at once. So if things do need to progress any further, you have three organisations to go to for advice there. Remember, you’ve not been given a contract of employment by your placement school, so this sort of support is more for if you are having any legal issues.
I’ve spoken to many teachers who’ve had problems on their PGCE, so if you want to speak to me too, please send me an email and I’ll see if I can help.
Similar post: Don’t put up with it – NQT entitlements