I come from a single parent family with a fairly low income, which made music lessons difficult to afford.
My teachers were able to offer me subsidised flute, singing and piano tuition, without which I could have pursued a career in teaching music.
Upon completing my degree, my route into teaching was less straightforward. Before beginning a PGCE I’d been working as an SEN support assistant, when I heard about an opportunity to train as an apprentice with the teacher training provider e-Qualitas at a school I knew and liked.
An alternative route
The Teaching Apprenticeship Programme (TAP) is a fee-free, salaried route through graduates can gain QTS in nine months.
To pass the TAP you must submit two essay assignments, as well as two portfolios of evidence – one for the Teachers’ Standards and the other for learning sequences – making it no less academic than completing a PGCE; just an alternative route.
When I learnt that the scheme comprised work-based training, and that I’d be based solely in a school I really liked, I knew it was the perfect route for me.
One of the reasons a work-based route so appealed to me was because I wanted my training experience to match the everyday reality of full-time teaching.
As a teaching apprentice you are solely responsible for your own classes and can integrate yourself into one school, rather than required to complete a number of different placements.
The e-Qualitas programme provides trainees with a school-based trainer and an e-Qualitas tutor, both of whom are incredibly supportive and will run training days and various modules to support your development.
Balancing the work you have to perform with the training you need to complete means the workload is full-on, but you’re well supported throughout. With good organisation, it’s manageable.
Having a say over where I train and work has been incredibly empowering, and allowed me to develop my own teaching philosophy.
It can be difficult to be placed somewhere that you know isn’t aligned with your idea of how education should look.
Under an apprenticeship programme you’ll be employed by a school before even starting the course, thus allowing you to select a school where you’ll enjoy training.
It’s also a great option for people who have been working in a school and want to receive QTS, as they can qualify without leaving the school where they are or giving up their salary.
The benefits for schools are equally notable. SLTs are afforded a great deal of autonomy when it comes to selecting apprentices, in contrast to other processes where an external organisation will place a trainee without the school’s input.
Schools can therefore employ a trainee who they believe will be an asset to the institution. Hosting a trainee can in turn help SLTs develop their school’s vision and shape future full-time members that share the same priorities.
The financial advantage is significant too, since apprentices are by nature cheaper than other employees. Schools can apply for grant funding to subsidise an apprentice’s salary (which will vary depending on subject and phase), but more importantly, the training will be paid for by the Apprenticeship Levy.
Teaching apprenticeships can even help to improve staff retention, with the course’s supportive nature typically encouraging teachers to stick at it longer. I’ve found teaching to be a tough job, but the level of care I’ve received means I can experiment and occasionally make mistakes. Overall, it’s been a really enjoyable experience.
Ultimately, I feel lucky to be at a school I love. I’m equally challenged and supported, and it’s a place where I hope to continue being able to teach.
Gemma Longhurst is a music teaching apprentice at Carshalton Boys Sports College via the programme delivered by teacher training provider e-Qualitas; for more information regarding the Teaching Apprenticeship Programme, visit teachingapprenticeships.com/schools
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