Chris Entwistle shares his experience of Straight to Teaching as a TA within a SEN school

Chris Entwistle is a TA within a SEN school who is currently working towards gaining his QTS with our Straight to Teaching programme. He's enrolled on a 2-term programme and having just completed his 6-week mainstream placement, we wanted to see how Chris was getting on and how he was finding the journey.

What made you choose Straight to Teaching to gain QTS over other routes to becoming a qualified teacher?

When I was searching for a teaching course, I wanted to find a training option with specific criteria; a quality course that could be carried out without having to give up my position at work, a programme that was affordable and to be able to complete it in a reasonable amount of time. In Straight to Teaching, I found that all of these factors were met.

How are you finding the programme so far?

I am really enjoying the course so far. It has made me reflect on my teaching and approaches allowing me to evaluate my lessons and time in school and I feel it has helped improve the quality of my teaching and lessons.

I really appreciate the support and feedback from my Tes Institute Pathway Tutor and school mentor as this has enabled me to develop and improve week by week. Their feedback and input into my targets has been valuable.

Have you faced any challenges on the programme and how did you overcome them?

I thought one of the biggest challenges would have been to complete the placement in a mainstream school. Having never worked in a mainstream setting and only observed a few lessons on visits, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to meet the needs of the students. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to work at the standard needed for the students and ultimately let them down. I was honest with my mentor at the placement school and told them my experience; they were very supportive and advised me on what I would need to research before starting.

One of the best bits of advice they gave me was to make myself familiar with the Year 4 end of year assessment criteria, as this was the year group I was teaching.

Did you find it beneficial to be able to remain in your SEN school while you prepare for your QTS assessment?

Yes, remaining in my SEN setting has allowed me to hit the ground running continuing to teach and gather evidence for my QTS assessment. It has provided me with timely feedback and pointers to reflect as a practitioner and quickly act on. This continuous loop of support and feedback has been invaluable.

How did you manage your teaching timetable during your second placement in a mainstream school?

The main thing is to be organised, I met with my mentor at my placement school the term before I was due to start and we went through the lessons and planning and looked at where my strengths and weaknesses were.

From this, we decided that we would start with teaching in my stronger subjects and build up to the other subjects.

To improve my knowledge of the other subjects I completed peer observations and did my own research and study.

How have you found your placement within a mainstream school and how does it compare to teaching at your SEN school?

I really enjoyed my time teaching in mainstream school. I was very lucky in the fact that my tutor and other members of staff at the school in which I was placed, were all very welcoming and supportive.

The biggest concern for me was the class size - going from a class of 8 to a class of 30 was something I thought could be daunting. However, from the very first lesson I delivered, once I got into my stride, I didn’t notice any difference with regards to the class size.

Another big difference, which took some getting used to, was how quiet the students were when they were working. They weren’t asked to work in silence all the time and discussion with their peers was encouraged, but when they had to work in silence it was a little different to what I am used to.

Finally, the depth of knowledge in which I needed to teach was vastly different. Working in a SEN school, the highest level that some of our students are working at would be a year 2 level. To overcome this, I was able to observe lessons in other classes and my base class on this, as well as follow the class teachers lead.

One of the biggest things that helped me was my own research. If I was a little unsure about some terminology, I went away, refreshed my knowledge and practiced it so I was familiar with what I was being asked to teach.

Do you feel that your teaching has improved since joining Straight to Teaching?

Yes definitely, Tes Institute provide you with online training and support. For example, if I need support to improve my assessment I can go to the online portal and there are target specific videos, PowerPoints and tasks to complete to help me improve.

Having lesson observations and weekly diaries to complete has helped me reflect on my lessons and to identify target areas where I could improve.

How has Tes Institute supported you during the programme?

Tes Institute has provided me online courses and training, some of which are part of the pre-course induction. Since the course started my Tes Institute Pathway Tutor has been very supportive. I know I can email her any day of the week with any question, no matter how trivial I think it may be, and she will get back me as soon as she can.

I had an issue with the finance and I rang the finance team who were very supportive and helped me solve the problem with a matter of ease.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about starting the Straight to Teaching programme?

If you’re thinking about starting the Straight to Teaching programme and don’t want to or can’t leave your job to further your career, then I would recommend this course for you.

Straight to Teaching allows you to grow and develop as a teacher whilst remaining in your place of employment without having to start somewhere new.

You can access online training to further your knowledge and support is always available. The placement gave me the opportunity to see another setting with a different perspective and a chance to observe a completely new school ethos, which can only benefit me as a practitioner.

The guidance that you receive from your Tes Institute Pathway Tutor directs you to meet the teaching standards to help make sure you are where you need to be.


If you would like to find out how Straight to Teaching could help you become a qualified teacher without having to leave your SEN school, then please get in touch with our enrolment team or take a look at our course page.