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Geography teaching experience in different phases

“Trainee teachers need breadth and variety of experience in schools to enable them to meet all the standards for QTS. They need to teach children and young people from different backgrounds, and in their chosen age ranges, as well as gaining experience of different approaches to teaching and to school organisation and management.”

DfE, Initial teacher training criteria and supporting advice, February 2017

Topics on this page:

Post-16 teaching experience | What experience should I gain in a primary school? | Second school experience as part of ITE | Special schools

During initial training, secondary geography training will be for either the 11 to 16 or 11 to 18 age-ranges. The DfE requires that ‘trainees have the opportunity to develop a comprehensive understanding of progression across, and before and after, the age range they are training to teach’. This does not explicitly require you to spend time in such schools, but it is good experience to do so and will give you an opportunity to find out first-hand about teaching in other phases.

Trainee teachers undergoing initial training are required by the DfE to teach in at least two schools. Salaried trainees must also spend time teaching in another school and will need to be released from their employing school to do so.

This is to provide a breadth of experience and opportunities to teach students from different backgrounds, as well as gaining experience of different approaches to teaching and to school organisation and management. You may also have opportunity during training to experience teaching in a special school or in a pupil referral unit (PRU).

When you are an early career teacher, you should take any opportunities you are offered to visit or teach in different schools, particularly if you missed out on the opportunities to do so during your initial training.

Post-16 teaching experience

All secondary ITE training should give you some post-16 experience, but if you are being trained specifically for the 11-18 or 14-19 age-range you must have significant experience of teaching at post-16.

Schools can, understandably, be concerned about giving large sections of their A level teaching to a beginning teacher in case they jeopardise examination results, but you should expect to do some teaching. There are also activities, in addition to solo teaching, that you can undertake at post-16 that will extend your experience. Try to arrange some of the following to get wider experience of post-16:

  • Mark student work to develop an understanding of the examination demands and meet students individually after marking their work to help them to identify specific ways to improve it
  • Act as a ‘visiting expert’ on a specific topic that you know well, to give a short explanation or presentation or to take on the role of an ‘expert witness’ and be questioned by the students
  • Co-teach lessons, taking a specific role or planning and teaching a series of lessons with the class teacher
  • Participate in post-16 fieldwork to gain substantial experience of working with these students directly, both with small and larger groups.
  • Go to Post-16 teaching for further information.

What experience should I gain in a primary school?

The purpose of a primary school visit is to familiarise you with geography in a primary school setting and the geography experiences provided for pupils. It is important for a secondary geography teacher to have an understanding of what Year 5 and Year 6 pupils can achieve in geography and what experiences they have had of the subject before they come to the secondary school.

Second school experience as part of ITE

Since the main purpose is to broaden your teaching experience this should take place in a contrasting school environment. Make the most of this opportunity to look at aspects that are different to your previous experiences. This might take you out of your comfort zone at first, but as a teacher it is important that you can teach in different types of schools and learning environments. In particular, you should explore differences in:

  • Teaching styles and activities
  • Assessment procedures and methods
  • Examination specifications
  • Geography resources and facilities
  • Geography schemes of work
  • Ways in which the needs of students with SEND are met.
At the start of the second school experience you should:
  • Find out about the school and the department
  • Observe the classes you will be teaching
  • Look at department resources
  • Study the schemes of work and plan lessons
  • Find out about the department’s assessment systems
  • Discuss your training targets based on your progress and experience to date.

It is important, when you meet the new classes you are teaching, that you find out about the nature and needs of the students. You should:

  • Gather details about students in the classes (including special needs)
  • Find out what the class has been doing
  • Discuss successful strategies for particular classes and students
  • Meet any teaching assistants or learning support assistants (LSAs) and understand their working practices
  • Find out the relevant form tutors and pastoral heads to whom you might need to refer and the procedures used in the school
  • Familiarise yourself with the procedures used in the school.

 Special schools

If you are visiting a Special educational needs and disability (SEND) unit or a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) you should prepare in advance by finding out about the type of students they work with and doing some background research into this area. Ideally your visit should be over several days so you get the opportunity for some practical experience with the students. You should discuss with the teacher experts in the school the different ways they tailor their teaching to meet the students’ specific needs.