Hints & Tips

Thrills, chills and spills: The things that frighten trainee teachers

By | Blog, Hints & Tips

We know that training to teach can be a little scary.

At Ark Teacher Training, we understand that there are lots of little things that worry our trainees about entering the classroom. That’s why our team of experienced tutors, coaches and subject specialists work with our trainee teachers, supporting them every step of the way in their new career.

We asked some of our tutors to tell us what frightens new teachers the most, to share their own unnerving experiences and to give us some tricks to make sure you can be a treat in the classroom. 

 Blood-curdling behaviour issues!


Ryan: We often hear from new teacher trainees that they are afraid of how they’re going to manage the behaviour of children in the classroom.

Claire: It’s not that you’re afraid of the behaviour itself – what most new teachers are actually afraid of is what will happen if you try to exercise your authority in the classroom and the kids don’t listen to you. So the fear is that you’re going to be bad at classroom management.

Jo: This is the most overrated fear about becoming a teacher, because it really is possible to learn how to manage a classroom – the techniques are there and they are learnable. At Ark Teacher Training, we do sessions where we show the trainees a teacher who has “it” – that supposedly indefinable quality that commands students’ attention and makes them behave. But then we break down every aspect of “it,” step by step for our trainees: the tone of your voice, your language, even where you stand in the room.

Ryan: It’s definitely overrated as a fear because the kids want to do the right thing.  If you’ve got high expectations of how your class should behave, they will rise to the challenge. If you don’t have high expectations, then you won’t succeed and that’s true for both behaviour as well as for academic achievement.

 Petrifying parents!


Claire: When I first became a teacher, the thing that scared me the most were those moments when you had difficult interactions with parents. Most of the parents are amazing, but you do sometimes have pushy parents. You have to learn to manage their expectations.

Naomi: You just have to be pleasant and try your best to be helpful.

Jo: The best thing you can say to a parent is to tell them something great about their kids. It’s usually true.

 Loathsome lesson observations!


Ryan: You often hear from trainees that lesson observations make them nervous. They’re worried that their lesson isn’t going to go as planned and that the observer is judging them negatively for their every move.

Naomi: If you’re the type of person who plans your lessons really carefully – so that nothing can go wrong – then it always does seem to go wrong when you’re being observed!

Jo: I used to have a lucky dress, that I would wear when I knew I was going to be observed. It made me feel better.

Naomi: What we say to the trainees is that lesson observations aren’t meant to be intimidating. They’re part of your professional development. It’s a way to help you develop your skills and we’re here, doing these observations to support you, not to criticise you. And we also say that these observations happen pretty often, so you might as well get used to them!

 Creepy class trips!


Claire: Class trips are actually pretty frightening. You are always worried about losing a child, especially when you have to travel on the Underground. (I haven’t lost one yet!)

Naomi: The dinosaur trail in the Natural History Museum is really exciting, but some of the smaller children actually get quite upset when they get to the T-Rex exhibit. That’s scary for them!

Claire: You feel much more like a parent than a teacher when you’re on a school trip. You feel very responsible and you know that everyone is watching your students and how they behave. But sometimes people come up to you and tell you how lovely the children are behaving and that always makes you feel very proud!

Jo: The best way to conquer your worries about a school trip, as a teacher, is to be really organised and to practice. We do trip rehearsals all the time. School trips can be scary, but practising helps make it all go smoothly.

 Questions of doom!


Ryan: One of the things that can be nerve-wracking is the fear you sometimes feel, being in the year group that is learning about sex education. It’s not the topic – the curriculum is really clear – you’re scared of the questions that the children might ask.

Jo: It’s a lot of responsibility and children can ask very challenging and frank questions – you don’t want to say the wrong thing.

Claire: I had to do sex education when I was pregnant that led to some interesting questions…! If you have any doubts, the way around them is to run those sessions along with someone who has more experience. Among other things, you learn that you can’t answer every question and that there are certain phrases you can learn and rehearse, that will help you if you have to deflect a question.

Ryan: Like “Maybe you want to ask your mum and dad about that…”

Jo: “That would be a personal issue.”

Claire: I like to say “that’s a good question but we’re not focusing on that today. Today we’re focusing on….” Another thing you can do is get the children to write out their questions on paper and then you can sort through them and pick only the appropriate ones.

 The ultimate terror!


Claire: Overall, learning to become a teacher isn’t really scary. You learn techniques for everything that might come up.

Naomi: The only thing where I have no strategy for dealing with it at all is when children are sick on the bus on a school trip. Thankfully it doesn’t happen that often!

Jo: People training to teach are doing so because they really want to make a difference. I think the thing that they’re really scared of is somehow letting the children down. They want so much to do a good job, and we’re here to train them to make sure they can do it.

Faced your fears and ready to train to teach with Ark Teacher Training? Applications for September 2019 open now

How trainee teachers can learn from David Beckham

By | Blog, Hints & Tips

 Claire Smith is Design Manager for the Primary Curriculum at Ark Teacher Training.  Prior to this role she worked at Ark as a Training Lead, supporting trainee teachers in both primary and secondary schools and facilitating weekly training sessions. Claire began her teaching journey in 2010 as an English subject specialist in a secondary school in Brixton where she taught for three years before transferring to the primary sector where she was Head of Performing Arts in and teacher of Year 6 in Hackney. 

There are some things you learn very quickly as a teacher. One of them is that trying to get a class of excitable year 9 students to enter your classroom quietly is not simple. Many years ago, during my first few weeks of teaching, I thought about it each night as I went to sleep and every morning as I scuttled back to my classroom. I tried numerous strategies: I projected interactive ‘Do Now’ activities on my whiteboard to try to entice them to their desks, I threatened detentions before they had even sat down, I tried remaining silent and communicating using only non-verbals. Nothing worked.

It wasn’t until the end of my first month that I was encouraged by a colleague to go and spend some of my non-teaching time in my Head of Department’s class, watching the way he welcomed and settled his students. The next few days were enlightening. I jotted down exactly what I saw at the beginning of his lessons: how was he standing, where was he looking, what was he saying, how he was saying it. Back in my classroom, I imitated him as precisely as I could. And it worked! Not overnight, but slowly it started working. I continued to observe and precisely replicate what my mentor had been doing and a few months later my pupils were entering my classroom quietly and ready to learn.

This premise of imitation lies at the heart of Ark Teacher Training. We believe that all trainee teachers should begin their teaching journey by watching experts in their field. After all, teaching is a performance profession; you are constantly live in front of pupils and need to think on the spot. Trainee surgeons practise sutures on oranges hundreds of times so they don’t make a mistake on a live person. They spend hundreds of hours in theatres watching their mentor, then, through imitation and practice, they are able to refine their skills, turning them into muscle memory, ensuring they make no mistakes when working with a patient.

Unfortunately, such opportunities for trainee teachers to watch and imitate excellence is not something commonly found in their timetable. As Paul Bambrick-Santoyo, author of Leverage Leadership says, “We would never entrust our loved ones to an inexperienced surgical resident. We expect the head surgeon to coach and intervene when necessary. Why shouldn’t parents expect the same from us when it comes to the education of their children?”

Trainee teachers aren’t given the time to observe experienced teachers and expert teachers are not given enough opportunities to share their expertise with those new to their field. Teaching is still a “closed-door profession” says Simon Burgess from the University of Bristol. It is still a common misconception that teaching is an innate skill that comes naturally to new teachers.

Anders Ericsson carried out extensive research on what it takes to become an expert. Ericsson (1993) says that it takes 10,000 hours (20 hours for 50 weeks a year for ten years = 10,000) of deliberate practice to become an expert in almost anything.  The key here is “deliberate”. David Beckham, for example, did not stumble upon the fact that his free-kicks were generally well above the standard of most other players of his era. These skills were the result of many years of precise and deliberate practice. Beckham himself said: “I must have taken tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands [of free kicks]. I would go to the local park, place the ball on the ground and aim at the wire meshing over the window of a small community hut. When my dad got home from work, he would give me feedback and I would adapt my kick: the position of my toes, the pace of the ball, the direction of my shoulders. I kept going until the sun had gone down and my kick was perfect.”

It seems fair to say that “practice makes perfect” applied to one of England’s most successful footballers, so why shouldn’t it apply to the most successful teachers? At Ark Teacher Training, we provide trainees with opportunities to do just this. Every week trainees watch and analyse videos or live models of exemplary teaching from our colleagues across the Ark network. They hone in on a different set of skills and together they codify what made the examples so successful. They then have the opportunity to give it a go themselves, by unpicking the successes, practising and receiving feedback on these skills, and repeating the practise until the skills are embedded.

Of course we aren’t just encouraging teachers to copy others. We don’t want a workforce of identical teachers. Instead, we believe that, if a teacher is going to develop their own style and persona as a teacher, first they have to learn and master the basics by practising and refining them. Only once they reach this stage will teachers be in a position to find their own style and persona, which we call the innovation stage. This is the stage when our teachers will become the David Beckhams of teaching- who can encourage a new generation of teachers to become great, inspiring teachers and future leaders of our schools.

Top tips for a great teacher training application

By | Hints & Tips

We often get asked ‘what makes a great teacher training application?’ While the experience and passion will have to come from you, we’ve come up with five simple tips to make sure you can avoid the easy mistakes and submit the best application you can. 

1. Think carefully: Teaching is one of the most rewarding careers, but can also be incredibly challenging. We’re looking for people who are really sure this is what they want to do and know this is the right career for them, as well as being sure they support our mission. If you’re invited to an assessment day with us, you’ll need to be ready to talk about this clearly and passionately.

2. Get some hands-on experience: The best way to prepare for a career working with young people is to gain experience of working with young people. Whether that’s securing some experience in your local Ark school, or coaching sport to young people in your community, it’s all useful experience which will help to strengthen your application.

3. Do your homework: There are many ways to train as a teacher so we want to hear why you want to train with Ark Teacher Training in particular. As part of our recruitment process, we’re also looking for evidence that you understand Ark as an organisation and the context which we work in. We recommend taking a look through our website and watching this video to learn more about the work we do.

4. Dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s: Read our eligibility criteria carefully to ensure you meet our requirements for the programme and be proactive in filling in any missing gaps, particularly if you completed your qualifications outside the UK. You’ll also need to complete a subject knowledge test if you pass our eligibility screening, so be sure to spend some time looking at the curriculum of your chosen subject.

5. Practise and perfect: Alongside the subject knowledge test, you’ll complete a situational judgement assessment, which looks at how you’d react in different school situations. There are some sample questions for this on our website, which you can use to practise. We’d also recommend practising for your interview with us, if you’re invited to an assessment day, so you can answer our questions confidently.

Followed our tips and ready to submit your application? Apply today and join us in transforming lives through education. 

Teacher Training applications – a step-by-step guide and what happens next?

By | Hints & Tips

It may seem complicated and long-winded, but applying is easy! Follow our step-by-step guide to complete your application and read on to find out what to expect after you hit submit.

Step 1: Before you apply, check you meet our programme criteria. Any questions? Get in touch.

Step 2: Decide what you want to teach and where. We offer a wide-range courses from primary to physics, music to MFL, in four locations across the UK.

Step 3: Complete our online eligibility form and apply via our website


Step 3: Search for Ark Teacher Training on UCAS via our provider code 1CS. Fill out your application which will include writing a personal statement, listing references and completing a professional skills test.

Step 5: Apply!

So, what happens next?

You’ll have to complete a couple of online tests, this includes a subject knowledge test and situational judgement test (you can try out a few practice questions).

If you pass the online screening, you’ll be invited to an assessment day, this consists of a pre-prepared presentation and an interview with our recruitment team.

If you’re successful at the assessment day, you’ll be invited to a school assessment, where you will visit your potential training school to deliver a short lesson and have an interview with a member of the senior leadership team.

If you’re successful at the school assessment – congratulations! You will receive a conditional offer from our recruitment team.

Before you start in the classroom in September, you will have:

  • Tutor induction meeting
  • School orientation experience
  • Two-week summer school

Ark Teacher Training is committed to safeguarding students in our partner schools. As part of your assessments and checks you will be asked to completed an enhanced DBS check as well as other background checks and questions focused on the protection of students.

Why choose School Direct?

By | Hints & Tips

Ark Teacher Training is a school-led teacher training programme known as School Direct. The School Direct programme is suitable for both recent graduates and career changers. Two main types of funding are available for Ark Teacher Training via School Direct: bursaries for recent graduates and salaries for career changers.

As a School Direct trainee, you will complete your training in a school of your choice, whilst also gaining experience in other schools during your training. You will be in the classroom from day one, but we won’t throw you in at the deep end. You’ll receive 500 hours of face-to-face training, focusing on both theory and practice, as well as support from in-school coaches, a dedicated tutor and education experts throughout your training.

_dsc9696Unsure if School Direct is right for you? Hear from our trainees…

“I knew that my strength and comfort was in university life. What I really needed, was lots and lots of practice at teaching. Being fully immersed in life at Ark Conway has been a great decision!” – Stephen Rodwell, primary trainee, Ark Conway Primary Academy.

“The availability of the salaried route through School Direct made my career change from journalist to teacher possible, otherwise it wouldn’t have added up financially.” – Chris Gray, primary NQT and former Ark Teacher Training trainee, Ark Oval Primary Academy.

“I chose the School Direct route because I wanted to be embedded in a school and gain a more realistic perspective on teaching life. It seemed like a practical route with a lot of support. There are a lot of benefits including: getting to know the school and pupils really well, being supported by many people but in particular my coach and also the weekly training sessions where we can combine theory and practice.” – Kate Henney, English trainee and recent graduate, Burlington Danes Academy.

“I was looking for the route into teaching that would give me the best training possible. Initially I wasn’t sure what the best route for me would be, but as I found out more about School Direct and Ark Teacher Training, I made up my mind. I’m very happy I did because now, I can’t imagine a better way to train.” – Tom Ding, maths teacher and former Ark Teacher Training trainee, Ark Academy.

“School Direct was right for me because I’d already been to university and felt very secure in my subject knowledge so was eager to get as much experience in the classroom as quickly as possible. However, my aim was to become an outstanding teacher and to do this you also need to look deeply into the pedagogy of great teaching practice. School Direct perfectly balances the theory and practical sides to the training so that, in my opinion, you’re able to progress at the optimum rate. For example, during my training year I was in the classroom 5 days per week but with Thursday afternoons ring-fenced for a training session. This was invaluable in helping me work through any challenges I had in the classroom while still giving me plenty of time to put everything into practice in school.” – Brett Johal, English teacher and former Ark Teacher Training trainee, Ark Globe Academy.

“I liked the idea of becoming an important part of a school, not just a short-term figure. The relationships I have built with parents and families have been really valuable and the School Direct route helped support that.” – James Merel, primary trainee, Ark Academy.

“I chose the School Direct route because I wanted to get into the classroom as quickly as possible. I also wanted to train with Ark, as I was really impressed with them.” – Vicky Cartwright, English trainee and career changer, Ark All Saints Academy.

Ready to apply? Find out more here

Our tutors’ top tips for your first term

By | Hints & Tips, Our Trainees

Starting the first term of your teaching career can be a daunting experience. We asked our Ark Teacher Training tutors Hannah, Jacynth and Michael to give you their top tips for making your September the best it can possibly be!

1. Always have the seating plan with you.

In the first couple of weeks this will really help you to learn the pupils’ names. Get to know your pupils, get to know how they feel about school and your subject, what they like, what helps them learn and what their aspirations are.

2. Always eat lunch.

You need to make sure you keep your energy up and eating lunch is a vital part of that. Teachers can’t survive on coffee alone! Make big batches of nourishing food to freeze, take it into school for lunch or eat it at home to prepare for an evening marking session.

3. Get to know everyone in your school.

From your department to the reception staff, from pastoral leads to school keepers. Make friends with everyone, it will provide you with a rewarding sense of community and you never know who you’ll need to call on for help.

4. Use your fellow trainees and teachers.

Share ideas for lessons and resources. Get excited about teaching together. You are not alone and there are plenty of people around to help and give you advice, guidance and feedback when you need it.

5. Script and practise as much as possible.

Standing in front of a class of 30 students for the first time can be intimidating. By preparing and practising what you’re going to say and do, nerves are less likely to get the better of you.

6. Be disciplined with your ‘free’ time in school.

Social conversations with colleagues are important (see tip 3), but keep an eye on the clock and set realistic time targets for given tasks in between lessons and before and after school.

7. Get into good life habits, now.

Have at least one weeknight and one day at the weekend completely off work. See your friends, do some exercise, sleep!

8. Don’t forget to smile!

Good luck in your first term and remember to enjoy it!