Forest Way Alliance

Success Stories

Meet Emma: Secondary School Direct Trainee 2020/21

Emma is currently training on the Secondary School Direct course at Forest Way TSA.  She has just started the final term of the course and is teaching English at a Secondary School in Leicestershire.

​What was your background before teaching and why did you decide to join the profession?

I spent my early adult life as a dancer and travelled the world on cruise ships. When I returned to the UK, I took up a position teaching dance in schools and realised how much I enjoyed teaching and working with young people. Whilst bringing up my children, I studied for my English degree and, to gain more experience, I worked part time as a teaching assistant. Once my children were all at school, I decided it was time to pursue a career in teaching!

Why did you choose the school-based training over the University led PGCE? / Why did you choose to train with Forest Way?
I chose to do my training with Forest Way as I felt that, with my previous school experience and my personal circumstances, this was the most suitable option for me and would fit around my family life.

What is it like training during the pandemic?
Training during the pandemic has presented challenges but I feel that we have been provided with support from both the Alliance and Derby University alongside my placement school. I feel that now, more than ever, there is a need for more teachers to train and support the children of this generation.

Could you describe the typical school day of a lockdown trainee teacher?
During a typical lockdown school day, trainees are involved with the planning and delivery of remote lessons, working with children of key workers, CPD courses and university assignments. Each day is different, which is definitely a perk of the job!

As a busy parent, how do you manage the work/life balance?
Organisation is key to balancing work and home life. I try to ensure that I prioritise what is necessary and then switch over to being mum when I get home! I often work in the evenings but make a point of switching off for the weekend to enjoy family time.

What would you say to anyone thinking of taking the leap and training to become a teacher?
I would say it is never too late to pursue a career in teaching. The group of trainees I am working with vary in age and experience and are from a variety of backgrounds. Teaching a subject you are passionate about and working with young people can be challenging but also incredibly rewarding.

Meet Tom: Secondary School Direct Trainee 2020/21

Tom is currently training on the Secondary School Direct course at Forest Way Alliance.  He has just started the second phase of the course and is teaching Geography at a secondary school in Leicestershire.
What was your background before teaching and why did you decide to join the profession?
I was working in the corporate world working for large manufacturers of building products in Commercial/Key Account Manager roles. I was away from home most nights and never felt satisfied in what I was doing. I felt my skills could be used to do something more rewarding so applied for the course. In the year leading up to my training year I worked as a Key Worker in a Pupil Referral Unit and as an unqualified teacher and cover supervisor in a large mainstream school.  

Why did you choose the school-based training over the University led PGCE?
I started a University-led PGCE course straight out of University in 2012 but didn’t like the format. The course was too ‘stop start’ and it was difficult to get any momentum into your practice when you were in and out of school every few weeks. With a school-based course you are in school from day one, treated more like a member of staff, and I would say the students respond better to the continuity. It is also great to see the impact that you have had on a specific class that you have worked with over a number of weeks – you know that the progress they are making is due to your input and hard work.

What attracted you to Forest Way?
I know a lot of people who have done the course, both primary and secondary, over the past six years or so, and they all spoke very highly of the course. I also liked the fact that the course offered a variety of placements including a short placement in a specialist SEND school.  

What is it like training during the pandemic?
I don’t think it’s fair to say that it is more challenging than other years, it’s just challenging in different ways. As experienced members of staff are out of their comfort zone as well, everyone is learning together. As a trainee at Forest Way you have a lot of points of contact including your mentors, ITT coordinators and the programme leaders, so you’re never short of people to go to for support and guidance. Although time in the classroom has been interrupted, we have been able to develop skills that we wouldn’t ordinarily have had the opportunity to cultivate. We’ve also had more opportunities for independent study into areas of education that interest us most.
Could you describe the typical school day of a lockdown trainee teacher?
Every morning I have a virtual tutor period with my form group to check they are okay: to communicate any issues forwarded by subject teachers and to keep an element of normality. I work from home on Mondays and Tuesdays creating lessons for the following week, answering student questions regarding the work and tracking levels of engagement. Wednesdays are for university or alliance training sessions delivered online. On Thursdays I meet with my mentor for my weekly mentor meeting where we review progress from the previous week and set targets for the coming week. On Fridays I’m in school working with some of the schools most vulnerable children.

How do you manage the work/life balance?
I haven’t found it too difficult to get this balance right. It’s probably helped that there has been fewer distractions outside of work. I tend to be in school between 07:30-17:00, that way I rarely have to work evenings and weekends.

What would you say to anyone thinking of taking the leap and training to become a teacher?
Make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Get as much experience as you can before you start (even if that’s only a week).

Meet Jess: Primary School Direct Trainee 2019/20

Jess completed the ITT year for Primary teaching with Forest Way Alliance and the University of Derby in July 2020.  She is currently a class teacher in a Reception class and has just started the second term of her NQT year.
Jess became a teacher because she loves working with people: “When I was young, I wanted to be a PE teacher as I have a passion for sport. However, at the age of 16, I began working as a swimming instructor and really enjoyed working with younger children. I loved seeing them learn and progress in the water and knew that I wanted to go into full time teaching with primary school aged children. It is fantastic knowing that in this job you have the ability to change a child’s life for the better.”
When deciding which route to take, Jess researched the various programmes of study and decided on the School Direct approach: “I knew I wanted to train via the School Direct route as I’m a practical person and learn better on the job. When looking for training providers, I read lots of good reviews about Forest Way Teaching School Alliance.  The TSA is local to my home and had a wide range of excellent schools on offer, all of which I benefitted from during my training year.”

Jess reflects on the “high quality of training” which she experienced during her training year: “We attended Hub sessions fortnightly where our programme leaders organised for different guest speakers to come and deliver training sessions based on their own expertise. We got to meet a wide range of people and listened to their experiences in the teaching profession. 2019/2020 training year was very unique - the pandemic hit! Although face to face training was halted in March, leaders at FWTSA managed to still provide us with quality training virtually. Our programme manager was always at the end of the phone or an email to answer any queries or concerns. We were provided with online training and set home learning tasks. This ensured I kept up my professional development and felt prepared walking into my new classroom in September.” 

“I was able to spend time in very different schools. My main placement was in a year 5 class in a one form entry primary school. This helped to improve my behaviour management and subject knowledge for older children. My second placement was at a small village school in a mixed Reception/Year 1/Year 2 class. This really helped me to differentiate my lessons as I was not only teaching different ability groups within the same year but different ability groups across 3 year groups! At both of my placements, I was so lucky to have amazing mentors. They helped and guided me but also allowed me to try my own ideas and learn for myself.  As well as the 2 bigger placements, we also had the opportunity to spend a week in a SEN school. This opened my eyes to different approaches and teaching methods. The course at FWTSA has provided me with a plethora of experiences that I value highly. I met some amazing people and friends for life.”
Jess is currently concentrating on her NQT year, with hopes of completing a Masters degree in Education Studies alongside working in the near future: “I would love to become a subject lead of PE or Maths and eventually be part of the Senior Leadership Team, possibly as a Deputy Head.”

Meet Emily: Secondary School Direct Trainee 2019/20

Emily recently completed the ITT year for Secondary level History with Forest Way Teaching School Alliance and the University of Derby.  She is currently a teacher of Humanities, in charge of History at a KS3 school.

Emily reflects on her decision to become a teacher: “I wanted to have a career that has an impact and that is rewarding. I love teaching and I can’t imagine myself doing anything different now. When a student understands something, and you can almost ‘see’ it click, it is such an amazing and heart-warming feeling. I appreciate being able to spend all day teaching the subjects that I love; the students are incredible and every day is completely different.

I did plenty of research before I applied for ITT programmes and I was drawn to FWTSA by the testimonies of previous trainees and word of mouth through friends who had completed the course. After attending the interview and meeting the Secondary lead and teachers in one of the partnership schools, I immediately knew FWTSA was right for me. I felt welcomed and at ease right away.”

Emily describes the “high level of support” given to trainee teachers on the course.  She continues to say: “FWTSA is such an incredible organisation. The outside facilitators are all amazing and the course was fantastic. I felt incredibly supported from day one. The training was very well thought out and I felt certain topics were delivered just when we needed them, such as bereavement training and autism sessions. I was able to instantly put the sessions into practice and try out techniques the very next day in school.”

Unfortunately, Emily’s training year was disrupted by the pandemic, but, despite this, she comments on the sustained high quality provision: “even with the disruption caused by Covid-19, I still felt supported as FWTSA made sure to keep us informed of how our course would end. We had clear structure and support to keep our CPD ongoing to prepare us for our careers. When I began my new job, I felt confident in my abilities as a teacher despite the new ‘normal’ and the disruption to my course. Despite losing time in school, I really enjoyed having the time over lockdown to develop my CPD. I managed to cover so many topics in pedagogy and subject knowledge which I feel I have really benefitted from.”

Emily is keen to develop herself as a classroom teacher, but also has aspirations for her future career: “for now, I am concentrating on becoming the best teacher I can be for my students. I am developing and reflecting on my subject knowledge to enhance my lessons and practice to better support my students. In a few years I could see myself as an Assistant Head of Department or Head of History.

Meet Bruce: Secondary School Direct Trainee 2019/20 

Bruce has recently finished the ITT year for Secondary level Physics with Forest Way Teaching Alliance and the University of Derby. Currently, he is unable to take up a teaching post due to a shielding family member, but he is looking for jobs in the Leicestershire area in order to complete his NQT year.
 “I trained as a Structural Engineer and had a Civil engineering degree from the University of Bristol. However, I had taken some time off from that career to raise my son. During this time out, I developed a keen interest in physics. I became fascinated by both astrophysics and quantum mechanics, spending a lot of my free time on study. I became really enthusiastic and interested in physics as a subject: my wife suggested, "Why not teach this? I think you'd be great at it!"  I looked into ITT and realised that I would be able to train based on my current degree but would probably need to brush up on my general physics knowledge.
As well as being local to where I live, the Forest Way TSA course offers the in-school training that I was looking for. I really think spending a lot of time in school with great mentors is the best preparation for doing this job. You really "learn by doing". Some people might be put off by this "in at the deep end" approach, but it's actually a lot more structured than that! You build up to your first real lesson, and your mentor is always on hand.
Also, Forest Way supported me through a Subject Knowledge Enhancement course, so I could brush up on the current GCSE curriculum, so I felt a lot more confident in my subject knowledge going in.”
Bruce describes the “extremely high quality” of the course and the leaders as “helpful and supportive”.  He continued: “in addition, you have the excellent visiting lecturers, many of whom are experienced teachers, training you throughout the year. All aspects of teaching are covered from planning to behaviour management, safeguarding and all aspects of gender, identity, special educational needs, and educational theory. You will get a comprehensive training programme that supplements your teaching and helps you to get to grips with the all-important teacher standards.” 
Bruce describes the fantastic support that he received on the training course, and the benefits of the school direct route: “this is absolutely the best way to get to grips with teaching. Even at times when it seems overwhelming, you have the support of a whole team behind you! Not just the Forest Way course leaders and the University tutors, but also the network of in-school mentors and your fellow students.  It's a fantastic support network to help you through.”
For Bruce, the course offered many highlights: “the parts that stay with you are the moments of encouragement and obviously the fulfilment from actually preparing and delivering a great lesson. You are not creatively stifled, you can really push yourself and use new teaching techniques. It is very satisfying to try out new ideas, and maybe find some of them being adopted by your fellow teachers!”
Bruce would like to complete his NQT year in a Forest Way Alliance school, where he hopes to work his way up through a science department to be a departmental head one day.

Meet Julia: Primary School Direct Trainee 2017/18

Why did you decide to become a teacher? What inspired you?
Firstly, I had mixed experiences in my own education so I really valued the good bits and appreciated what a difference a good teacher makes. Then I reached a point in my life and career where I wanted to do something more rewarding, reach my full potential and give something back. I took an office job in a school while my daughter was growing up, and saw some wonderful teaching and felt I wanted to be a part of that. I am a creative person and wanted to share this, to inspire the future generation in the way I had experienced in my own schooling.

What are the benefits of teaching in North West Leicestershire
I have just begun my NQT year in a local MAT of 6 schools, on the Leicestershire/Derbyshire border, which are all very friendly and have strong links with their communities. I work not far from where I live so the community aspect is important – I feel I have a good understanding of the community and that I am making a valuable contribution to it.Working in a local MAT provides scope for networking and access to support across the MAT. 

Can you give us an overview of the training/ how did your training prepare you for teaching?
My training course was classroom based and provided me with hands on experience from the start – you can’t get better preparation than that, but in addition, all the university lectures and hub sessions backed up the practice with just the right theory as and when it was needed.
Did you receive financial support while you trained as a teacher / if so how did this support help?
I took out a student loan to cover tuition fees.

What has been your career progression to date?
In the past I have been a Freelance Textile Designer, Legal PA, and had several office jobs. I am now working in a fabulous small school with a class of 38 year 4/5/6 children and loving every minute! I look forward to the opportunities that teaching may provide in the distant future but for now I want to focus on becoming the best teacher I can be and make a difference to every single child in my class, not just academically but as individuals too.

How does your school support your career progression? 
I am in my NQT year so perhaps early days to say, although I know that across the MAT they are looking for staff who would like to progress into leadership long term. I will be attending the Primary NQT Programme through FWTSA which offers induction support and CPD training tailored for NQTs across the whole year.

Can you describe the process of applying for teacher training/was it easy/do you have any tips?
Start early – take time on your application and try to put a bit of yourself into the application, don’t be afraid to express yourself and your reasons for wanting to teach.
I practiced the skills test a great deal before the test date, and made sure I had passed them both before my interview date to show that I was committed to becoming a teacher.  

What was the most important thing that you gained or learned from teacher training?
I learned my own strengths and limitations along with many new strategies for how to deal with a myriad of new situations. I discovered that I love maths and science when I never did before! I learned so much about many things during my training, including learning much about myself, but the most important thing I learned is that everything you do as a teacher needs to be focused around the development of the children in your class/school and everything else is secondary to this.

What is it you like most about being a teacher?
It’s the best feeling when you know you have made a difference in your pupils’ lives – when you know you have inspired them to read a book for the first time or take an interest in a new subject, and you see it growing every week.

How has training to be a teacher changed you as a person?
I feel so proud to have survived the PGCE year – it is very hard work, especially for mature students with a young family at home to consider, but finishing the course has given me so much satisfaction and my confidence has grown as a result. I feel more self-assured, and ready and willing to take on new challenges. 

Julia's story makes an appearance in the Ashby Times in January 2019.

Click HERE to read the whole article.


School Direct Celebration June 2018

Meet Karl: Secondary School Direct Trainee 2017/18 - Chemistry

Why did you decide to become a teacher? What inspired you?
I wanted to be able to share the love I have for learning and for my subject. I want to try and give students the chances and the love for learning that I was given as a student. There are teachers that I had in high school that I still remember and all of these teachers had one thing in common, a love for their subject. This is what inspired me to become a teacher.

What are the benefits of teaching in Coalville?
It’s in central England which means that it is very easy to get to other places and visit friends and family. Coalville schools are a great place to work as they have an incredible infrastructure of really knowledgeable teachers who are always willing to help at any time.

Can you give us an overview of the training/ how did your training prepare you for teaching? 
I trained through FWTSA School Direct programs which meant that I was able to join the school as soon as the year started, integrating with the staff and students from day one and getting to know them as a new teacher would. During the first term I worked up to teaching 8 lesson a week myself and being in charge of those classes and their learning with the regular teacher there for support in the lessons.

For the second term I was placed at a different school with different Key Stages which allowed me to get experience of the secondary school system as a whole. Here I worked up to teaching 12 lessons a week with weekly observations from the regular teachers to help me improve my own teaching.
For the final term I was back at my first school and stayed there until the school year had finished. During this term I was teaching 16 lessons a week (80% of an NQT’s timetable) and towards the end of the term was being entrusted to be in the classes on my own, calling on the regular teachers only if I needed to.
Each Wednesday I was out of school either at the alliance training centre or the University of Derby for training  sessions on different aspects of pedagogical practices. 

Did you receive financial support while you trained as a teacher / if so how did this support help? 
Due to the subject I was teaching (Science), and my degree classification, I was eligible for a bursary of £20k for the year which was paid in monthly installments. This helped a lot as, because I was coming into teaching as a career change, this bursary relieved a lot of the financial worries of the year and allowed my to focus solely on my teaching practice.

What has been your career progression to date?
I have just started my first NQT position at Newbridge High School another school within the Alliance, as a teacher of both Science and Maths. 

How does your school support your career progression? 
I will be having regular meetings with my head of department in regards to CPD and what path I want my career in teaching to take. The school also has regular CPD sessions that all teaching staff are required to attend. I will also be attending the NQT Programme through FWTSA which offers induction support and CPD training tailored for NQTs across the whole year.
Can you describe the process of applying for teacher training/was it easy/do you have any tips?
The process for apply was quite straight forward through the Get into Teaching online portal. You need to make sure that you have spent time in schools observing before applying to make sure that you are aware of what teaching actually entails as this can be different to what some people expect.
My advice would be to get as many days in school as you can and as early as you can. These days really inform your decision about getting into teaching and they are a great resource towards completing your personal statement with what you have learnt about teaching from this experience.

What was the most important thing that you gained or learned from teacher training?
The most important thing I learnt was that lesson don’t always go to plan and that you don’t always have to stick to your lesson plan. Planning lessons is essential. This is what allows you to bring the best lessons to your students in the most engaging way for them. However, no matter how well a lesson is planned, there are some lesson that just won’t go they way you envisioned them. If this happens you need to have the confidence in yourself and in your teaching to alter the lesson to make sure your students are still learning what they need to.
During the teacher training I received, being in the lessons from day one and working closely with classroom teachers enabled me to build up confidence in my teaching and classroom management, so that when a lesson didn’t go plan, I was able to adapt the lesson.

What is it you like most about being a teacher?
 I thoroughly enjoy that teaching is never the same. No matter how many times you teach the same topic or lesson the lessons will always be slightly different due to the school your in or the students you have. This means that I am able to explore different ways of teaching the same content to make sure that my students are enjoying my lessons.
How has training to be a teacher changed you as a person?
I am much happier in this career than before and that reflects in the way I am at both work and home. I also feel a lot more confident in myself and talking to you new people.

Secondary School Direct Trainees at
Celebration Event June 2018

Meet Elita: Secondary School Direct Trainee 2016/17

My name is Elita and I was a Secondary School Direct trainee with FWTSA 2016/17. 
From the very beginning, the interview process was professional and I was convinced that this was the alliance I wanted to be a part of.

The training I received was second to none. Anything that you can think of that could link to teaching was covered  and was always relevant to the timing of the course and enabled me to put the new skills I had learnt straight into practice back at school. Alongside the training was the support from the course leaders,academic and personal, any issues were always addressed promptly to alleviate any worries.Training days had a fantastic atmosphere, surrounded by peers and professionals who share your interests, can answer questions and share successes, stories and resources. It is such a useful network to be a part of from day one.

I have been permanently employed in the school I was placed in for my training and could not be happier. I have received FWTSA training throughout my NQT year and beyond.

I stand by my decision to train with FWTSA and frequently recommend it to anyone who is considering a career in teaching. I can't thank FWTSA enough!

Elita at the School Direct  
Celebration Event - June 2017

Meet Kelly:  Primary School Direct Trainee 2015/16

My name is Kelly and I was a School Direct trainee with Forest Way Teaching School Alliance in 2015/16.  
I knew immediately after my interview that this was the alliance for me.  I came away feeling valued and respected - more of potential trainee rather than ‘just another student’.

Before the course we had opportunities to meet with the Programme Managers and peers, and were given information and guidance on how to prepare over the summer to really hit the ground running when we started our first placement.

I was very happy with my decision to train with FWTSA.  I built some fantastic relationships with peers and leaders and we keep in regular contact. The training I received was hugely valuable in informing my pedagogy, FWTSA are very well resourced and have a wide range of contacts. I therefore would really recommend FWTSA to any future trainees

After completing the SD programme with FWTSA, I secured a post at a school within the Alliance. It was extremely exciting and I felt I had been equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to effectively teach children and secure good progress, a huge contributing factor to this was the support and training I had received from FWTSA. I have since completed my NQT year with Induction and a comprehensive CPD programme provided by FWTSA. I thoroughly enjoy being a part of the FWTSA, it has been a challenging yet very rewarding journey.

NQT students Picture

NQT trainees certificate presentatation
​ Class of 2016/17