PRIMARY and Secondary PGCE students at Leeds Trinity University have stepped up to become key workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, undertaking their teacher training placements safely throughout the national lockdown.

All trainee teachers were allocated schools in September 2020, despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic. This was achieved due to the collaboration of the Leeds Trinity Partnerships, Placements and Employment team and its strong network of 600 schools. Through their placement, each student receives the opportunity to get hands-on experience of teaching both in school and remotely using programmes such as Microsoft Teams.

Christianna Vlamis, a Primary PGCE student said: “I’ve been learning remotely throughout my PGCE, which meant that when it came to starting my placement, I was already comfortable with the software that my school used to teach virtually and could pick things up more quickly.”

She added: “Teaching in such uncertain circumstances has definitely made me more adaptable and also strengthened my resilience, which will come in very useful when I come to teach my own class. I’m really glad that I was still able to receive valuable practical experience despite being in national lockdown.”

Throughout her placement, Christianna has received support from her University link tutor, Pauline Quick, as well as from the Leeds Trinity Student Liaison and Engagement Officers.

Christianna said: “It was very reassuring to have a link tutor to help to bridge the gap between the school I was working in and the University. My advice for students thinking of doing a PGCE would be to try not to get overwhelmed and to familiarise themselves with the range of support services available.”

In January 2021, the University announced a new Safety Net policy to support students and ensure that their academic outcomes will not be disadvantaged by the pandemic. The University has also converted vital student support services online through the myLTU app, and extended the provision of student support.

Megan Stephenson, Primary PGCE Programme Co-ordinator at the university said: “Despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, we managed to place all our trainee teachers with partner schools in September 2020. We recognise and value the importance of our trainees being in a classroom – to gain knowledge, confidence and practical skills that are vital to becoming a teacher.

“Our Placements team have worked exceptionally hard to maintain our strong network of 600 school partners, to ensure that all PGCE students weren’t disadvantaged due to the circumstances.”