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The University of Reading’s Institute of Education (IoE) has introduced an innovative mentoring scheme which bodes well for trainee teacher development. Students praise the extra insight, knowledge and tips they receive through the scheme, alongside all the on-going support. The new scheme aims to nurture mentoring skills whilst boosting teachers’ and trainees’ Continuous Professional Development (CPD) – absolutely vital in the rapidly evolving world of education.

Trainee teachers from the IoE experience immense benefits in their training schools from the support they receive from mentors. It is a responsibility the mentors take very seriously, ensuring that by giving their mentees the kind of experience that smooths the transition to teach, these students will have a strong base from which to launch their careers and be the best teachers they can be.

Whilst being mentored, students are able to explore teaching life and career goals based on the experience and perspective of a mentor who is already ‘out there’. Yet it is not just the student who gains from such a partnership. For the mentor, the benefit is not confined to seeing changes in their mentee student arising from their encouragement and support – though this is hugely rewarding of course. But, say mentors, spending time mentoring current students with their fresh ideas and creative approach has also been perspective-shifting and energising for them. Mentoring, they enthuse, is a two-way benefit.

This is the backdrop to the IoE’s introduction of the new Mentor Certification Programme which nurtures teachers and practitioners in developing and reflecting on their skills for effective mentoring – ensuring an already robust and successful mentor programme continues to grow alongside the ever-developing world of teaching.

The new programme has been made specifically flexible to support busy professionals, with a further benefit arising from the support it provides for teachers’ and education practitioners’ career development: the strong element of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is a key component of the new scheme.

Schools and settings have been enthusiastic about these skills-enhancement activities but have also experienced a different kind of positive from the scheme: research has shown a strong link between effective mentoring and recruitment and retention of teachers. Reading Partnership Teachers (RPTs) are regularly offered roles in their placement schools, so active engagement with the Partnership in training new teachers proves an excellent way for schools to recruit Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs).

The Certification scheme has already drawn strong interest from colleagues in schools and settings wishing to cultivate their mentoring expertise. Those already mentoring in Partnership settings are being invited to join the new Certification programme at the level that suits their experience.

The IoE is ranked 3rd in the UK for Education (The Guardian University League Table 2018), with internationally renowned and award-winning academics. The Institute’s strong links with local – and not so local –  schools enables an outstanding Partnership that can create the next generation of exceptional teachers. 

The IoE’s high levels of pastoral care and the exemplary experience that students enjoy are regularly reflected in the annual National Student Survey (NSS), with 2017’s ranking the IoE a high 90% for satisfaction. Indeed, one of the Institute’s key strengths, as recognised by Ofsted, is the high quality of support it provides to schools, mentors and Reading Partnership Teachers (RPTs) on placement.

What Reading Partnership Mentors have to say:
“Mentoring….. it makes you think about your own teaching”
“Mentoring skills – really good for developing departmental policies”

Click here to discover more about mentoring and Mentor Certification from some of our Reading Partnership Mentors.

The Institute is keen to welcome experienced teachers and practitioners to the Mentor Certification programme, whether applicants are mentoring trainees, early years workers, students or Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs).

If you would like to find out more about this aspect of the scheme, please contact your University link tutor, or Kate Malone, our Placements Co-ordinator.

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Dr Catherine Tissot, Head of Institute of Education

Speaking recently on International Women’s Day in her capacity as a female senior academic, Dr Catherine Tissot revealed her early inspiration and had some unusual advice for those embarking on a career in education, special needs and academia.

Catherine’s undergraduate degree in the USA focused on special needs teaching and that is certainly where she saw her future lying. She had no inkling then that she would become a teacher of teachers and ultimately the Head of one of the highest ranked schools of education in the United Kingdom. 

Catherine’s childhood involvement in voluntary activities with kids in her local park confirmed to her from a very early age that her future lay in education.

She said: “I absolutely knew I wanted to become a teacher from earliest memory and I also became passionate about Special Needs teaching from a very young age.”

After High School (in the USA), Catherine enrolled at the renowned university for special education provision, Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Drawn as always to special needs, Catherine found herself helping out with SN children’s swimming programmes at University in her spare time. She loved her voluntary work and saw her future being in the classroom as a special needs teacher.

Fate thought differently. Travelling to live in France in 1990, following her husband on a work posting, Catherine as quickly formed contacts with local SN groups and began volunteering. Their next posting took the couple to the UK, where she picked up her charity work again. The connections she made at the local University through this led to her being offered a scholarship to pursue a PhD.

Catherine said: “I was so delighted and excited at being offered this unexpected opportunity.”

Focusing her research on how appropriate provision can be determined for the vast array of individuals on the various spectrums of special needs, Catherine examined the perspectives of school, parents and Local Authorities.

Fully absorbed by now, having finished her PhD, Catherine started lecturing part-time at Brunel University. After a brief foray back into a special needs school, she finally arrived at the Institute of Education at the University of Reading in 2008.

As Head of School since 2015, Catherine envisages a world where teachers are given the support and time to attend appropriately to individual children’s differing needs.

She said: “Each special needs child is unique, so teachers need to have the opportunity to make plans that suit the child’s own pattern of learning and well-being. Often the first plan may not work, so you will need to revisit and there needs to be provision for this level of flexibility in the curriculum.”

Catherine sees the academic community getting closer to understanding the causes of autism, but warns that it will be a complex network of causes, rather than just one. She sounds a further warning note about the future of teaching in general in the UK:

“The point I’d like to make is that we are rapidly approaching significant shortages of teachers. This is partly because we are not able to recruit enough new teachers to replace retirees. Sadly, another cause is that teachers are not staying in the field because of the work load. This is a problem that needs addressing at policy level and any solution will come at a cost.

“Another area where I’d like to see change is in the public perceptions of teachers. Remember that what you see in the classroom is only the tip of the iceberg. I don’t know of any good teacher who doesn’t work evenings, weekends and holidays to stay on top of planning, marking and paperwork.

“I’d like to see parents more involved too, shouldering their own responsibility of raising children who are school-ready, in the most basic terms. I was talking with a Year 2 teacher last week who was frustrated because a child was not yet toilet-trained, for instance. How can a teacher achieve meaningful results when facing such basic obstacles?”

Catherine’s other concern is the effect of new technology on children’s communication.

“They become consumed by it, addicted to it, and this impedes communication skills, real world skills, writing skills; in fact all the indicators of a successful future. It’s very sad.”

Does Catherine have any words of advice for young people setting out on a career in education?

She cites seizing opportunities when they arise as the secret to achieving life goals – even those goals you didn’t realise you had to begin with.

She said: “I’m now Head of School. I wouldn’t have had that opportunity if hadn’t taken the chance the moment I was offered that scholarship. My confidence grew with the scholarship, and of course each stage of attainment gives you more confidence in yourself.

“I would say, be bold and take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way. Be sure to realise and recognise opportunities that may be right in front of you. And remain constantly reflective in your daily life. Take suggestions positively, seize opportunities and don’t be too risk averse.”

When she has time off from running the Institute of Education, Catherine absorbs herself in another kind of growth. Her allotment is her pride and joy and she describes the pleasure of growing all her family’s vegetables. Catherine also closely follows the fortunes of her favourite American football team, the Green Bay Packers and when she has a moment to spare, loves to swim with the group of lads who are her swimming buddies.

When asked whom she would point to as her career inspiration, she pauses for a moment.

“There are so many. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve been helped by informal mentors throughout career and my family has a tradition of strong women! My most recent inspiration though has been the IoE’s own Professor Rhona Stainthorp. She is so very good at challenging me in a supportive manner and she always has an open door and cup of tea ready!”

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Students from the Institute of Education (IoE) organised a book sale recently in aid of local charity Daisy’s Dream, which supports children and young people going through bereavement.

The students, all on the IoE’s BA (Hons)Children’s Development and Learning (BA CDL) programme, raised £143 to aid the charity’s work in responding to the needs of children and families affected by life threatening illness or bereavement.

BA CDL Student Representatives Victoria Savage and Sam Boseley presented Yvonne Haines from Daisy’s Dream with the money they had raised. Yvonne then offered a moving insight into the work of Daisy’s Dream in supporting bereaved and distressed children in Berkshire and the surrounding areas.

Jo Elsey, Director of Early Years Initial Teacher Training Programmes at the IoE said:

“We are delighted and proud that our students took the initiative to support such a good cause and one that is close to our hearts. Well done to the students and staff who worked hard to achieve this result.”

See more:

BA Children’s Development and Learning

Daisy’s Dream

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