Alumni Dan Jones studied his PGCE in Early Years and his Master’s in Work-Based Learning at Newman University, he tells us all about his time at Newman and what he went on to do after studying here.
Having graduated from Newman in 2008 with a PGCE in Early Years, I had reached a point in my career where I wanted to develop my teaching practice in a deeper way than many of the one day courses were able to cater for.
As curriculum lead for the arts, my role is wider than class teaching now and I needed a way to challenge my practice that both supported me and supported other key staff that I am responsible for. I had considered applying for a Master’s programme for a while, until I finally bit the bullet and applied for an MA in work-based learning with a drama focus. Teaching drama makes up a substantial portion of my every day job and the flexibility of this course suited me perfectly, as it enabled me to conduct focussed research on areas of my work of my choice.
The course adopts a blended learning approach
Therefore, I did not spend much time on campus. It was quite different to how I remembered it to be ten years earlier so it was almost like being somewhere brand new again. In spite of this, everything was clearly signposted in the library and if I was ever got stuck, there was always a friendly face to help! I particularly enjoyed using the Moodle platform because everything I needed to know about each course module was in one place, easily accessible at any time.
One of the key strengths of Newman is its people
Every single one of the staff I have ever encountered could not do enough for you, whether it is locating a certain room on campus, library support, the IT helpdesk or the tutors providing timely support and feedback. I cannot praise everyone highly enough for this; working full time alongside studying is difficult enough in itself but it is reassuring to know that any questions or concerns will be dealt with promptly and in full.
After graduating I became a primary school teacher straight after my PGCE and subsequently taught reception for nine years
I worked in three different schools in that time, including a short spell in a London school that had been place in Special Measures, which was an experience to say the least! I have been at Allens Croft now for eight years and have been in this current role for the past four.
I am now Creative Arts Lead at Allens Croft Primary School
A two form entry school in Kings Heath. Predominantly, I teach music and drama to every class in the school, covering teachers’ PPA time. I also have responsibility for the Arts Curriculum Team, which includes staff responsible for dance and visual art, as well as the Arts Council of pupil ambassadors for the arts within school.
As well as teaching, my role involves championing the arts across the curriculum in a structured, coherent way as well as liaising with local arts organisations and schools, with whom we work in partnership.
I am also a teacher representative on Birmingham Education Partnership’s ArtsLink Network for teachers and arts organisations, which works to bring schools and local artists together to work on shared educational goals. We were very proud last year to achieve our school Platinum Artsmark award, which is a quality mark for arts education.
The great thing about teaching is that it is full of lots of little achievements and it isn’t until you look back at where the individual was a few months ago that you realise it has aggregated into a big achievement
I tend to think of teaching more as lots of little achievements that occur every single day across all the interactions you have with people; whether it’s watching a certain child build in confidence to be able to perform in front of an audience or supporting a colleague to teach a particular concept in music. I guess if I had to pick, achieving Platinum ArtsMark status was a big moment for us, as it recognised the great artistic opportunities our school provides and that is a result of the entire team pulling together in the same direction.
My advice to people who are thinking about studying at Newman but might be anxious
Newman people are so helpful and there are lots of support channels available according to what you might be anxious about. There are mentor systems, counsellors available, and the chaplaincy; but I feel at Newman you could speak to any single person in the Newman family and they would help you as best they could.
Studying at level 7 actually had an impact on the way I think
Since my course finished, I have missed studying and am already looking at options for what I might do next. My studies impacted my every day work in immeasurable ways. From taking account personal biases I might have to the way I challenge information that is presented to me, studying a master’s level programme has made a far more intrinsic difference to me than I ever could have imagined!
Things that I like to do in my spare time
My passion is the theatre but I enjoy all kinds of live performance. In the past I used to perform in local community musicals but I don’t get as much time for that these days. I prefer to cascade my passion to the children and “sharpen up” my inner director and choreographer!
I am also a trustee for a Birmingham theatre-in-education company, which uses participatory theatre to inspire and educate the young people of our city and beyond; a role that challenges me in my leadership and communication skills whilst also enabling me to support a wider cohort of children from a different perspective.