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What to expect on your teaching placement

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Teaching placements are an integral part of your initial teacher training, and we offer placement opportunities across several of our undergraduate and postgraduate education courses so you can gain relevant work experience. Gaining that valuable, first-hand teaching experience in schools is crucial to your degree and for preparing you for future employment in that it will enable you to build on your skills and put them into practice in a classroom environment.

Read on to discover more about what to expect on your teaching placement including how to prepare, the skills and knowledge you’ll gain, and the support you’ll receive.

What happens during a teaching placement?

When you undertake your teaching placement, you'll begin by observing lessons delivered by a professional teacher and have the opportunity to interact with pupils in the classroom. Your responsibility of teaching and planning will increase over time, leading up to periods of being left unsupervised. The level of supervision you receive will largely depend on your teaching experience and growing skills. The amount of time you spend on placement during the academic year will vary by course, but for many of our degrees, it'll be at least 120 days.

Although the length of the school day will differ depending on your individual placement school, you should treat your teaching placement like a full-time job. Most schools will expect you to start work by 8:30am at the latest and there's an expectation that you complete non-teaching tasks such as meetings, marking, and preparation once the pupils leave each afternoon. You'll also be given the chance to participate in team meetings and extracurricular activities, which is considered as part of the Teachers’ Standards (2012) and will add to your school experience and may help when applying for jobs after you graduate.

What you won't do as part of your teaching placement

Despite there being elements of your teaching placement where you can expect to be left unsupervised, there are also several things you shouldn’t have to worry about being responsible for during your time in school. These include being left alone to supervise during breaktimes, covering for a permanent teacher in the case of absence, taking part in performance management and appraisals, or carrying out first aid and administering medical care of pupils.

“The highlight of the Primary Education course has to be learning from some of the best in the field during placement. It’s refreshing to be able to develop my skills as a teacher, not only in lectures and seminars, but in a hands-on environment.”

Ryan Chung
BA (Hons) Primary Education with QTS

Preparing for teaching placements

Our University Placements Office will help you to source your teaching placement by liaising with our established school partnerships, of which we have hundreds across the North East and beyond. The Office will work closely with Programme Leaders to match trainees to an appropriate school or college. If you have a particular school you would like to request, you can provide the details on the Trainee Information Form sent to you after enrolment, although there's no guarantee you'll be placed in your requested school. Placement allocations are based on factors such as the area you live in, whether you drive or rely on public transport, and your training and academic needs.

There are several things we would recommend you do when preparing for your teaching placement. If possible, it's worth completing a practice journey to and from your school so that you’re familiar with the route before your first day. We would also advise you to visit the school’s website to familiarise yourself with their routine and undertake some initial research, but it’s a good idea to make contact directly to introduce yourself and ask any questions you may have before you start. Try to find out the names of key staff, information around safeguarding procedures, and if possible, ask for copies of relevant documents such as the code of conduct, school handbook, and health and safety guidelines.

It's also useful to get more information about the pupils you’ll be teaching, for example, the age range, what's currently being taught, and whether there are any individual needs or adjustments which need to be made and taken into consideration, for example, pupils with SEND. Read more about how you can prepare for your placement from one of our Primary Education students.

Skills and knowledge you'll gain on your teaching placement

The invaluable skills and knowledge you’ll gain from undertaking work experience in schools as part of your degree will be incredibly beneficial in preparing you to become a qualified teacher. When you graduate, you'll have gained a deeper understanding around:

  • Classroom management techniques
  • How specific subjects are taught
  • A teacher's role and responsibilities
  • How children learn and develop
  • Different teaching styles
  • Effective lesson planning and assessment.

The above, and much more you’ll learn along the way, will ensure you’re well-equipped for when you step into your first teaching role.

A student teacher supervising a secondary school science lesson

Support you'll receive on your teaching placement

Many of our trainee teachers will be entering the world of work for the first time when they embark on their teaching placement, and understandably this can feel quite daunting. However, you'll be fully supported throughout your placement journey.

You'll be assigned a named mentor within your school or college who you'll meet with regularly to monitor your progress, set targets, and receive verbal feedback on the lessons you plan and teach. You'll also receive weekly written feedback on an observed lesson. As well as your mentor, you'll have a minimum of two visits from your University tutor during placement, and at least one of these visits will include observation and feedback on your practice. There will be frequent communication between the University and your placement school, plus opportunities to meet with other teachers, particularly others on the way to gaining QTS status.


Visit our Teacher Training and Education subject area to find out more about the undergraduate and postgraduate courses we offer here at Sunderland.

Published: 11 April 2024