After his degree, Dominic spent many years travelling and working abroad. Eventually, he left his life in Granada, Spain, and returned to England to study a post-graduate teaching course at Bath Spa University.
This is how it all started
I applied to Bath Spa University while in Spain and was invited to an interview with the leader of the PGCE Secondary English course, Barbara Imrie, who had a lifetime of experience as a secondary English teacher behind her. There were two of us that day and we had to stand up and deliver a short presentation to see how we came across as well as field all the usual interview questions. It was to Barbara’s credit that, in the manner of a true English teacher, she was particularly interested in our own reading histories; the subject should, after all, be predicated on a love of books.
The leader of the PGCE Secondary English course… had a lifetime of experience as a secondary English teacher behind her.
Exploring the campus of Bath Spa University
Bath Spa is set in a lovely campus and I joined a diverse and supportive group of students. The other thing I remember about that day was the campus; a long drive leading to a modern university sitting in a stunning and bucolic landscape, with the 18thcentury Main House as a reminder of its heritage. There is a lake, and woods and lots of green space and it’s just outside the amazing City of Bath with its historic buildings, Roman imprint and cultural community.
I was accepted onto the one year course and when it started I found myself in a group of about 20 students from a wide range of locations and backgrounds. This diversity was great as we all brought different things to the course and learned from each other – there was a lot of group work, peer learning and support and joint teaching practice so it was good to be part of a jolly, varied crowd of people.
The other thing I remember was the campus; a long drive leading to a modern university sitting in a stunning and bucolic landscape.
Outstanding tutoring and school-based training
The tutoring was outstanding; our tutor, Barbara Imrie, knew and loved our subject and had rock-solid teaching skills which she used to help us learn the craft. She was full of wisdom and an excellent role-model. Some of the most important work was done in the school placements; I attended several schools in and around Somerset, including a demanding school in Hartcliffe, Bristol, which is about ten miles west along the A4. Seeing some of the work being done in that school, situated in one of the deprived areas of the Bristol, was something I’ll never forget and taught me the meaning of the word vocation.
The tutoring was outstanding.
What was it like to live in Bristol?
Living in Bristol while studying in Bath was a perfect combination for me for me, and my final school placement in Cornwall was a joy.
I stayed with a friend for much of that year in her house in St Werburgh’s in Bristol. It was great having Bristol next door as it’s much bigger than Bath and offers a slightly more urban experience which complemented the charms of Bath perfectly. The school placements asked a lot of a novice teacher but it was that experience that got you ready for the real thing once you moved into your first teaching job. I found many of the people I met in those schools, both teachers and pupils, really interesting, funny and, at times, quite inspiring.
My last placement was in Cape Cornwall School, in St Just, in Cornwall. I think I spent about ten weeks there and it was wonderful being in such a friendly (but lively) school community and doing some serious work. I stayed with the music teacher from the school and his wife and they were wonderful hosts and colleagues. He ran three steel bands in the school, in one of which I played (badly) and they had a float in the Notting Hill Carnival which was an incredible achievement for a group of kids from the tip of Cornwall.
It was that experience that got you ready for the real thing once you moved into your first teaching job.
Lifetime dividends – a life-changing qualification
The school placements undertaken during that year often led to job offers, and several of our group ended up working back in their placements full time the following year. The careers help was really good and I think every one of us that was looking for a job got one. I wasn’t – I had already decided to go back to Spain after the course, but the qualification helped me with my teaching there and also led on to my going to Nepal with VSO. I eventually did end up teaching English at secondary level many years later, so doing the course paid huge dividends in my life.
I learned many things that year, one of which seems rather quaint now; I was computer illiterate and their policy was that all assignments had to be produced on word processors, so I was dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world. I feel sorry for the advisors in the Newton Park Library who had to get me started on their computers.
The careers help was really good and I think every one of us that was looking for a job got one.
My Top 5 for Bath Spa University
- The teacher training – that’s what I went there for and it must be one of the best centres in the country for this.
- The campus – I love the countryside, and being able to wander around grounds designed by Capability Brown and read books by a lake was joy.
- Bath and Bristol – completely different cities but both are hubs of culture with great links to London.
- The school links – the success of a teacher training course is predicated on the schools it can send students to; Bath Spa had extensive links with great schools.
- My tutor – she was brilliant and you need a good tutor for a demanding course like a PGCE.
The teacher training – it must be one of the best centres in the country for this.
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