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Working with the trainee

What is a trainee entitled to in the school experience placement?

All trainees are entitled to on-going support and training which will help them to maximise their potential to meet the demands of the ITTCCF and Teachers' Standards (TS), while nevertheless receiving regular honest and constructive feedback on their development.

The three major elements of the school-based training and support are:

  • a whole-school Professional Studies programme organised by the PCM. PCM using the ITTCCF will design their programme to complement the Professional Studies sessions taught in the universities and give an additional school-specific focus to these areas. Some schools run this programme intensively during the pre-block while others spread this programme throughout the placement. Mentors need to be aware of this programme and to discuss impact with trainees (see PCM Handbook Appendix 3: Example of a school-based programme).
  • an individualised subject-based training programme provided by the Mentor, which is tailored to meet the trainee’s needs and shows an understanding of the ITTCCF demands.
  • an appropriate timetable (see Appendix 4: training outline).

What does the training process entail?

It is vital that the Partnership supports the ITTCCF to ensure that the demands of the Framework are covered in the training year. Training is most effective when trainees learn in departments where all members of staff, including support staff, are active contributors to their learning and progression.

Within the Partnership there is a strong awareness of the developmental value of the training department, and this is central to the success of a placement. However, the keys to a successful outcome are the relationship between the PGCE trainee and the Mentor, and the effectiveness of the weekly training session.

Mentors within the Partnership need to recognise that their role transcends lesson observation and debriefing. Mentors need to be constructive, consistent and empathetic:

  • They support trainees to set targets and to monitor and evaluate progress during the weekly training sessions taking into account the demands of the ITTCCF.
  • In addition, Mentors might also arrange for trainees to visit and observe colleagues across the school who have particular classroom or subject expertise.

Mentors need to be aware of the range of experiences that adult learners bring to the situation.

  • In some cases, Mentors will find themselves working with trainees who are older than themselves.
  • It is helpful when Mentors and other school colleagues acknowledge previous skills and a trainee’s qualifications and background in the subject area.

The individual subject training session: Weekly Training Meeting

The subject-based Weekly Training Meeting is central to the school-based training programme. It provides a regular, formal opportunity for the Subject Mentor and trainee to discuss recent progress, review lesson plans, consider the implications of lesson evaluations, seek guidance on subject knowledge, and to identify and plan future training needs in relation to the ITTCCF and TS.

Whilst the main foci of the meetings will be subject-related issues including, but not restricted to, day-to-day monitoring and review, it is highly desirable that generic and/or subject-specific training issues are also included.

The weekly training session provides an effective focus for training activities in relation to the ITTCCF and TS. They form a significant part of the evidence base of the development of the trainee's knowledge, understanding and skills throughout the training programme. They provide valuable evidence for the completion of the Assessment Profile at three points in the year.

The recommended pattern for this process is: Review - Plan - Train

The trainee prepares for the meeting by thinking through:

  • developments over the past week (by considering which targets have been addressed, which new ones might be established, and so on);
  • broader issues of their training related to the Standards.

Trainee drafts out appropriate section of the Weekly Training Meeting record on their Abyasa timeline.

The Mentor prepares for the weekly meeting by, for example, discussing with other colleagues the progress of the trainee over the last week, considering the wider training appropriate for the trainee at this point.

At the Weekly Training Meeting, the Mentor and trainee meet to discuss previous progress and provide an input into the subject training. The Weekly Training Meeting record on Abyasa is a focus for this with the mentor amending and/or adding to the trainee's original notes and previous needs analysis/audits.

Fresh targets are set and recorded on the record, and the Mentor confirms that the meeting record is accurate.

What should my expectations be of a trainee?

Professional conduct

All trainees should recognise that they are expected to behave professionally at all times in school and that, for the duration of their placement, they have the same obligations and rights as full members of staff.

Full attendance and punctuality to school and lessons are indisputable requirements as are adherence to a school’s dress code, upholding of a school’s values, and observation of a school’s policies (e.g. rewards and sanctions, use of IT and digital platforms).

Trainee use of Abyasa Pro - recording training online

  • Abyasa Pro will contain a complete record of the trainee’s work while on a placement.
  • Trainees must invite their mentors to access their timeline.
  • As it is online it will be available at all times for the Mentor, PCM and University Tutor to examine.

How much observation and feedback should a trainee receive?

Regularity of formal observation

Trainees should be formally observed, and an appropriate observation form should be completed. There MUST be at least ONE formal observation a week in the Foundation Phase. Where a trainee is able to teach within two Key Stages, then a second formal observation within that Key Stage would be welcome.

In the Development and Consolidation Phase there MUST be TWO observations per week, one formally for each Key stage.

Observations can be conducted by the Mentor or other departmental colleague, or indeed the PCM. Other less formal observations will also be written, but it is not good practice to observe every lesson taught by the trainee. Receiving feedback on every lesson taught can overburden the trainee with more advice than can be assimilated easily.

Observation should be planned to cover the full range of the classes and Key Stages being taught and should address specific areas of the ITTCCF and TS whenever possible.

Recording the observation

All observations must be related to the ITTCCF and the TS.

Copies of any observations should be given to the trainee to upload onto their Abyasa timeline.

  • School-designed sheets can be used, but must be clearly related to the ITTCCF themes and include a space for target-setting.
  • Mentors may prefer to make notes in the lesson and write them up afterwards. Others prefer to write a running commentary with some general points at the end of the observation sheet. It can be helpful to annotate the lesson plan instead. A chronological analysis of the lesson can be very helpful as one of a range of strategies.

Addressing the trainee directly

The mentor is engaging with the trainee in an important training activity. For this reason it is appropriate to address comments to the trainee directly and with precision:

“The transition from whole-class discussion to writing activity went well because you answered key questions before they began. Much better than with 8B last time I saw you…”

rather than: “Miss Smith began by settling the class and taking the register…”

What to write about

  • Mentors are not expected to make detailed comments in relation to each TS in any one observation. However, they should remember that over the weeks of the school experience a body of evidence is built up to show how well the trainee has demonstrated proficiency within the ITTCCF.  
  • Although classroom management will usually be an element of the observation, the main focus of the observation is how well the pupils have progressed as a result of the trainee’s teaching. 
  • Trainees also need to have comments about their subject knowledge development, assessment and other elements from the summary sheet. 
  • It should always be clear from the record of the observation what was being taught and whether the learning outcomes were achieved.  
  • Areas for improvement should be focused into two or three achievable targets maximum.  
  • It is very good practice to look back at previous targets and see how they are being met in the context of the lesson being observed.
  • Evidence for comments will come from lesson observations, conversations with the trainee and from their documentation.

Giving feedback

It is important to achieve a good balance between positive encouragement and constructive criticism. Very critical feedback will most certainly undermine any confidence that a trainee has built up. Please remember that all trainees are beginning teachers even if they have been Teaching Assistants or Learning Support in previous roles.

Being positive and honest

Praise and encouragement should be focused in a helpful way. It is more useful to offer such comments as:
“You handled the question and answer session really well” or “The demonstration was clear and everyone could see what you were doing” rather than to offer general comments.

Entirely positive feedback may lead to the trainee becoming complacent and acquiring a false sense of his or her own expertise. Honest feedback given constructively may help to highlight areas to which trainees may need to pay particular attention. Mentors working with a particularly gifted trainee will need to develop strategies to develop the trainee’s skills further.


  • Trainees find it very difficult to cope with a lengthy list of faults to remedy.
  • Try to define precise short-term priorities for improvement and development and to provide strategies for addressing them in a systematic way.
  • Relate priorities to the ITTCCF. Once the initial targets have been met, further priorities can be defined.
  • SMART targets will support trainees – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-focused.

Being consistent

Trainees often receive a good deal of positive reinforcement verbally immediately after a lesson. This may be followed by a written commentary that contains a great deal of critical appraisal. This can be confusing and demoralising.

Weak trainees often receive a great deal of advice from a range of colleagues. Confident trainees can assimilate a good deal of advice, evaluate it and work out which strategies may work best for them. Less confident trainees are less likely to do so and can become bewildered by the range of advice being given and resort to trying out one strategy after another and thereby communicate confusion and inconsistency to the teaching groups.

The Mentor should take an overview and ensure that the trainee is receiving consistent advice with achievable aims.

Being aware of progression and development

Mentors should think through what is reasonable to expect from a trainee at each stage of the programme and consider this when giving feedback.

e.g. In the early weeks of the first school experience, the trainee will be focused on establishing a classroom presence and on developing skills in planning and classroom management. It would be quite inappropriate to expect a trainee at this stage to have a detailed knowledge of the assessment arrangements for the subject or to be able to plan extensively for differentiation.