Stephen Jessop

BA French & Spanish

Placement: Students into Schools

Organisation: University of Leeds

Ideal career: Teacher

Stephen Jessop is a languages student who took part in the Students into Schools programme as both a module student in his 2nd year and a volunteer in his 4th year. His experience helped him to successfully gain a place on a PGCE. Here he talks about his experience…

Students into Schools proved to be an invaluable experience for languages student Stephen Jessop

In my second year I took the Linguists into Schools module and was placed in an inner city school in Leeds. I enjoyed the structure of the module, which included tasks such as preparing lesson plans and writing a reflective log each week. I went into school on Fridays along with another volunteer and we ran small group activities, such as speaking classes. In my fourth year, I returned to Students into Schools as a volunteer after taking a year out teaching in Belgium with the British Council. I volunteered in a different school, this time as a general classroom assistant and occasionally running activities.

Both schools were based in quite deprived areas. Studying sociology at A Level had opened my eyes to issues surrounding inequality in education and left me feeling that I wanted to engage with these real life issues and make a difference. Just as I anticipated, some students at the school didn't enjoy learning and the last place they wanted to be was in a French lesson. It was nice to go to a school where the majority of children weren't thinking about going to university and encourage them to consider it as an option.

In terms of the impact on the students, in my second year placement it was rewarding to see the students improve and become more engaged with the subject over just a term. At first they were shy and not very confident but after a term of weekly 15 minute speaking classes they were more comfortable with speaking Spanish. I remember saying goodbye to our GCSE class after our final session and one student in particular saying 'I'm going to do Spanish A-level now, you've convinced me' and that was a real high point of my time at the school.

Through their involvement with Students into Schools, the school where I completed my 4th year placement were encouraged to take part in an Educational Outreach day where a class of year 10 students came to the University for a languages day. This gave them the opportunity to be in a university environment and take part in taster sessions in another language. After this experience, a lot of students were telling their teacher that they wanted to come to university to study a language. It was good to be part of this process and a satisfying way to end my placement with them.

Through taking part in Students into Schools I gained real classroom experience which I was able to use in my applications for a PGCE. In my interview I talked about being in school only a few days earlier and gave lots of real life examples. The experience has definitely helped me to feel happier and more confident in front of a group of people. I am also more aware of how my presence in a room can influence people. I appreciated the chance I got as a classroom assistant to observe lessons and see how teachers approached children, organised things, moved through activities and influenced the atmosphere in the classroom.

The training that I received for Students into Schools programme was better and more comprehensive than any other training I've received so far. This gave me a great starting point to go on to do further work in schools. The support from the Students into Schools team was great, it was good to know the drop in sessions were there if I had any problems. They are a nice, approachable team and I felt I could let them know about any issues or problems.

The highlights of the Students into Schools programme for me included assisting in a Spanish lesson during the recent solar eclipse, which the students were very excited about. I was able to find a live feed in Spanish along with a diagram and teach students some relevant vocab. I also remember a student asking me for advice about her GCSE choices. It was good to be able to give some reassurance to the young people I was working with. I enjoyed being able to take on the role of a teacher and being another adult in the room who was there to help. Overall, it was rewarding to be a nice presence in the room and get to know the kids I was working with.

I would definitely recommend Students into Schools to others. I loved having Fridays in school as a completely different day compared to the rest of the week spent in University. It's a great structured way to get into teaching – I received help with my DBS check, great training and there was a team in the office who were always on hand to help with any issues.