Sarah Wilkinson, a former engineer with 20 years’ experience working in industry and the holder of a post-graduate certificate in teacher training from England, was surprised to find herself shut out from Scottish schools when she moved north of the border. Her teaching experience in England was predominantly in further education where she taught maths to adults. However, this did not meet the requirements for registration with the General Teaching Council for Scotland.
With a passion for teaching, she instead worked as a volunteer tutor in maths and physics at an independent school, Cedars School of Excellence, in Greenock.
This reignited her passion to teach but with a post-graduate certificate in education already under her belt, she did not want to repeat the process by completing the Scottish post-graduate diploma in education.
She said: “I felt that I had already been through this route and I didn’t want to return to university to undertake a similar course. It was disappointing to find that anomalies between the English and Scottish systems meant I couldn’t use my qualifications here to their full advantage.
“When I heard about the University of Aberdeen’s Post-Graduate Certificate in Educational Studies, developed for those in just this situation, it seemed a good fit and I have loved being able to teach again.
“I am currently taking 15 periods a week in maths, physics and science and I hope that my past experience in industry helps to bring an additional dimension to my lessons.”
Sarah said balancing the demands of the course and her role in school was difficult and that the support of her school, the university and coursemates was vital in helping her to cope.
“The headteacher and the rest of the staff have been wonderfully helpful and are very experienced, committed and caring towards the pupils and each other. This has made all the difference in terms of successfully completing this course and getting the most from it,” she added.
“My 12-year-old daughter is also at the school and it means that I can earn a living teaching subjects that I love, with my daughter in the same, wonderful educational environment. This course has enabled me to achieve this.
“It is tough juggling study and work but I am glad this is a route open to me as I don’t think there’s another way I’d have been able to work towards a formal Scottish teaching qualification.
“The course does demand a lot of you but I have learned a lot from it. I think it is good that there are these alternative routes for people.
“Having the right opportunities to allow people to fulfil this without giving up everything they have already worked towards is a good thing and this course is allowing me to do that.”
Sarah has only visited Aberdeen once for a non-compulsory get-together at the beginning of the course but said the bonds formed from this were vital.
“As a cohort we interact a lot through an online learning system called Blackboard. This allows us to have online collaborative meetings with our tutors and to talk to one-another. We also have a course messaging group which has been a great support when you are having a tough day.
“It is far from an easy route to qualification but it is a very worthwhile one and I hope it will allow more people like me, with past teaching experience and time in industry, to utilise our skills in Scottish schools.”