What to do in the first week as a trainee teacher? #PGCE #SCITT #PGDE

1. Have your timetable in your hands

Your mentor will have this ready for you. Make sure you know where all the classes are that you will be teaching. Also make a note of when the actual class teacher will be taking over.

For example, if you are taking Mr. Bob’s year 9 science class on Tuesday and Wednesday, he may be teaching them on Friday which means you need to make a note of what they have covered so you can plan the following lesson.

2. Get the class photos and seating plans ready for the classes you will be teaching

Class photos will be on SIMS (or another programme that your school may use). Make a note of the current seating plan when observing the class, you will have the opportunity to change it when you take over.

3. Take a look at the data of students

On the seating plan or class photos, highlight and annotate students who are EAL, SEN, higher ability, lower ability, if they have a TA with them, if they have a severe disability, etc. This will allow you to get to know your students better and allow you to easily differentiate if you have to. For example, I had a student with severe hearing and eyesight problem – I was made to wear a device around my neck every lesson so she can hear me and send the powerpoint to the TA as well as the student prior to the lesson. In addition to this, any worksheets used in the lesson will be printed on A3 paper or very large font just for her.

4. Take a look at the Scheme of Work of the school

I’ve attached an image of what it a SoW usually looks like. It gives you an idea of what will be taught throughout the year so gives you a chance to plan ahead.

Example of an SoW from my SE1 placement

5. Meet your department and other key staff you may need to know

Your department is who you will spend the majority of your time with. Get to know everyone and what their speciality is. I struggled to make physics interesting, so it was super useful speaking to the physicists in my department.

6. Dig deep into the shared drive

Your placement schools will have all the resources you need to teach so you hardly need anything, it will save your life with last minute planning. If possible, transfer everything onto a hard-drive or an online hard-drive like Google Drive. There is also the option of getting the school drive onto your own device if you prefer using that – so see the IT technicians for this.

7. Have a tour of the school

This will usually be carries out by your mentor or organised by your PCM (Professional Coordinating Mentor).

8. Find the best toilets!


9. Find out what websites and textbooks you will need.

For science, my mentors gave me access to every single online paid for resource I would need. For example, exampro (AQA), activeteach, exambuilder (Edexcel), kerboodle, showmyhomework, etc. These programs have access to textbooks, exam questions and other brilliant resources.

10. Get to know where and how to print

Find the best printers in the school. In addition this, there’s a method of sending things to print from home so when you get to school, you don’t have to log in onto the school computers – you can go straight to the printers.

11. Have a notebook to write down observations

You will most likely be observing for the first two weeks before you officially start teaching. Make a note of everything! Observe another subject if you can – Drama is always a good choice!

13. Meet the technicians

This will apply to you if you are teaching science. I cannot stress this enough but become best friends with your science technicians! They will be your life savers in practical work. Technicians have an important role in providing training support in practical work and how to structure effective practical sessions. So, if you have a lesson where you would like to do a practical, but you have absolutely no idea, then definitely go ask them – they are the experts. They have guided me in unfamiliar practical lessons – for example, how to dissect an organ or use a microscope.

That’s pretty much it from me. If I do have any other tips, I will edit the blog and add to it. Do let me know if you have any questions too by DMing me on instagram @thenextchemist .

First couple of weeks of the PGCE


If you’ve been keeping up with my Instagram stories, you will know that I am currently undertaking a PGCE Chemistry at the Institute of Education. I officially started on the 16th of September. How have I found it so far?  I’ve honestly loved it. The IOE has made me feel welcome, intelligent, worthwhile and as though all the PGCE students have earned the place.

These last few weeks, we’ve been having these big sessions in the morning called ‘Debates in Education’ (with all the 700 PGCE students) and these lectures cover teaching in London schools and working with SEND pupils, safeguarding, learning about the different types of schools there are, etc. There have been some amazing teachers and speakers such as Tom Bennett (aka the behaviour guru), Zehra Jaffer (Headteacher in Hackney school), Katherine Birbalsingh (Headmistress of Michaela) and so many more.

In the afternoon, we either go into our specialist subject groups or mixed subject science sessions. There are only 25 of us doing chemistry so it is a very small group, but everyone’s super friendly. My tutor is absolutely fab, she puts so much passion and dedication into the course. In fact, all the staff at the IOE are so great, there is no pressure and there is constant support available.

So far, the workload isn’t too intense. It’s mainly a lot of paperwork and reading and small bits to upload, but it’s all quite light-hearted and relaxed. I think the most difficult aspect of it is understanding the philosophical side to education. The biggest assignment we’ve been given to date is the 5000 word masters dissertation due at the end of this year, but again, there is so much help and support and I don’t feel stressed at all. The days are very long and travelling into London is the most exhausting aspect to be honest.

I officially start my first placement this week and cannot wait for the challenges that will face me.  I know it will be tough, but I’m sure this is where I’m meant to be…

I’ll keep you posted 🙂



Guest Blog: Worried about making friends at university?

people silhouette during sunset

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Understandably, the thought of starting university for the first time can set the butterflies soaring in a lot of students’ stomachs. Suddenly, you’ll have to learn to navigate a new city and an unfamiliar campus, full of new people and potential friends. This can all seem pretty daunting, and maybe you’re asking yourself; “How am I supposed to properly get to know anyone and make any friends?” These are very natural questions to ask, but just remember, almost all of the other students will be asking themselves the same thing. Keeping this in mind will help to relieve some of the pressure and anxiety that often comes with making new friends.

I’m positive you’ll figure everything out on your own, in your own time, but to give you a friendly push on the way, here are a couple of tips on how to meet new people and make some good friends during your first couple of weeks:

Don’t feel like you need to find a “group” straight away

As soon as you arrive at university, it may feel like the pressure is on to find a group of friends straight away. If you’ve made the decision to stay in halls, this pressure can be even more apparent as your new flatmates are likely to be the first group of students that you’ll meet. Despite this, it’s important to remember that you’ve got at least three years to meet new people, so, if you don’t find people that you connect with straight away – that’s okay! Many people don’t find their permanent group of friends until after first term, or even into second and third year. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t feel like you’re in the right group, you can always make new friends. Make sure you make the effort to get to know people and you’ll be sure to find someone with similar interests in no time.

Get in contact with people before university starts

Many universities have dedicated Facebook pages and groups that you can join in the weeks before the new semester begins. This gives you the opportunity to find out what sort of people will be in your halls, on your course and at your university. This means that you’ll have someone to share your thoughts, expectations and worries with before getting to university, and you’ll have some friendly and familiar faces to look for in the crowds once you arrive.

Get to know your flatmates!

There’s no shame in wanting privacy from time to time but keeping your door open whilst you’re in your flat during Freshers shows people that you’re an open and welcoming person. It also gives people the opportunity to pop in for a chat, or you spotting them as they walk past – thus giving you the chance to get to know your housemates a little better. Say hello when you move in, and maybe offer to help if you see someone almost toppling over the weight of their heavy boxes. Show interest in the others moving in, and remember, suitcases and bags full of clothes and books and pictures are great conversation starters and icebreakers. Also, try to spend as much time as possible in the kitchen or the shared and social areas of your flat. Put some effort into properly getting to know your flatmates. After all, you’re going to be living together for the next year or so, might as well get some friends out of it.

Knock on doors

If you haven’t met all the people you live with during the first couple of days (and are feeling particularly brave), try knocking on their doors! Chances are they’ve just been busy unpacking or that you’ve just missed each other, not that they’ve purposefully avoided you. It’s always nice to say hi and establish some form of contact. They’re most likely just happy that you took the initiative to start the conversation.

Try to strike a conversation with new people

One of the easiest ways to make new friends is by talking! This gives you the opportunity to learn more about the people around you whilst allowing them to get to know you too. So, in those first few weeks, don’t be afraid of speaking up and try and initiate conversations with everyone you meet. If you’re naturally introverted or shy this can seem like a daunting task, however, once you’ve done it a few times you’ll become more comfortable speaking to new people. Even better yet, it’s likely that these small conversations will lead to bigger ones, thus laying the foundations for a new friendship. During lectures and classes, try and sit down next to someone you haven’t spoken to before and be as sociable as you can. Making course friends is good as they can help you out with things you are unsure of, aid you with weekly homework tasks or coursework you need to work together on, and you also have some people to talk to outside of learning too!

Join societies

If you’ve got a hobby, joining a society is a great way to find other people with the same interests as you! You’d be surprised how quickly you make friends on these! It’s the easiest way to meet new people: like-minded students with interests similar to your own. Many societies host regular socials and events, so you’ll have lots of other occasions to get to know people and gel as a group. Queen Mary has over 250 societies, so you’re bound to find one or two which suit your interests and tastes. Once you’ve signed up at the freshers’ fair, make sure you go along to meetings and events regularly. It can seem a chore at first when you don’t really know anyone but stick at it and you’ll soon make friends who’ll make you want to keep going back. Plus, getting stuck in with extracurricular actives looks great on your CV!

Good luck, you’ll do great!

By Jubada Rahman


Jubada was born in London and is a final year student studying Economics and Finance at Queen Mary. She is also a committee member for the Banking and Finance Society at Queen Mary. If you would like to get in touch with Jubada, do chat to her through https://www.qmul.ac.uk/unibuddy/ 

You can also read the blog here


RSC Scholarship Welcome Day 2019 and IYPT Exhibition!

Having applied to the PGCE Chemistry last year, I also took the opportunity to apply to the Royal Society of Chemistry Scholarship.

The Royal Society of Chemistry involves a 28K tax free bursary, free two year RSC Affiliate membership, the opportunity to be mentored by an experienced chemistry teacher, a box of classroom goodies (books, lab coat and goggles, etc.), an online CPD course as well as Professional Development Courses held throughout the year.

The interview day was held in January 2019 and it involved a 1 hour exam of both GCSE and A-level Chemistry, a group interview lasting around 30 minutes, a 5 minute teaching presentation followed by an interview with 2 panellists. There was also a short lunch in-between which allowed me to meet other future chemistry teachers!

The welcome event for successful candidates was held this month and it was brilliant! I had so much fun meeting future teachers and learning about the support given to trainee teachers from the scholarship, like opportunities such as, ‘Teach Chemistry’, which is a free RSC service that supports schools to deliver high quality, engaging chemistry lessons within a supportive science department.

WhatsApp Image 2019-08-24 at 15.25.30

We also had a chance to visit the International Year of the Periodic Table Exhibition(IYPT). It was originally exhibited at St. Catherine’s College in Cambridge but it is currently held at Burlington House (where Royal Society of Chemistry is based) until 30th August 2019. They have samples of many elements, documents and books from Mendeleev and other items. The star of the exhibit had to be the golden ‘Periodic Spiral’ which I unfortunately don’t have a good picture of. I was also thrilled to finally get my hands on the RSC IYPT lanyard which I’ve been keeping my eyes on for ages, but never seemed to get my hands on! Below are some photos of the exhibition:

If you have any questions about the scholarship, feel free to leave me a message on Instagram or email.

How to prepare for A-level Results Day 2019?

photo of a woman thinking

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

Results day can either be the best day of your life, or a not so great day; however, clearing gives the opportunity for students who either didn’t get the grades they needed, or they changed their mind about the course they originally wanted to do, to reapply for university. Moreover, you can also go into clearing if you changed your mind about going to university in the first place. Here are some top tips on how to prepare for your results day:

  • Do charge your phone for the day

Bring a plug or a cable with you if you are going into school. You may be calling a range of universities on the day and will probably be left on hold for some time.

  • Prepare a list of universities that you may be considering

Prior to results day, universities put up a list of courses that are likely to go into clearing and the grade requirements too. Have a small notepad to write down the numbers of your firm, insurance and. Find an alternative course you are happy with through UCAS clearing.

  • Go in early to get your results

You want to know what grades you have so you can identify which courses you are eligible to apply for when going through clearing.

  • Remember to get released from the offer you are already holding

If you did get the offers but decided not to go ahead with either your firm or insurance, then ring up the place and ask them to remove you so you can go into clearing.

  • Find someone to bring with you to results day

This can be a friend, a family member or even a teacher. If things don’t go to plan when your checking track in the morning, as much as you want to shy away from other people, having that support around you can be more positive than you think.

  • Do you think you did better than what’s on the sheet?

Examiners can always mistakenly mark the papers wrong. You can get a remark and have a grade change!

I hope these tips have helped!

Officially Graduated!

On the 25th of July 2019, I officially graduated from Queen Mary, University of London with a First Class Honours.

I have so many people to thank for supporting me every step of the way and getting me to where I am today.

Completing a degree involves so many emotions. These past three years have been a rollercoaster ride. But the support that I got from my family, friends and university has been indescribable.

This isn’t the end of thenextchemist and I hope to continue this blog and share my teaching journey with you all.

Here are some images to commemorate the day:

How I wrote my dissertation?

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I decided to do a literature based thesis rather than a project based thesis. This means that my project is based on work already published in literature. This is done in my own time and requires no attendance in labs as no practical work is involved.

Since I had decided to go into the teaching profession, my literature project was on the topic of Pedagogy in Organic Chemistry; thus the title of my thesis was ‘Gamification in Undergraduate Organic Chemistry’ which I thoroughly enjoyed writing.

This varies for all universities and degrees, but for my degree, the complete dissertation is split into 4 different areas:

  • Dissertation: based on 45-50 references and should be approximately 9000 words long
  • Seminar Presentation: work presented in the form of a 10 minute presentation and following the presentation, there will be 10 minutes of questions
  • Poster: A2 research poster which summarise aims, background and main content of the project as well as any conclusions
  • Public dissemination piece: This piece is designed to assess the ability to convey the highly technical scientific information within their project to a lay audience. My public dissemination piece was posted on my blog here

Here are some general tips which overall helped me to write my dissertation:

1. Pick a title which isn’t too broad but not too specific either 

Our cohort were given a list of dissertation titles; the topics ranged from Nitrogen Fixation to Chemistry of Memristors to Superamphiphobic Surfaces, etc. I decided to go for a title where there was enough research available for me to write 10,000 words but not too much as you will be addressing too many research questions and including too many concepts, theories, and/or variables.

Picking the right subject is also very important; there are three main areas in chemistry: Organic, Inorganic and Physical. Where does your strength lie? I knew from my first year at university, organic chemistry was the route to go for as it was the field I was always good at and I understood best. Remember, rather than thinking too much about what sounds like a good research title for a thesis, think about what really interests you.

2. Build a strong relationship with your supervisor 

Some people don’t take full advantage of their supervisor and only talk to them when they need to hand in their work. Your supervisor marks your dissertation hence, if you build a relationship where you continuously talk to them about the work that your doing and the research that you are finding, this will make them understand how hard you are working and how seriously you are taking on this project.

3. Lower the plagiarism percentage at each checkpoint 

You will get the opportunity to submit your dissertation at different points throughout the year to a programme called ‘Turnitin’ which essentially checks how much research you have copied. The first time I submitted my thesis to Turnitin, it illustrated that I had copied around 35%. Turnitin does highlight where you have copied so you are able to rephrase and remove sentences to lower your Turnitin score.


I am really proud of my dissertation; the time and effort that went into writing it eventually paid off. My ultimate goal was to get a first and I achieved that.

It is an intimidating prospect when you first have that blank, white screen in front of you but once you get stuck in, it will become easier, especially if you’ve picked the right subject for you.

I hope you enjoyed reading this,

till next time…




Guest Blog: Damp in Student Homes. How to Identify and Prevent It

While there are some exceptions, the average student in university does not have unlimited amounts of money to spend on luxurious accommodation. Price is often the deciding factor when choosing a property but you should still make sure there are no signs of damp that a landlord may have chosen to ignore. As a general rule, damp issues become more expensive to resolve over time and can lead to timber decay so it is imperative to know what signs of damp to look out for and how simple changes to your everyday life can prevent damp.


There are three types of damp students need to know how to identify: rising damp, penetrating damp and condensation.

Rising Damp ExternalRISING DAMP

Rising Damp occurs when a damp proofing course has failed or not in place, allowing for  moisture to get into the building’s structure. Through capillary action, the moisture travel up from the ground through the walls. As it involves travelling up from the ground, rising damp can only occur on the ground floor of a building. Students can’t do anything to prevent rising damp but it important to know how to identify it before it can get worse. Landlords are responsible for ensuring the property is sufficiently damp proofed.


  • Plaster SaltsThe moisture that travels up through the walls will eventually dry out and when it dries, the salts in the water remain on the walls in the form of white fluffy deposits.
  • Tide MarksTide marks are the most frequent sign of rising damp and may be accompanied with damp patches on the walls. This may be present anywhere up to one metre above the skirting board.
  • Decayed skirting/Peeling wallpaper – Rising damp if untreated can lead to timber decay so skirting boards may begin to decay and become cracked, crumble or covered in fungus. Peeling wallpaper is another sign of rising damp and may begin to curl upwards.


Rising Damp 3

Penetrating damp occurs when moisture successfully penetrates from the outside to the inside of a property. Unlike rising damp, penetrating damp can occur on any level of a property. While students aren’t at fault for penetrating damp, they should still regularly inspect the property for leaks and cracks in windows and gutters and report this to the landlord who can have the issue resolved.


  • Black Mould Black mould may also indicate penetrating damp and will grow in size over time if left untreated.
  • Leaking Roofs/Gutters – Any leaks or cracks in roofs or gutters may signify that water is penetrating the property.
  • Damp PatchesDamp patches on walls that do not go away would suggest there is a penetrating damp issue. Damp patches may be more noticeable after periods of rainfall.


Condensation is the most common form of damp in a property and as it is caused from everyday living such as cooking and washing, it is impossible to fully prevent it from occurring. Condensation forms when warm damp air condenses and settles on a cold or cooler surfaces. Condensation is most frequent in rooms where excess moisture is created such as kitchens and bathrooms from showering and cooking.


  • Black Mould – Black Mould is arguably the most unpleasant sign of condensation. It should not be ignored if there is enough moisture, the mould spores will be allowed  to grow and spread across a surface. Black mould is normally accompanied with a damp and musty smell.
  • Excess Water Collecting on Windows – Condensation forms in most properties but if excess water is consistently collecting on windows, there may suggest there is an air ventilation issue that has to be addressed.
  • Damp walls and peeling plaster – Walls can begin to feel damp and the plaster peeling or damaged if a condensation issue is left untreated.


  • Washing clothes – It is recommended to dry clothes outside as much as possible but in the U.K, this will not always be possible for students. If clothes have to dried indoors then it should be done so using a tumble dryer where the ventilation pipe runs to the outside of the building. Not every student house is blessed with a tumble dryer however so the best course of action to dry clothes in a small space with the door closed and the window open.
  • ShoweringWhen showering, it is important to ensure the bathroom remains ventilated. Ventilation should be switched on with the door closed and windows.
  • Cooking – When cooking, lids should be kept on pots to prevent reduce the amount of moisture spreading around the room. It is advised to have extractor fans turned on to a high power with the windows open and doors closed.


By Jake Ryan of Peter Cox


Jake Graduate

Jake Ryan lives just outside Glasgow and is a digital marketing executive for damp specialists Peter Cox. Jake has experience in writing on a range of damp related topics such as damp, rot and basement waterpoofing. For more information on damp, visit https://www.petercox.com

Twitter: @petercox1951

What’s next for me??

On the 20th of May 2019, I completed my very last exam of my BSc Chemistry degree.

I don’t think that it’s fully registered with me that I’ve finished my degree, it feels strange but I’m super excited for the new chapter of my life. But what am I going to do next you ask?

If you’ve read some my previous blogposts, second year was the perfect opportunity for me to network with potential employers. I networked with chemical industries, visited large cooperate companies, worked in retail, marketing and education, etc. I was satisfied with the work experience I completed over the years to understand what I really wanted to go into.

*Drumroll please*


I have enrolled onto do a PGCE Chemistry at UCL IOE.

I’ve chosen this particular career path as I believe learning is beyond paper. Working as a student ambassador at Queen Mary and as a tutor, I want to encourage students and help them to realise their potential. I want to be an inspiration to those children who were told that school was not for them and prove others wrong. I want to not only be an educator but a role model to my students.

If your confused about what you want in life, let this be a sign telling you to keep looking for what excites you by saying yes to new experiences. Everyone’s goal will be different and what might be satisfactory for one person might be unsatisfactory for another. if you are content with what you have achieved then no one else’s opinion should matter.

Reminiscing over the past three years, I’ve been on some incredible adventures and met some amazing people and I am going to cherish my university memories forever.

As my time at Queen Mary draws to an end, it gives me great comfort knowing that I do love this particular career path that I’m going to go ahead with. It has helped me focus my goals and the standards with which I hold myself to. Although plans do change, and this might not be something I want to do forever, I’m glad that my experience and insights gave me a fair idea about what I should do after I graduate and how I should proceed to build a future.