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Dr Sharmeen Haque: Chemistry Trainee - Harris Westminster Sixth Form

Cohort 2021-22

October 2021

Sharmeen haque“Why did you start your teacher training?”

Of all the different types of work I have experienced – and there have been a few over time, including working for universities, a structural drug research and publishing company, the NHS as a manager, as a student working for a campaigns company (apologies to any of you who I randomly tried to approach in the street, but it was for a good cause!) and teaching at A-level – the one aspect of every post I loved was teaching and training, especially in science. However, either there had not been as much teaching time as I would have liked, or the teaching felt a bit detached due to the nature of the courses. I wanted to spend my hours at work on something that I loved to do and that would make a positive contribution to children and society, ideally involving science. 

When the Covid lockdown closed labs at universities, I was forced into working part-time. One day, as I tried hard to enjoy my very poorly hand-whipped dalgona coffee (all the rage back in lockdown to make your own by hand!), I thought that this was an opportune time to really think about the field I wanted to pursue. I went onto the Get into Teaching website to investigate teaching science. In contrast to the lacklustre foam in my tiny, feeble coffee, an enthusiasm worthy bubble of opportunity arose on the screen – I could pursue teaching at schools part-time and become professionally trained as a science teacher, and there was funding available for science subjects! I never looked back. I attended online events hosted by Get into Teaching and signed up for help. My assigned teacher training advisor, Stephen Flavin, gave me valuable guidance and advice throughout the application and interview process. 

I initially looked at part-time PGCE courses, but after securing and discussing some offers, it was clear that full-time was the best option for me. It took a lot of courage to leave my post of around 10 years at UCL, but once I had spoken to Yasmine Pieri and Jose Oliveira at Harris ITE and received their warm and encouraging support and advice, I took the leap and accepted the full-time PGCE with QTS offer. I chose Harris above other offers as I received very organised and supportive help, was secured an Ofsted graded outstanding school placement very quickly and heard about their excellent reputation from a teacher friend. Jose had advised that many teachers had the opportunity to work within Harris academies after completing the course successfully, which gave me confidence for future job prospects. 

When I attended the group interview day, I very much enjoyed meeting the Head of Harris ITE, Shona Findlay, staff and other students from diverse career backgrounds. Immediately, I felt that I would enjoy studying at Harris and would have lovely tutors and colleagues. Indeed, from the first day, the Harris staff and other students were friendly and supportive. At my main placement school, Harris Westminster Sixth Form (HWSF), the Head, Mr Handscombe, and the whole team have been inspiring, helpful and kind. My HWSF mentor, Dr Bladon, and ITE Tutor, James Wright, are fantastic and I am enjoying learning valuable teaching techniques and methods from them. The students I have the pleasure of teaching are enthusiastic and work hard. The lectures on our training day at ITE are brilliant and the day flies by in a flurry of fascinating pedagogic knowledge learning and absorbing discussions with fellow trainees. Funnily, the most challenging issue I faced in joining the course in September was that I had lost my GCSE certificates, without which I could not enrol! After searching through many, many, many boxes, they turned up in the last box I looked in (typical) and I was finally able to secure the offer. I did not make a dalgona coffee to celebrate however, and actually have banned myself from making one again. 

I cannot believe that we are already starting the second half-term! I am so grateful to be able to undertake my PGCE at Harris due to the valuable support and training I am receiving at Harris ITE and HWSF. It has been a great training experience so far and while it is fast-paced with lots of deadlines, I am enjoying every minute!