Teaching student talks about time spent helping a local school during pandemic

A University of Worcester student has spoken about her time spent volunteering in a local primary school during the coronavirus pandemic.

Before the summer holidays, Olivia Sheppard, who is going in to the second year of her Primary Initial Teacher Education course, gained valuable experience working in a rural school close to her home in Herefordshire. 

“As I wasn’t able to complete my teaching practice because of the Coronavirus pandemic, the experience volunteering in a school allowed me to still gain some valuable skills in a school setting that will help me throughout the rest of my training and beyond,” said the 19-year-old. “I worked as a teaching assistant, which has allowed me to learn a lot about how a school runs and in particular the changes that have been made during these difficult times.”

“This experience has definitely made a huge difference to my confidence,” she added. “I am really looking forward to transitioning into my second year of university in September and being one step closer to becoming a qualified teacher.”

Speaking of her experience, Olivia said: “I remember being on playground duty with 10 loud reception children in a really large area, (as play time was staggered due to Covid), on my own and thinking, ‘how do I get them all to come and line up, they’ll never listen to me!’. But when the time came to it, I had no issues and nothing to worry about. These elements of being a member of staff in a school were things that you couldn’t necessarily be taught about at university, but more learn of the job type roles – which seemed challenging at first, but I quickly picked it up.”

Although originally feeling slightly worried about the volunteering role, Olivia said that the University had prepared her well for working in a school setting before her summer placement was due to start and continued to offer support throughout the pandemic.

“The support from the University was great, I always knew where to go if I needed any help or support,” she said. “The last few months have definitely been a learning curve for me, to experience both teaching and learning from an online perspective.”

Olivia spoke of how the transition to online teaching at Worcester was very smooth and that she never felt like there was a gap in her study or she was missing out.

She said: “Naturally, I was disappointed that our school experience placement was not able to go ahead, but the University made the transition to online learning really smooth and although it wasn’t my preferred way to learn, it was as similar to being in university as I could have possibly imagined it.”