UWTSD student-teachers are inspiring and helping to shape young lives


Great teachers are needed now more than ever to enrich children’s learning after what has been a hugely challenging time for the educational sector - the Covid-19 pandemic.


Natalie Jones is studying to be a second language Welsh teacher in secondary schools.

Teacher Education at UWTSD is delivered through the Athrofa Professional Learning Partnership (APLP).

A genuine collaboration between Yr Athrofa: Centre for Education and partner schools, the APLP has co-constructed programmes for teachers at all stages in their professional lives – from student-teachers setting out on their career journey, to system leaders managing change.

The APLP employs an innovative network model with which to place student-teachers, with 18 Lead Partner Schools supporting wider networks of more than 100 Partner Schools. 

Here, three teachers fresh from training at UWTSD share their experiences and talk of their passion to make a difference to the lives of young people.

Natalie Jones is studying to be a second language Welsh teacher in secondary schools. The PGCE Secondary pathway is an extremely popular route into teaching, and allows you to choose a subject you wish to specialise in. She said the pandemic has shown her how rewarding teaching can be and encouraged anyone considering it as a career to "go for it".

She said: “I chose to become a teacher because I wanted to be the adult I didn’t have as a child in the education system.  I’m also very passionate about the Welsh language and what it means to the heritage and culture of welsh children.

“Working with children and young people is so rewarding. I chose to study at UWTSD because it’s a local university committed to the area and I wanted to go somewhere that I knew would support me and my future endeavours to be a teacher. Choosing this university was also crucial to me as a Welsh speaker. I needed to know that I would get support with making my Welsh even better and I wanted to know how I could help support the Welsh language in schools.

“Whilst studying during the pandemic has been challenging, it’s also been rewarding too. Being part of the huge effort to adapt and work through lockdown to support the children has made me more determined to achieve my goal and help shape young lives.

“I would recommend that people from ethnic minorities entered teaching as a career as currently the population of pupils from ethnic minorities far outweighs the population of staff in schools in terms of diversity. There’s a saying that, ‘you cannot be what you cannot see’, and if we want to encourage the next generation to become teachers, they need to be able to see diversity within the people that are teaching them.”

Gabriella Blenkinsop, a student-teacher on UWTSD's primary PGCE programme said: "It's been challenging but also amazing. The skills I have learnt during Covid will set me up well for life in the classroom. Like everyone I’ve had to adapt and learn quickly to teach online.

“The support from lecturers and staff at our partner schools has been great and that’s what has been really key this year. I’ve had three school placements where I was able to teach year one and two face to face and I also got to experience a Year 5 class. I’m now currently in a nursery. The partnership between the schools and the university is so solid and there’s always someone to turn to if I need any advice. Knowing that you can inspire a brighter future for young children is the best feeling in the world.”

Ffion Hann-Jones is studying for a BA in Primary Education with QTS. Ffion said: “I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was little so when it came to the time to apply for university there was no question about it. It’s about having that impact on children and being that person in their life in terms of their social, academic, and emotional development. School is such an important part of a child’s life.”

Ffion said studying for her degree through the medium of Welsh, was important for her. “I wanted to find a university where I could do that and UWTSD has enabled me to do it.”

Placements at Pontybrenin and Ystalyfera had been “the best experience” she added. “Being in a classroom is what it’s all about. We’ve had excellent support from our lecturers throughout, they’ve been there for us during our placements and that’s made me feel so comfortable and confident. I haven’t struggled online at all; it’s just been a different environment. We’ve had a lot of check-ins with our lecturers and staff from the partner schools and they’ve given us extra support through Covid, preparing us for what it’s like in schools during the pandemic. A lot of teachers have said that if you can survive teaching during the pandemic - you can survive anything!

“This experience has helped me become a better teacher. Having to adapt to learning online has given me new skills and supporting children at home with their learning has been such a rewarding experience. To anyone considering taking up teaching, I would say it’s all about making a good impression and making the most of every opportunity that comes your way. Give it your all. You can’t just go in and teach. You need to be there for the children in many different ways. Go above and beyond on your placement. Do the extra curriculum activities, cubs, make yourself stand out.”

Gabriella Blenkinsop is a a student-teacher on UWTSD’s primary PGCE programme.

Rebecca Taylor is an APLP Network Lead at St Thomas Community Primary School, in Swansea. She said: “We genuinely feel we have a say into the content of the course. We’ve worked closely with establishing the content that’s taught to students, what we want to deliver and co-deliver at the lectures at university, and it’s a partnership that works. Our views are taken on board at every stage of development. I’m part of a teaching and learning group where my expertise as a teacher is listened to at every stage. That’s a real unique aspect of the course.

“It’s been an honour for me to see our students joining in each September ready to start their learning journeys and watch them grow and progress. Now our PGCEs are coming to the end of their year and they’re starting to look for jobs and asking for our advice, how to fill out the forms and what to do for interview prep. I personally have a great sense of pride watching them on their journey. Our role doesn’t stop once they’ve finished their placements. We are there to the very end and see them achieve their goal of being recruited into the profession and into their own classroom.

“Things have been so uncertain and different throughout the pandemic, but there will always be a need for schools to educate our future generations. In Wales it’s also a very exciting time for students to be taking this journey with the changes with the curriculum and being able to be a part of helping to shape that.”

Russell Dwyer, head teacher at St Thomas said: “It’s been fantastic to be part of the partnership with the university, and to co-construct the programmes being taught to student-teachers.  We are able to help drive the future approach for initial teacher education across wales and as that partnership has developed, we have become a lead school.

“We have our own partner schools and students that we are directly involved with and closely supporting to become new teachers. I can’t think of anything more inspiring and thrilling than being able to do that.

“Post covid it is really important that we are training teachers to ensure the next generation understand what we’ve been through. Collaboration is now more important that ever between the university and schools to support those new teachers coming into the profession.

“It’s recognising and understanding the need for adaptability with regards to the period we’ve just been through and that will also help us to move forward. There is a need for those flexible approaches to be there all the time. Although covid has been a very challenging period, we’ve learnt a lot from it, how to teach online and support families with home learning. I think there’s a real sense of community – post covid, which although has always been there, has been made much stronger by the experiences we have all shared.

“Having the opportunity to really make a difference as a teacher and influence the next generation is so important. So, if anyone is considering a role in teaching, they should go for it. You will feel inspired. Of course, there are and will be further challenges, but you will go home each day thinking you’ve made a difference and that’s so important.”

Ffion Hann-Jones is studying for a BA Primary Education with QTS.

Further Information

Rebecca Davies

Swyddog Gweithredol Cysylltiadau â’r Wasg a’r Cyfryngau

Executive Press and Media Relations Officer

Cyfathrebu Corfforaethol a Chysylltiadau Cyhoeddus

Corporate Communications and PR

Mobile: 07384 467071

Email: Rebecca.Davies@uwtsd.ac.uk