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Peter Upchurch, student, Education Studies (work based)

Needing a degree to pursue his career ambitions, Peter says that the work-based degree has truly opened his eyes in terms of just what education really means

Working at a teaching school that already had existing links with LSBU through its hosting of teaching practice students, Peter Upchurch was keen to combine study with work and time with his young family. “My current role involves teaching music as an unqualified teacher and classroom support for KS4.

I have been teaching music for the past five years to students from nursery to sixth form, including a year as maternity cover for the music lead, which meant that I was teaching full time,” he says. “As part of my KS4 and HLTA responsibilities, I help to run audio visual and technology support for the drama productions, special events and awards.

I also assist in the maintenance and roll-out of ICT across the two sites, which involves setting up iPads and other devices to be used as augmentative and alternative communication methods. I have basically been doing the job for years and now want to have the stability of being employed to do what I love full-time and for the right pay. Unqualified teacher pay is only a little above what I am on as an HLTA.

“I have several colleagues who have attended LSBU and they spoke highly of the staff and of the online support. I chose the work-based route of the BA in Education Studies because it meant I could do a degree while still working and raising my family. This was one of the main barriers to me going to university, as I have a young family that I need to support and so can’t simply give up my income in order to pursue a qualification. The full-time course involves one day each week of contact time, and my first two years were funded through my workplace, while my final year is being paid for via student finance.

Experience of alternative educational settings

As part of the course Peter has had the opportunity to attend an alternative educational setting and so he chose to undertake his at the National Theatre’s (NT) education department. “During my time there I realised that education can be delivered to so many different demographics and is not just about teaching children and young adults. It also has so much to do with teaching people about themselves and how they relate to the world around them,” he reveals.

“My time at the NT was amazing; the idea of going into such a space to work even just on placement was incredibly exciting. I have been going to shows for years and going behind the scenes was unbelievable. Through this experience I have gained friends and connections. I am looking at setting up a project for my school to run with the NT and also plan on taking my own children to some of the events and workshops that they run. Having looked into what they do in the education department, I am inspired to pursue a career in that direction where my skills in education, experience with special needs children and my technical knowledge of lighting, sound and visuals may be put to good use in a place I never even considered that I could possibly work.”

Vastly improved practice

Now in his final year, Peter is beginning to apply for paid teacher training in various schools close to where he lives, and is also looking at alternative places to work in education departments in theatres around London.

“My hope for the future is to be able to support my family through gaining a job in education at a higher level to that I am at now. I worked my way up as far as I can go through college courses and training but to achieve the next level I needed a degree.

There is no doubt that through doing my degree I have acquired new skills and vastly improved my practice at work. I am able to articulate myself with much more confidence. I also feel that I have the knowledge of why and how to teach. My own practice at work and the way I conduct (and value myself) has changed vastly for the better. The way I plan for work and the way I am now able to reflect on the work that I do has been of great value to me.”

A network of peer support

With his time at LSBU fast approaching its climax, what does Peter feel he has enjoyed most about his time here? “I have made some really good friends who have helped me to get to this point. They have supported me through the first year of getting used to the idea of being a student, the second year where my family grew and the adjustment to that, and finally they are helping me through the final year giving me the confidence in myself to finish what I have started – and to finish it well.”