The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Taking the Flexible Route

Hannah Smith, Modern Studies Teacher

Hannah Smith, Modern Studies Teacher

Back in 2014 I graduated with a joint degree in teaching and politics. I had always wanted to be a teacher … or so I thought. I took a gamble and gave up a guaranteed job, to become another graduate on the hunt for employment because I was convinced I couldn’t hack it as a teacher. Throughout my degree I had great experiences in my placement schools and I was highly praised by university tutors for my practice and skills, but something put me off taking the leap into my probation year.

Fast forward four years and a friend working as a Depute Head at St Machar Academy in Aberdeen told me they were in need of a Modern Studies teacher. For three years I had been working in widening access to higher education and was passionate about encouraging all young people to follow their goals regardless of their background. The skills I had developed would be hugely beneficial to the school. I gave it lots of thought and decided to go for it, which resulted in me interviewing for a permanent post and being selected as the preferred candidate. The only condition to gaining a permanent contract was to complete my probation through the Flexible Route, which I completed successfully in May, earlier this year.

I was welcomed into the Social Subjects faculty, and the school, with open arms. My colleagues treated me like a “real” teacher from day one and I was encouraged to ask questions and involve myself in school life. Coming back to teach is something that schools will happily support you with and the Flexible Route is a great option to do this, as many job vacancies will accept those with provisional registration.

Working full time in a school means you can complete your probation in 190 days, which is one academic year. You must ensure you add these days to your MyGTCS profile online and have your mentor sign them off regularly. I always submitted mine on the last day of each term to ensure I didn’t miss any days. As soon as you hit 190 days you can email GTCS who edit your profile so you can submit it for full registration.

Hannah's clasroom wall with Modern Studies postersI know some people are hesitant about coming back, but there is a huge support network available. My Faculty Head did their best to give me a reduced timetable, similar to those on the standard probation route, but I was sometimes taken for cover classes. I used these as a chance to get to know as many pupils as possible and develop relationships where I could.

Overall, I can honestly say coming back to the teaching profession was the best decision I made. However, I don’t regret the time I took away as it has been hugely beneficial to my role now. Finding the right school for yourself is key to this process, but don’t be put off by the Flexible Route.

If you’re working in a school or department with a flexible route probationer: ask them how they’re getting on and if they have any questions, it’s easy to forget they’re still in their first year sometimes. And get yourself on Twitter – brilliant subject resources and classroom management tips aplenty.

Top tips to get through the Flexible Route:

 

  1. Always be organised. I contacted the probation manager from Aberdeen City Council within my first few weeks of starting in post as I didn’t want to assume they had my details. This meant they could include me in emails sent to all probationers across the City and add me to their CPD list
  2. Take all the CPD you can. I attended as many of the probationer CPD sessions as I could. Not only did I learn lots for my classroom and professional practice, I also got to chat to other probationers. I was welcomed and encouraged to attend
  3. Keep MyGTCS up to date as often as you can. It’s much easier to input your CPD or mentor meetings every few weeks than leave it until the end of a term. The more you have, the better
  4. Ask for help. Being on the flexible route means you may not automatically be offered support that those on the standard probation route are so you have to ask questions. Everyone has been in your position and you’ll find that they are happy to help and give advice
  5. Relationships and routines matter. Not a surprise, but I realised just how valuable these two things are very quickly. It also helps if you are covering a class and pupils know your expectations already
  6. Enjoy it. The past year has been challenging but also hugely rewarding. Give yourself credit when you have a good lesson and you have a breakthrough with a class (or maybe one pupil!). As teachers we are prone to focussing on our negatives when we need to remember how much good we are also doing

About the author

Hannah Smith is a Modern Studies teacher at St Machar Academy in Aberdeen, having completed her probation period via the flexible route in May 2019. You can follow Hannah on Twitter: @MissSmithMods