Why I became a citizenship teacher: to give young people a stake in society

Recent PGCE graduate, Avais Qureshi, has already started his NQT year. He tells the Guardian how he got into teaching and his quest to empower young people. This is an extract…

I chose a PGCE as my route to teaching because I couldn’t get onto Teach First thanks to my less-than-fantastic A-level results, despite having a good degree. By the time I applied, the Graduate Training Programme (GTP) was also full. But actually for me the PGCE was the right way to go because I love to get the theory as well as the practice.

I specialised in citizenship teaching on my PGCE at the Institute of Education under Ben Hammond and Jeremy Hayward, both inspiring tutors. They taught by modelling and we did two long placements. I enjoyed the course so much: teaching just clicked with me, especially when I got into the classroom.

I am passionate about my subject but also find the pastoral side very rewarding – I can’t wait to develop that in my job. I particularly enjoyed my second placement in Leytonstone where many of the pupils come from similar backgrounds to me.

Teacher training really hinges on your mentors and I was lucky to have fantastic mentors, who got the balance exactly right, in both schools. It’s absolutely critical to your experience as a trainee. A great mentor needs to let you do your own thing or you’ll be crippled by your experience, but also guide you – if you are let totally loose that can be disastrous.

That’s why the PGCE route worked suited me. Schools-based training doesn’t always work so well if they don’t really have time to be responsible for you, especially the pastoral side of you as a student. With the PGCE, the institution takes responsibility for that.

I am now citizenship teacher at Barking Abbey school and have been in the job for three weeks before breaking up for the summer. I feel so lucky to have got a job in my specialism.

From day one I took over from a long-term supply teacher and I’ve been launched into a full timetable. I can tell the students that I’m here to stay for a long time now, I’m not just on practice. For many students this is really important, particularly if they’re from backgrounds without much stability because they the need consistency.

It’s been a really useful experience to break the ice and meet all my students at the end of term. Now we can launch straight into teaching in September. After three weeks, I’ve already got a nickname from the students – they call me Mr Terminator because I’m quite ‘built’.

Barking Abbey gets fantastic results and my biggest concern is to make sure I’m as good as the school, if not better. Being responsible for A-level and GCSE results that can really affect students’ lives is huge. Teaching good and inspiring lessons is one thing, but making sure students who are confident in expressing their views, and can translate that in exams, is vital. My mentors have warned me about not being too hard on myself and having realistic expectations of what I can do as an NQT. I’ve got to remember that I’m still learning.

For me, citizenship is the most important subject. Young people need to know about politics and what’s happening in the world. Everyone has a stake and young people must have their vote and their share, otherwise they are powerless. It’s important to help them make their voice heard: secondary school has an amazing opportunity to help young people become great citizens.

Avais Qureshi is a citizenship teacher at Barking Abbey school.

More at:  Why I became a citizenship teacher: to give young people a stake in society

If you are an advocate for citizenship tell us what you think students most get out of it. Please share in the comments or on twitter… 

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Categories: Teaching.


  1. changepatriot

    SchoolsImprove Citizenship can’t be taught in State schls with Gove solely focussed on TTT with no genuine social skills training !

  2. changepatriot

    SchoolsImprove But you have to say that it is typical of Gove’s unbelievably crass combination of reforms. He will not be well remembered

  3. changepatriot

    SchoolsImprove But you have to say that it is typical of Gove’s unbelievably crass combination of reforms. He will not be well remembered

  4. volcano1551

    SchoolsImprove kennygfrederick Last week Willets bemoaned lack of skills yet coursework which delivers transferable skills being removed.

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