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Dear James, can I challenge the placement school I've been assigned to?

Discussion in 'Trainee and student teachers' started by oblomov, Jan 20, 2011.

  1. I initially posted this in the Primary section of the forum but now realise it is probably more suited to this section, so apologies for the double post.
    I'm doing a primary PGDE at the moment and I live in Glasgow. Of approximately 120 students on the course, less than 5 of us have been told our next placement will be in a village that is at least 1 hour 20 minutes away from our places of residence by public transport (without taking into account any waiting time between train and bus). None of us own a car, so we are expected to travel by train, bus (AND on foot for 20 minutes) to our placement school. The journey would take approximately 30 minutes by car (motorway most of the way there, no suitable bus goes along the motorway).
    I feel this is incredibly unfair when everyone else has been placed no more than about 30 minutes from where they live. Not only is relying on public transport in this country stressful enough as it is, it also hugely restricts the amount of planning and preparation time we'll have for our classes as we'll be in transit for such a long time. My first placement went well and I received a very positive report from my school, yet I feel the university is now jeopardising my chances of successfully completing the course with this arbitrary decision.
    Any advice regarding any steps I can take would be greatly appreciated as I am really upset about this, gutted actually. Found out on Monday and already finding it difficult to sleep due to worrying about this (hence me posting at midnight when I have a full day of lectures & tutorials tomorrow...)
     
  2. I initially posted this in the Primary section of the forum but now realise it is probably more suited to this section, so apologies for the double post.
    I'm doing a primary PGDE at the moment and I live in Glasgow. Of approximately 120 students on the course, less than 5 of us have been told our next placement will be in a village that is at least 1 hour 20 minutes away from our places of residence by public transport (without taking into account any waiting time between train and bus). None of us own a car, so we are expected to travel by train, bus (AND on foot for 20 minutes) to our placement school. The journey would take approximately 30 minutes by car (motorway most of the way there, no suitable bus goes along the motorway).
    I feel this is incredibly unfair when everyone else has been placed no more than about 30 minutes from where they live. Not only is relying on public transport in this country stressful enough as it is, it also hugely restricts the amount of planning and preparation time we'll have for our classes as we'll be in transit for such a long time. My first placement went well and I received a very positive report from my school, yet I feel the university is now jeopardising my chances of successfully completing the course with this arbitrary decision.
    Any advice regarding any steps I can take would be greatly appreciated as I am really upset about this, gutted actually. Found out on Monday and already finding it difficult to sleep due to worrying about this (hence me posting at midnight when I have a full day of lectures & tutorials tomorrow...)
     
  3. Some (maybe most) providers help groups of students placed in schools that are difficult to get to by public transport by providing their own transport (e.g. a minibus) or a hire car (if there is a suitable driver or drivers among students acceptable to hire company and nobody owns a car). In some cases they pay towards local temporary accommodation.
    I suggest you go back to your placement office and ask.
     
  4. I was told that the university (cumbria) considered travel times of up to two hours each way reasonable to get to a placement school. I only know one person travelling more than an hour each way though...
     
  5. Hi
    Placements are always stressful. A journey of 1 hour 20 mins is long, but not the longest I know about. Clearly a car solves a range of issues and the uni should/would have taken into consideration those who have cars and those who do not. I would be very surprised if it was an arbitary decision - it may look like that to you but I can assure you - having spend many many meetings with my colleagues sorting out our second placements - that such things are not arbitary and there is a wide range of factors to take into account.
    As for what you can do, you need to ask your tutor about the placement and to outline the criteria they used for selection of trainees for particular placements. It is often the case that at a school there will be teachers who live where you live and one of them may be happy to offer a lift (for example at Sussex if this is the case the trainee can claim travel costs which are then passed to the teacher in lieu of petrol money contribution - in the current high fuel price times we live in perhaps a teacher would welcome some contribution towards travel costs).
    Ultimately you need to look at the university policy on placements and see if the uni is breaking that policy - do they, for example, give an indication of what they would deem to reasonable travelling time - do they consider other factors? It may well be that other trainees who are closer have particular needs that you are unaware of e.g. they may be a single parent, they may be a carer, they may have a medical condition that restricts their ability to travel distances etc. Sometimes what looks to be unfair is not, but they just cannot tell you about it due to confidentiality reasons.
    Do also explore the minibus/car hire idea with the uni but very few do offer this - remember also that car hire brings other responsibilities e.g. an undertaking to tarnsport others, a restriction on when you can use the hire car (e.g. to and from work only no trips, weekends, personal use etc - these could be imposed top reduce the cost of hire or you may have to stump up for insurance).
    The trick is to attack the probelm not the people and explore any possible solutions that you can find (e.g. perhaps the uni can ask in advance if there is a teacher who could offer a lift). Another solution sometimes is for a teacher who lives near the school to rent a room that you could have for part/full weeks.
    James

     
  6. lindsaygii

    lindsaygii New commenter

    Well I can assure YOU that being another PGCE student in an impossible placement that the decision was largely abitrary. My lecturer confirmed as much when I challenged the decision. The upshot is that I am on placement in a school where it is impossible for me to be there at the start of the school day or stay till the end.

    You may find it helpful to make patronising comments about 'attacking the problem not the people' but there are occasions where the people are the problem. Having lived in Glasgow with its (terrible) public transport system I think the OP has been unfairly treated by the placing university.

    Why not simply put the car drivers in the far away schools? There, it wasn't that hard, was it?

     
  7. (Erm, James Williams is a host on this forum. His blurb describes him as being experienced and knowledgeable about what he's talking about and for what it's worth I read his tone as supportive, sympathetic and constructive rather than patronising; he don't feel he deserves your rude and confrontational reply).
     
  8. If the placement was arbitrary then do seek to have it changed. If you know of a colleague who could more easily attend the placement seek to have a mutually agreed swap of places. I cannot speak for all other providers, but certainly my colleagues at Sussex and friends at a number of other training providers work long and hard to effectively sort out placements. We would rather not have an angry student bodybover placements. It may appear to be a very simple answer to just stick car owners into far flung placements, but that is a very simplistic way of dealing with the issues. Yes, in general car owners do the longest journeys in the least accessible school by public transport. Sometimes, e.g. Where the car owner is a parent, the car is the means whereby they can effectively get the children to pre school playgroups and still get to their placement on time. Giving then a long difficult journey could disadvantage them and prevent them from attending a placement, discriminating against them would not be productive. The complex jigsaw that is schools, placements, trainees and location is one of the biggest challenges we face as providers. If we had guaranteed places in all schools it would not be an issue, but we don't and at present I'm not even certain that this would be the complete answer - given that at least we know the mjoritybof schools offer places because they actually want a trainee and haveban intention of helping them. Even then there are the occasional problems of poor mentoring. I do not underestimate the stress that a long placement journey puts trainees under. My own school placement when I trained 25 years ago involved two trains across London and a two mile walk from the station and took me over two hours. I was unhappy, but my only other choice was to leave the course. Almost no trainees then had cars. You may think that I am just being patronising, but I prefer to help frankness think about effective solutions to problems than simply saying for example 'that everything is unfair, never mind anyone else just make it work for me' which may simply push the problem on to someone else.
     
  9. Thanks for your suggestions James (I didn't find it patronising)
    My disappointment/anger in the placement given was based on the fact that it undoubtedly WAS an arbitrary decision. For example, 4 different people in my tutorial group that I know of (all young, single and with their own car, which the university knows about) were placed at schools in the city that would take me approximately 45 minutes to get to door-to-door (using public transport). From the area that these people live in, it will take them between 5 and 10 minutes to drive to their placement school, whilst it would take them about 30 minutes to get to the school I was placed at. Maybe I'm just being a precious, moaning sod, but I genuinely think that in the interests of fairness I (or another of my colleagues in the same boat as me) should have been placed at the school where I would have a 45 minute commute and another student would then have had a 30 minute commute. Instead it's respective commute times of 10 minutes and 90 minutes! I very politely explained this to a member of the administrative staff after they had claimed they DO take car ownership into account, and the person's reply was a nervous laugh and 'Oh, they must just have got lucky.'
    The criteria they have used to place students very much seems to be 'start from the home addresses far from the city, then work our way in and give those living in the city centre the dregs,' crucially without taking car ownership into consideration. I'm sure it's no coincidence that almost everyone given a school miles from anywhere seems to live in the same postcode bracket. Of course it could just be a massive coincidence and ALL of these car owners in the suburbs have health or other issues that are not apparent, but it would be one hell of an anomaly I'm sure you'll agree!
    Fortunately for me I took your advice after bumping into someone placed at a school miles from anywhere, where it just so happens I have family living. The uni (reluctantly!) agreed to us switching after I politely but firmly presented the problem and solution that would be more convenient for both of us. The fact that the uni has asked us to 'be discreet' about the switch because they don't want anyone else trying to switch makes me think that the organisation of placements has been done as efficiently as most things have been done on my course thus far - phrases like 'pig's ear' and 'dog's dinner' spring to mind... I still feel for those students affected though.
    Cheers
     
  10. Hi
    Glad things are sorted and one of my suggestions worked for you. Perhaps, if you have a student rep, you could feedback to the university your thoughts about the placements and the criteria and ask that the university considers making explicit any criteria and reviewing their policy on placements. Normally, student evaluations are incorp[orated into some form of annual monitoring and when problems are raised we (as subject leaders) have to say what we are doing about the issue and how we propose to make the course better.
    James
     
  11. Eva_Smith

    Eva_Smith Established commenter

    You are despicable. James offers nothing but professional and helpful advice on this forum. He's not paid to tell you what you want to hear, and I'm sure his professionalism wouldn't permit him to simply dole out consolation, tea and sympathy. He tells you what you need to know.
    I'm sure you are more than miffed about your placement school, but this isn't James' fault.
    You have two eyes and one mouth. I suggest you use them to that ratio in future before you make an ass out of yourself again.
     

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