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e-Qualitas’ Initial Teacher Training curriculum is led by subject-specific leads; the cohort of trainees for Primary Education are led by a team of three who are focussed on English, Maths and Phonics respectively. Shanti Chahal is our SCITT’s  Subject Lead for Primary English.

Shanti has worked in teaching both Secondary and Primary education, shanti chahal 01as an English subject lead and a curriculum-developer.

As Primary English Subject Lead, Shanti works with e-Qualitas’ trainees within our Primary cohort on the Schools Direct and Teaching Apprenticeship Programmes. In addition to this, Shanti supports e-Qualitas in developing its Primary ITT curriculum.

Here is our interview with Shanti, offering an insight into her background and experience in schools:

(e-Q) What is your background prior to joining e-Qualitas?

I first became a teacher after spending time working in a hospital. After that I studied for a master’s degree in Educational Leadership whilst I was teaching at a school in Medway. I then returned to London where I worked in English leadership as well as teaching English. I worked then for Academy’s Enterprise Trust, who are a large MAT and a specialist leader for English. This entailed delivering training, designing curricula and working with different schools across the Trust; as well as day-to-day teaching, leading English within the Trust.

I am passionate about writing, so I have completed lots of work around writing for pleasure. I also worked with the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education around reading for pleasure and really pushing excitement and enjoyment of reading. I find this a particularly relevant subject post pandemic.

Would you say your passion for reading brought you to your current role?

Yes, certainly. I am someone who reads constantly for pleasure. English is my real passion. When you’re teaching this subject you must have an interest in children’s literature and knowing what the children are talking about, to give them advice around the subject.

What do you enjoy about educating the educators of the future?

It’s exciting to work with teachers early in their careers because they have an infectious enthusiasm and excitement; they really come in passionate and wanting to make a difference in the classroom. Whether you’ve been teaching for five or ten years, when you’re working with trainees, that enthusiasm rubs off on you. Trainees and new teachers have great ideas; a new cohort will always bring something different into the classroom, that you haven’t seen before.

How much importance do you feel wider subject knowledge has in teaching a subject’s curriculum?

SHanti Tw PostI think it’s incredibly important. Within the context of a subject, how to teach spelling rules and how to embed different elements of grammar and comprehension, wider subject knowledge is always vital. Additionally you need the overall context of what you are teaching to understand how it fits in to everything else a student is learning, to teach children about why it’s important. Ultiimately you need the children to understand how they’re going to use their reading skills in the future and why reading is so important for their life chances. Framing reading and writing in exactly that way is so important. A teacher needs  that understanding to help them to become really passionate about the subject. Even if it’s things like having a good knowledge of children’s literature, having that understanding as a teacher enables them to steer them towards specific books, which might be the first book they read, which might enable them to fall in love with reading.

Reading is a gateway to other subjects and it’s really important to teach children that. Beyond the mechanics of phonics and reading fluency, reading is all about how to gain information from a text. This enables children to gain understanding, values and to explore different worlds.

What do you consider essential qualities in a good teacher?

Compassion towards children is essential. Teachers need to be like therapists and social workers and listen to children. You must be that adult who is consistent and who is always there for them. Compassion for the children is important, but also compassion for yourself. Trainee teachers are often quite hard on themselves and can hold themselves to quite high standards. So, compassion for yourself and understanding when you need a break is important so that you can support the children to make the best progress.

Having a willingness to learn and develop is important too. One must be willing to look at different research and move forward and develop different skills, because we’re always learning. Everything is always changing. If you look at edtech, for example, which in the time that I’ve been teaching has just changed so much. Having a thirst for knowledge and a willingness to learn is vital.

Patience with children and also with yourself is essential, because you’re not going to be an perfect at everything straight away. It takes time, dedication and constant work.

Which areas of Primary English could be most challenging for trainee teachers?

There are a lot of different ways to teach children how to construct sentences and how to build vocabulary. All those things will come. But you need that first instance, where children become excited to learn; developing a culture within your classroom where children want to be readers and writers, to explore different books. Creating an environment in which children want to show you their writing, to develop it and learn from it themselves. That kind of intrinsic motivation is probably the most challenging aspect.

How did your own teachers inspire you?

I can think of of two teachers in particular who were both very fun, they built a good relationship with the class. I can particularly remember that I would really enjoy their lessons:

One of the two would go off on some ridiculous tangents that I still remember today. She taught me philosophy and she asked the whole class questions like ‘what happens when we run out of space for/graveyards?’; that’s such a good question! I was about 17 at the time. She was great, she was really fun.

The second teacher taught me English when I was doing my GCSE, she taught our class ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. It was great because she’d grown up in the American South; so as we were reading this book  – which I’d already read and loved – she would pause and give us some great extra information about the context, or how it related to what she’d experienced growing up in Alabama. She’d also tell us about the author (Harper Lee) and her relationships with other people of that time. She had a fantastic wealth of knowledge.

What are you looking forward to about the start of the academic year?

I’m really looking forward to meeting the trainees and starting to build those relationships. The e-Qualitas team and I have put a great deal of time and effort and into our ITT curriculum, making it evidence-based and impactful. I am really looking forward to seeing the curriculum go out and having an impact in classrooms. I’m also looking forward to working with the mentors and supporting trainees in schools.

I’m looking forward to seeing the progress that the trainees make through the year, because it’s lovely to see when trainee teachers suddenly become confident teachers and have that presence in the classroom.


What our teachers say about us...

I have most enjoyed the deep-dives in each of the subjects. You've got all the of the expertise of the Subject Leads, and tutors - you can go and ask them questions. It is a culture and an environment where you have all the expertise and experience at your fingertips that you could need.

Sian - Primary Teacher - e-Qualified ✓

What our teachers say about us...

As part of the teacher training programme, so many doors and windows of knowledge are opening. Last term's focus was on assessment, which has been transformative for me. I am now able to look at what my children know, what they need to know and then adapt my practice based on the knowledge they've demonstrated. It's made me a better teacher, because I can adapt my practice to suit everybody.

Dan - Primary Teacher - e-Qualified ✓

What our teachers say about us...

Coming to e-Qualitas and going to the training days has given me the confidence to take lead in the classroom and when working with my support staff.

Cherelle - Primary Teacher - e-Qualified ✓

What our teachers say about us...

This has been a great, supportive programme because I get the freedom to come up with plans and then see them in action with my students. I couldn't ask for a better experience.

Kellie - Secondary English Teacher - e-Qualified ✓

What our teachers say about us...

I'm really lucky at my school that I have a fantastic mentor and really supportive science staff, so I am getting on-the-job advice all the time. Talking to other trainees about what has worked is very useful, because they are at the same level of experience as me and their advice is great too.

Alison - Secondary Biology Teacher - e-Qualified ✓

What schools say about us...

Working in partnership with e-Qualitas has allowed us to put into place a system to support new members of staff in school. It's about focusing on developing individual teachers and supporting them through the teacher training programme.

Mr Tony McCabe - Head Teacher - St Joseph's RC School

What our teachers say about us...

The in-person training sessions have been great and have fostered a brilliant sense of community among trainees, who are from different parts of the country. We've had a lovely mix of practical and theory - enabling us to put into practice everything we've been discussing.

Shikiera - Primary Teacher - e-Qualified ✓

What our teachers say about us...

My subject knowledge has definitely improved from working with the Subject Leads; building my understanding of substantive disciplinary knowledge. I feel I am able to talk to the Subject Leads after each training session to discuss each training session in more detail. My subject lead has been so helpful with my learning sequences.

Masooma - Primary Teacher - e-Qualified ✓

What our teachers say about us...

The workload on the training programme is demanding, though it is manageable.The training and communication that you receive from e-Qualitas makes the workload both acceptable and convenient. Thumbs up, I am looking forward!

Bugra - Secondary Maths Teacher - e-Qualified ✓

What our teachers say about us...

My teaching skills have improved so much during the training year. My tutor and my mentor worked really hard with me, and I am really thankful for the efforts they made to make me the teacher I am today. My Subject Lead taught me so much, for example how to scaffold a lesson - making sure the whole class is engaged with tasks.

Amara - Secondary Maths Teacher - e-Qualified ✓

What schools say about us...

One of the most important things we do is appoint the right members of staff, with the right mindset and ability to form relationships with young people. The brilliant concept of the Teaching Apprenticeship Programme is that you can identify talent in members of staff currently within school.

Mr Tony McCabe - Head Teacher - St Joseph's RC School