Making a difference to young lives: My placement year with City Year

Mojib Ali is a BSc Psychology student who has recently finished his placement year with City Year in Mossfield Primary School. As an aspiring teacher, Mojib sought a placement in a school environment and he managed to achieve that by getting his application in early. Read on to find out why he chose City year, what he made of the experience and his advice to students who will be undertaking a year-long placement as part of their degree.

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The reason why I chose to do a placement year was actually because of my brother. When he was a student he said that he got a lot out of his placement year so when I saw that Manchester were one of the only universities that provided Psychology students with a Placement Year, I had to aim for it. I knew that relevant work experience is hard to come by and difficult to balance with a degree so I thought why not focus on my degree for the first two years and dedicate the third wholeheartedly to work experience.

Aspiring to become a teacher, I wanted something directly school-related and saw that City Year – a charity set on tackling educational inequality – provided a full year in school with many amazing opportunities, so I applied for it.

I found out about City Year via a university careers fair at the beginning of first year. I remember it sounding so good for a placement year so I kept the leaflet in case that’s what I decided on a year later. As soon as the green light was given to look for our own placement, I applied straight away. First came a short online application, then the interview which consisted of a group task and a formal 1-1 interview. I applied in October (quite early) and it was a massive worry out of the way.

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Before the placement, my plan was to go into A-Level teaching after graduating, however, this year in a primary school has swayed me and opened my eyes as to how rewarding this environment can be. That, coupled with the fact that I now have a year of primary school experience under my belt, helps greatly with my PGCE application but also with the practical experience that’s needed to do well in a school.

This placement was definitely better than I had imagined. I thought I would just be in a class, supporting the students over the year. Instead, I was greeted by an amazing team, built and lead my own after-school clubs,  ran my own tutoring sessions, given the opportunity to teach Music lessons, completed a skills course for myself and was stationed in a class where I got to observe the way things are meant to be done over the year.

The entire year has been a highlight reel with meeting so many great people and making a real difference in that school. A standout moment was when a new Year 3 student arrived in October, she settled in well and quickly. She took to me and would always get really excited when I’d work with her. She learned she had to move schools but wasn’t phased by meeting a new class. However, she cried when she realised I wouldn’t be there and her mother told me that she would always go on about me at home! To know that I had impacted someone’s life that much in such a short span of time, was the standout moment for me.

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My advice to students who are about to start their placement year is to make the most of it because any experience is a good experience. I could not imagine spending a year out in a better way plus it was a much needed (productive) break away from university. I gained so many skills not only beneficial for a career, but also my third year. I also met many amazing people, expanding my network and had a whole year to develop myself (something that’s easily forgotten when you’re lost in university).

One thing that I wish I had done was to ask more questions about the timetable and workload of the year. Working five days a week, waking up incredibly early was a bit of a shock to me having gotten used to the university routine. The best tip I can give is to make the most of all the opportunities given. If there’s a chance to lead something or gain a qualification, there’s no harm in taking it, it can only do good!

 

 


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