Trainees celebrating together

Following accreditation in 2013 as the first secondary National Teaching School in Buckinghamshire, Dr Challoner’s Grammar School has now been awarded the status as a School-Centred Initial Teacher Training provider (or ‘SCITT’, its rather unfortunate acronym!). This recognition follows a lengthy bidding process, and builds on our considerable success as both the Astra Teaching School ( and a provider of high quality teacher training over a number of years. We are the first secondary school in Buckinghamshire to achieve ‘SCITT’ status, giving us the equivalent of university status for teacher training. Starting recruitment in October 2015, we hope to attract around 70 new entrants to gain their teaching qualification in our network of 26 primary and secondary schools from September 2016.

Why take part in teacher training?

Dr Challoner’s has a distinguished history in teacher training, with many of our current staff having trained to teach here, which is surely wonderful evidence of our considerable success! All former trainees speak highly of how we provide professional development opportunities both in the training year and beyond. The most recent graduates of the Astra Teacher Training programme, currently run alongside Reading University, tell us that a big incentive for choosing Alliance School Direct scheme is the variety of secondary schools in the local area that they work with, including Pupil Referral Units and Special Schools, as well as their relationship with Reading University for the PGCE part of the course. This dual approach of doing practical work at schools and focusing on the theoretical side of teaching has proved particularly successful, with all eight of this year’s trainees achieving 'Outstanding' as the grade for their QTS/PGCE in June 2015. Teacher training also gives rich opportunities for existing staff to observe and reflect on their own practice, engaging in on-going debates about what makes outstanding teaching and learning for our students.

Experiences of training to teach at Dr Challoner’s

Over the course of 2014/15, each recent graduate of the teacher training programme at Challoner's has had their own individual experiences, although they all thoroughly enjoyed teaching their classes! Whilst some teachers such as Mrs Ingram (History) emphasised a specific enjoyment in teaching certain year groups, which in her case was Year 10 class, others relished teaching across an array of ages, including Mr Hamill (Biology) who adapted his style to teach his subject to students at various key stages. Mr Hamill would absolutely recommend the Alliance for people with a passion for their subject and teaching.

Reflecting on teaching

The Astra Alliance’s support provision and good reputation were the key factors that drew Mr Hammerton (PE) towards the DCGS-led organisation. The highlights for him were the excellent mentoring available, for support and guidance, and the opportunity to improve knowledge in a wide range of physical activities, as well as training at an excellent school. Miss Toms (Drama) was particularly impressed by the Astra Alliance’s desire to improve her development, individualising their approach to accommodate her needs. It is also evident that all the trainee teachers learned lots about school life and relished the many opportunities to get involved. Ms Taylor (Art) took on the role of a form tutor and found she was able to develop relationships with individual students, taking pride in seeing the personal progression from student to student and watching their confidence grow.

Looking to the future

It seems that the trainees for September 2015 are eagerly anticipating the start of a new school year already. Mr Ashcroft (PE), currently working at DCGS as a PE Assistant has commented that the friendly school environment has already helped him to become fully immersed in school life. Additionally, ex-Challoner student Mr Stephenson will be starting his training in the English Department at The Misbourne School in September, although will be doing part of his placement at DCGS as well. In total, next academic year we are delighted to be welcoming 16 new trainees to train through the Astra Learning Alliance, working across our network of seven secondary schools in Buckinghamshire ­in a wide range of subjects including History, Art, Physics, Music and Biology. This is of course in anticipation of even larger cohort for the first year of our SCITT operation in September 2016.

We are also very proud to welcome Mrs Whitby and Mrs Timpson to Dr Challoner's after both decided to take up permanent jobs in the English and Physics departments at DCGS respectively from September 2015.

Mrs Timpson (Physics) - Toby Pickard, Year 12
Mrs Whitby (English) - Daniel New, Year 12

More information

If you would like to know any more about teacher training opportunities with DCGS/Astra Alliance, including starting your own career in teaching, please contact Mrs Stephanie Rodgers, AHT/Director of Teaching School at We would also welcome your support in marketing and publicising teacher training opportunities, so please like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and connect with us on Linkedin!