May 18, 2021, by abrierley

My PALs teaching placement and best tips on getting a DBS check

By Libby Grunwald (Sociology BA)

When I received the emails informing us about applying for placements, I was initially weary and worried that I wouldn’t be capable, managing both assigned university work and committing to a placement. However, I took the jump and told myself it will push me to gain new experience, which now looking back I can confirm it did.

I decided to apply for PALS, an institution which supports young people that have difficulties with the normal school system and therefore provide an alternative programme, giving students hand on and practical sessions like working in workshops or motorbike engineering. I have always had an interest in working with children and therefore thought this was a suitable option.

The placement application process was very straightforward. First, there is providing a CV and a cover letter. The cover letter should be altered and tailored for the chosen placement conveying the necessary skills for the placement. After this came the interview stage (mine happened to be in person.) My tips for this would be to come prepared! Ensuring you know what the company aims are how they would benefit by having you there. I would also recommend asking questions, both to show your interest and engagement and to answer any questions you may have.

Once I began my placement, my role was to act as a teaching support, helping children in a 1:1 setting to ensure they get any help needed and the most out of their day. This primarily included helping students if they needed support or further explanation in Maths and English in order to complete and achieve their Functional Skills diploma.

Due to the nature of my placement being a school like provision, I was working as part of a team, both with other university students on placement and the teachers and supports too. This relieved some of the pressure since if I didn’t know something, they were always there to support me or to explain to me how certain things worked making me feel at ease and welcomed.

Reflecting back on my placement, I have fond memories. I really enjoyed my time spent with the students who in a way taught me too. Working there both broadened my experience, working with children who need certain types of support whilst increasing my confidence in my capabilities. It also gave me a chance to meet new people from different backgrounds (I had never been to Nottingham before starting university), hearing how these students life experiences’ was really interesting and at times very entertaining.

However, since these students come from difficult and disadvantaged backgrounds, their behaviour can often be challenging. However, this taught me the importance of patience and professionalism when dealing with these students. Furthermore, after a few weeks and building a rapport with the students, you are able to communicate and enjoy working with the students. I would therefore tell any future placement workers to be prepared for this, but also that within the provision there is always support.

Turning attention to the DBS process. Because PALS is a provision that works with children, it’s a necessary requirement to get a DBS check. This can be done through the university and is free. This is a straightforward process if you follow the steps given in the information on how to complete the process. Within this document, it starts by pointing you to the DBS website and to enter the necessary information.

Once filling in the information, you have to then set up an appointment with student services at the university so they can verify your documents such as passports and birth certificate etc. This was a very short appointment (a few minutes) and was easy to set up. It is only after this that the DBS check can begin authorising your application, however this can take up to a few weeks. It is therefore important to keep an eye on the application and your emails, which will notify you when the check has been completed. Because the DBS service is external to the university, this is especially important since it’s your responsibility as the university doesn’t have access or know when the check has been completed.

Overall, I had an extremely positive experience working both at PALS and getting my DBS certificate through the university. I have to point out that my experience was placed in the context of COVID where some students didn’t come in, so I was working with less children which perhaps altered my experience. Nonetheless, I have gained ‘real’ experience, and gave me a break from constantly sitting at my desk doing university work. I would therefore recommend applying for a placement to everyone, even with limited experience as it’s equally important how you present yourself and put yourself across at the interview stage which results in a successful application. The process of applying, polishing up my CV and interview experience is something that I will take forward with me.

Good luck with your future placement J

Posted in General Placement Blogs