Experiences of Student Shadowing 2017

Anne Swift, NUT ex-president, tutors and winning students reflect on their experiences of the 2017 UKLA International Conference!


From Anne Swift, ex-President National Union of Teachers It was a great privilege and pleasure to join the UKLA conference in Glasgow. The quality of speakers and breadth of subjects on offer was breath taking and nobody attending could dispute the relevance and importance of this event.

The National Union of Teachers is proud to sponsor students to shadow teachers and the book awards and it was wonderful to meet the beginning teachers as they set off on their careers. Talking to them and their tutors it was clear they also valued the professional development opportunity this event gave them.

Meeting high quality authors and illustrators tackling all manners of subjects illustrated the great wealth of excellent books that teachers can use in the classroom. Horfield Primary School, winners of the “School of the Year” award, were truly inspirational and demonstrated how, given a high level of teacher autonomy and a belief in creative responses to excellent texts, schools can give pupils an outstanding experience.

Reading for pleasure, reading whole books and valuing pupils responses are at the heart of the conference. The academic research and seminars challenge teachers to reflect on their practice and as such serve as a valuable contribution to not only the experience for the student shadowers but for any teacher committed to improving their teaching.

From the 1st September, The National Union of Teachers is joining with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers to form the National Education Union and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the UKLA.

Many thanks to Lynda Graham and her team for once again organising such a fantastic event and we look forward to meeting up again in Cardiff.

From Jane Carter, UWE tutor Encouraging students to develop as readers, to explore new authors and engage with current children’s literature is a key focus of both the undergraduate and postgraduate Initial Teacher Education programmes at the University of the West of England. One engaging and enjoyable way we do this is to hold Book Clubs for all of our PG students and Year 1 undergrads. Many of the books we use for Book Club are the UKLA shortlisted books, going back many years – as we know we will be introducing students to high quality texts that teachers and children have endorsed. In addition, one session for the PG English specialists is devoted to the reading and discussing of the shortlisted books for that year. Timing is always a challenge – purchasing the books as soon as the list is released and matching this with the sessions that students have in university, when such a large part of this end of their year is spent in school. However, students comment on what a wonderful session it is: relaxed, enjoyable, open, full of laughs and deeper discussions about the issues many of the books raise.

Every year there are some students who are really enraptured by one or more of the books and this is the ‘spark’ that ignites a passion for finding and reading really amazing books to the children in their classes. These students use the books with children, for the pure pleasure of reading aloud, to examine the issues and explore the empathy of their listeners and some will offer really challenging sessions, provoking discussion and deeper understanding of both the language and the subject matter of the texts. Students see that when using really high quality texts that demand responses from their readers, how enjoyable the teaching of reading comprehension can be – compared to a dry extract with lots of questions that no one cares about the answers to anyway!

From this group of students I nominated Laura Mole as a UKLA NUT student shadower and was over the moon when she was announced as one of the student ‘winners’. The UKLA conference experience is an induction into the world of the informed, questioning and curious teacher. The quality of workshops and keynotes is second to none. The standing ovation for Shirley Brice-Heath’s Saturday keynote, is testament to this. The privilege of meeting authors, illustrators and their publishers is unrivalled at UKLA. I hope the experience will impact on Laura’s teaching career and I am sure I will be keeping in touch with her as she embarks on her NQT year.

From Anne Bradley, MARJON tutor I have been involved with shadowing of the UKLA awards for the last 3 years and this is always a highlight of my summer term. I am fortunate to work alongside one of our senior librarians who orders the short list as soon as it is announced. We then arrange a number of opportunities for students on a rvariety of courses to come along and discuss the books in small groups.

We have very purposeful discussions and it is lovely to hear why different books hold an appeal for different people. The students love being introduced to newly published books and go away with ideas of how to share them with children. They also love the idea of being able to register their vote. Our librarian then makes a display of the testing books to entice other students to look at them.
This is not time consuming. We can meet in a lunch hour or grab a half hour at some point in a day. As a tutor I value being introduced to new books that I may not have discovered.

Over the last two years we have been very fortunate, as a university, to have a student offered an funded place at the annual conference. Both students were made so welcome and came away truly inspired to share their love of Literacy with the children that they teach. This would not have been possible without the opportunity offered through the shadowing.

From Jade Wickenden, student MARJON Attending the UKLA conference as a sponsored student is one of the best experiences I have had throughout my university degree. Throughout the whole weekend I was intrigued and excited by attending all the fascinating talks and through meeting inspiring and thought-provoking people. Attending the Book Awards and dining with the authors was an absolute privilege and is something I will remember for the rest of my teaching career. I know I will be able to use this experience and signed books to hopefully inspire the children in my class to read for pleasure. I simply had the best weekend in Glasgow and very much look forward to using my new-found knowledge taken from the conference to further develop as a teacher in my NQT year and pass on to my colleagues. Everyone at the conference made me feel welcome and were approachable, even though I was rather ‘star-struck’ at everyone I met. It felt amazing to be able to talk about my dissertation research with others interested in the same topic, especially with Teresa Cremin (the lady who inspired my dissertation!) This conference just made me even more passionate about English in school and fills me with pride to be in a profession that can inspire our creative writers and readers. 

From Laura Mole, student UWE Attending the UKLA literacy awards was the best way I could ever have imagined ending my PGCE year. It was an incredibly inspiring and motivating event which I’m sure will have a huge impact on my teaching career. I am already planning what I will do for the ‘Our class loves this book’ event and have all of the books that were nominated in my class library.

Meeting the authors, illustrators, other teachers and attending the workshops and keynotes were a fantastic source of inspiration which have given me so many ideas to use in my future career. I particularly enjoyed meeting the authors and finding out how they write and what inspires them and listening to how the teachers at Horfield Primary School encourage their students to write creatively.

Shadowing the book awards is a great way to ensure reading for pleasure is a part of your daily routine. The children and I loved spending the last part of each day reading and discussing our thoughts and opinions on the different books nominated. They are now incredibly proud and inspired by the fact that they have books in their class library which include personal messages from the authors.

From Charlotte Esdown, student CCUC I was very privileged to be invited as a student shadower to the UKLA book awards. It was a fantastic experience to be surrounded by so many people that are passionate about literacy. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the authors and publishers who are behind the nominated books such as David Litchfield and Ross Collins. The sessions that took place on the Saturday were very inspiring and thought provoking. It was fantastic hearing from a school and teachers about the ways they use creativity alongside literacy to engage their pupils. The aspect that stood out for me was the illustrators panel with David Litchfield, Vivian French and Debi Gliori ; it was interesting hearing where their inspiration comes from and hearing the passion in their voices as they talked about the impact of illustrations. I have never experienced anything like the UKLA book awards before and have come away with a lot of inspiration for my future in teaching and of course some wonderful signed books!

From Chloe Horn, student Roehampton When I found out that I had been selected to attend the UKLA Book Awards and Conference in Glasgow I was thrilled! Not only did this offer me the opportunity to meet with like-minded students and professionals, it also allowed me to delve deeper into children’s literature and how this can be used effectively in the classroom. A personal highlight was the Book Awards. It was lovely to celebrate the interaction between schools, students and the UKLA in selecting the winners of the awards, echoing the importance of sharing books with one another. It was also interesting to attend the conference on Saturday. This has given me many ideas that I would like to use in my classroom next year, as well as giving me the confidence to successfully implement them. This was one of the most valuable CPD experiences that I have had throughout my three years of teacher training; it really was a privilege to be part of such a special event. I would like to thank my tutor, Anna Harrison, for nominating me to attend the conference and for paving the way for me to begin my teaching career. Special thanks go to Lynda Graham from the UKLA for finalising arrangements for the students and making us feel most welcome. 

From Ross Hellier, student CCUC I found the UKLA conference to be an experience that was in equal parts informative and enjoyable. The whole experience was phenomenal in my opinion. To brush shoulders and converse with authors, illustrators and academics alike was quite surreal. I find myself reading the author’s name on a book or journal and think little of it but to then meet these fantastic people in person was wonderful. The fact that everyone was extremely welcoming and friendly was an added bonus. To present an award was another brilliant opportunity: I am glad I went back to the hotel to change from the T-shirt and jogging bottoms that I was wearing initially though.

An aspect I have yet to touch upon, but one that perhaps has resonated with me the most, was how inspiring the whole conference was. The keynote speakers who were explaining the amazing work they are doing with vulnerable people was both moving and thought-provoking. To meet children’s authors and illustrators and hear about what inspires their thinking for stories and how this drives their writing processes was, in some instances, a very moving experience. These encounters will support some of the conversations I have with children in the classroom. I am sure that gaining these little insights into authors’ thought processes will support the children’s own authoring of stories.

And finally, it was inspiring to meet and talk to so many people who are passionate about children’s literacy. I would like to take this time to thank everyone at UKLA for the opportunity.

The Results of the students’ votes were:


The Lion Inside written by Rachel Bright and illustrated by Jim Field (Orchard Books)


Little Bits of Sky written by S.EDurrant and illustrated by Katie Harnett (Nosy Crow)


The Wolf Wilder written by KatherineRundell and illustrated by Gelrev Ongbico (Bloomsbury)


Railhead written by Philip Reeve (Oxford University Press)

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