Education studies and teaching news at Brighton

Headshot of Melanie Fryer, teacher graduate

Meet one of our teaching graduates

Melanie Fryer is a year 1 teacher at Gildredge House Free School in Eastbourne and graduated from our Primary 5–11 years PGCE eight years ago. We caught up with Melanie to chat about her time at Brighton, her career and her tips for anyone thinking about training to teach.

My studies at the University of Brighton

I graduated three times from Brighton. I first studied a foundation degree in arts and then went on to study a BA(Hons) in Professional Studies in Learning and Development.  I then followed this with my PGCE in Primary Education, gaining QTS (qualified teacher status) in 2015. 

I loved it!  I am University of Brighton through and through – like a stick of rock.  I even love that after all these years I can step onto the Falmer campus walk around the corner and go straight into the same coffee shop in the Checkland building and order my usual and find a seat and think, ‘yeah, I am home.’

My best memories of being a student

Seeing the facilities evolve over the years, the Falmer campus has changed so much and definitely for the better!

Also the tutors were always really kind and helpful as I was a mature student with no experience of the Harvard referencing system or any form of academic writing when I started!  I even had to re-sit my Maths and Science GCSEs at night-school at college whilst completing my degree courses but always felt supported.  I made lasting friendships with my peers and we still keep in touch even eight years later! 

Personally, when I started in 2011 I was a single mother of two going through a messy divorce but since met my wonderful Husband and had two beautiful sons to add to my family, all whilst studying.  I could have not done any of that without the help of everyone at the University.

My career since graduating with QTS

I secured my first teaching post at Gildredge House Free School in Eastbourne in September 2015, straight after qualifying.  In fact, I actually secured this position in the February of 2015 whilst still studying for my PGCE.

My role as a primary teacher has gone so quickly!  I was very fortunate to have the amazing opportunity in my first post to set up Year 2 from scratch as the school was new.  This gave me a blank canvas in setting up my classroom, to which resources to get and which topics to choose.  I then got to do this all again two years later and set up Year 4 in the same way.  I have since spent three years in Year 4 before a year in Year 3 and am now in my second year in Year 1.

I also became the Primary Professional Tutor for the primary phase six years ago which is such a rewarding part of my job.  I have been fortunate to almost give something back and have supported about 28 student teachers on various ITE routes whilst they are on placement in my school.  I support their mentors too which are my colleagues, and have been a mentor many times as well.  I have ensured that I have built up an excellent reputation with the local ITE providers, including Brighton, over the years and we are known as being a wonderful school to train at.

As the Professional Tutor for my school, I have forged strong links with the staff at the University of Brighton over the years and have recently been helping with looking at how the structure of the Primary PGCE course can be made even better.  This has been almost full circle for me as this was the course that I did in 2014/15, so sitting alongside with my University tutors discussing ways forward has been really humbling. 

Teaching as a career

Teaching has changed so much in the 19 years that I have been in Education, from my early days as a Teaching Assistant and Individual Needs Assistant to my role now.  

Primary teaching is ever evolving and more and more is being expected of you.  Covid had a big impact on how we carried out remote teaching online and continued to ensure the safeguarding of our students. 

The pros definitely outweigh the cons and I still absolutely love my role as a primary teacher and spending each day watching the little people flourish – albeit with lots of energy!   

My advice to anyone thinking about becoming a teacher

Research. 

Definitely volunteer in a school, if you don’t already have any experience to be sure that this is the role for you.  Teaching is a journey, maybe not as long as mine took, but a career nonetheless. 

It isn’t for everyone so be sure it’s for you. We have five teachers now in our family but that doesn’t mean it is for everyone. 

Talk to people about it.  Look at the various routes into teaching, choose what works for you and your family and if you want it, don’t give up. Remember the University of Brighton is equipped to help you along the way, life happens, I had to have two maternity years out from studying, but the pastoral team were there, with my tutors, to support me.  If I can achieve it then you definitely can! 

Find out more about studying teaching at the University of Brighton.

Christina Camm • February 9, 2023


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