Roehampton alumnus opens conference on linking research with practice in Education

Andrew Nowak, a Roehampton PGCE Secondary alumnus, addressed the School of Education Research into Practice Conference, sharing his experience of working with children on the autistic spectrum, with education professionals, academics and current students.

Posted: 28 February 2017

Andrew is the Deputy Head of Queensmill School, a school that aims to meet the needs of children and young people with autism, ranging in ages from 3-25. Queensmill enables students to progress both in their learning and in managing their autism. In his position Andrew works with autistic children daily, and has advanced expertise, founded in research and built on experience, which he shared at the conference. He said that "diagnoses for autism are on the rise, with around 1 in every 90 people being diagnosed each year. This means that all teachers are likely to encounter a student with difficulties at some point, so we need to understand how best to cater to their needs".

Andrew offered attendees some tips that he uses in his classroom:

  • Consider the sensory environment – aim for a low arousal environment.
  • Structure the learning environment – provide timings on projects, and step by step instructions so that students are aware of exactly what they need to do and how long it should take.
  • Value every student and their contributions.
  • Keep consistent, stick to routines.
  • Don't force students to do group work, or answer questions in front of the rest of the class.
  • Create and calm and relaxing environment in the classroom.
  • Have safe space or areas where students can go if they need a few minutes to themselves.
  • Always provide a reason as to why you are doing something.
  • Know your kids.

Andrew completed his PGCE Secondary in History at Roehampton in 2006, and went on to work in a number of London schools before becoming Deputy Head at Queensmill in 2015. Queensmill welcomes Roehampton students to the school, giving them a valuable opportunity to develop their skills and understanding of children and young people living with autism.

Andrew said "training to be a teacher at Roehampton prepared me well for the ever changing landscape in education and provided me with the tools to pursue a rich and diverse teaching career. I have gone on to achieve post-graduate qualifications in education at Roehampton and cannot stress enough the positive impact this has had on my teaching practice and career development, I would encourage all developing teachers to think about pursuing masters courses and action research projects."

Alison Messer, Head of Secondary Initial Teacher Education at Roehampton said, "It was a real pleasure to welcome Andrew back to Roehampton to open this conference. To see what he has achieved in the 10 years since leaving Roehampton is an inspiration to current students, and staff! We are proud that he continues to make such a difference to these young people's lives, and we are grateful to Queensmill School, as they continue to be one of our partner schools offering Roehampton students valuable opportunities for professional development."

Andrew was joined by a host of academics and education professionals who spoke and gave workshops on a range of topics designed to inspire our students to continue their professional development after their PGCE, including Researching the effectiveness of digital technologies, Developing the skill of reading critically, Doing a Master's in Professional Practice, and Practitioner research on able students' mindsets.

For more information on the range of ITE courses at Roehampton, postgraduate programmes or to find out more about the department please click here.

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