Academic Spotlight: Gary Pykitt

Here at BCU, we are proud to be home to so many wonderful staff members and academics that teach our courses and shape the future of our students. We love hearing the stories of our staff and how they got to where they are now.

Gary Pykitt, Senior Lecturer in Primary Education, sat down with us to give an insight into his career and work.

What do you do at BCU and how long have you been part of the University?

My connection with the University goes back to November 1997 when I came for an interview as a student for the BA (Hons) Primary Education with QTS course. I started my degree in September 1998 and qualified with a First-Class Honours in June 2002. I then worked as a primary school teacher before returning on a secondment in September 2007, teaching Professional Studies on the BA (Hons) Primary Education with QTS year one trainees. 

I started my full-time post as Senior Lecturer in Primary Education in 2008. 

Could you tell us about your experience and how this feeds into your teaching?

My experience as a primary school teacher feeds into all aspects of my work and brings a realism to what I am teaching, ensuring that strong links are made between theory, research and current practice in the sector. I keep myself up to date with developments in primary education through my role as a school governor.

In the past I have also been a trustee of a multi-academy trust. I am able to use this close contact with practice to ensure the relevance and currency of my teaching to ensure that my students are fully prepared to enter the profession with an astute, current knowledge and understanding. My experience of keeping up to date with current issues has supported my role as module leader for the Current Issues in Education module, the topic around which my book is based.

What are some of the greatest achievements you have accomplished at BCU?

I have supported thousands of trainees through their course and have always received very positive feedback about my teaching and approach to working with students.  It is so lovely when I visit primary schools and see previous trainees doing so well in their roles, many who are now in leadership positions with significant responsibilities. I attained a Distinction in my Master’s in Education in 2015 and am currently working towards my Professional Doctorate in Education.

In 2016, I was awarded Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in recognition of my experience in the field and have subsequently successfully mentored a number of colleagues through this rigorous assessment process. In 2019, my book, 'Shifting Sands: contemporary issues in primary education' was published by Critical Publishing.

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What makes the courses you teach on distinct and what is the learning environment like?

The teacher training courses at BCU have a strong focus on equity and social justice. All tutors have significant experience of working in education in a range of roles which enable them all to bring their own experience and practice into their teaching. We strive to develop a community of professional learning in which trainees are encouraged to actively contribute to taught sessions, making links between theory and practice, and reflecting upon their practice. 

Why do you think Birmingham is a good place to study?

Birmingham is a vibrant and diverse city. We are preparing teachers for supporting children to be successful in the modern world. A significant part of the courses are placements – Birmingham and surrounding areas enable us to provide trainees with diverse experiences to ensure they feel comfortable working in a range of schools. Birmingham is never stagnant and there is always something new on the horizon. 

What can students do to help prepare them for their course?

In terms of preparing for a teacher training course, I would recommend the following: talk to existing teachers, talk to careers staff, get some experience working in the classroom in different situations and with different age groups if possible, be prepared to talk about your experience working in schools when you have an interview and most importantly, have a clear view about why you want to teach – consider your philosophy and values.

What’s your favourite thing about working at the University?

Every day is different and there is always a new, exciting opportunity on the horizon. The people make BCU a very supportive, friendly, nurturing, and exciting place to work and study. 

What should you do next?

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