Queen Margaret University School Experience Programme Handbook - Organisation of School Experience, Administration, Processes and Procedures


The Student Placement System (SPS)

Placements are organised as part of a national on-line system known as the Student Placement System (SPS), which is based on matching requests from universities to offers of placements from individual schools via their Local Authority. The system is managed by the GTCS.

The SPS operates to a strict, nationally agreed timeline and meeting the required deadlines is essential. Once schools have submitted their offers in line with the SPS timeline, Local Authorities will confirm offers. Universities are required to upload course details and student data for placements due to take place within the forthcoming academic year.  Schools will be notified via email of the students they should expect to receive throughout the school year. This is normally 4 weeks before the placement is due to take place.  

Allocation of School Placements

Students will complete a pre-placement form and the information they provide will be uploaded to the SPS. Under no circumstances should students attempt to organise their own placement directly with a school.

While we try to bear in mind any preference a student might have, there are other considerations, which may well take precedence when placing students. In particular, the centralised procedures for placing students, the induction programmes for newly qualified teachers and the recent increases in the numbers of student teachers across Scotland have placed pressure on school capacity. Students may be required to travel to a placement in an outlying area and should be prepared to travel up to 90 minutes each way. The placements will be made based on a student’s term time address and mode of transport.  Students are required to indicate if their term time address is their home address or an address close to QMU. The Placement & Partnership Officer will have the final decision on which school students will attend. Placement enquiries should be sent to ITEplacements@qmu.ac.uk using their student e-mail account.

Religious and/or Cultural Observances

A student’s identity, such as their religious/ cultural practices, can have a significant impact on teaching, learning and assessment in practice. However, it is a statutory requirement that the university and placement providers address these through establishing relevant policies and guidance which address diversity and inclusion.

These policies include a commitment to:

  • Promoting equal opportunity and diversity during employment
  • Ensuring all employees are treated fairly and valued equally
  • Valuing religious and cultural needs and practices and meeting these where possible.

Students may have particular religious or cultural needs in terms of requests which may appear to “conflict” with existing working requirements in the practice setting. Such issues may include:

  • Health and safety issues relating to dress code
  • Request for flexible working related to religious/belief-related festivals
  • Adjustments for prayer time, and space.

Whilst it may not always be possible to accommodate every student’s religious or cultural observance, every effort will be made to find a mutually agreeable solution. Our guiding principles:

  • Normally, students will be allocated placements according to their term time address and can expect to travel up to 90 minutes to and from a placement, unless there is some exceptional reason, which would impact adversely on the student or placement.
  • In these exceptional circumstances, negotiation between the student, the university, and school is essential.
  • Established policies that apply to employed staff also apply to students accepted on placement. It is vital that discussion takes place on the religious and cultural needs of the student and how they will be valued and/or met whilst on placement.
  • Agreements between the student and placement provider may occur prior to, or at the outset of any placement as part of the induction process. These should be reviewed and discussed with the student at the midway point of the placement.

Catholic Teachers’ Certificate

Students who are eligible and wish to obtain the Catholic Teachers’ Certificate must complete the online CREDL (Certificate in Religious Education through Distance Learning) programme. This Certificate is recognised by the Bishops of Scotland as a preliminary qualification in generalist Catholic religious education for those who wish to teach religious education in Catholic primary or secondary schools. For eligible ITE students who wish to complete this programme, further information can be found at: Catholic Teachers’ Certificate

Students with Disabilities

QMU is committed to equality of opportunity and believes in a culture of diversity and inclusion. 

Disabled students should experience the same broad range of practice settings to enable them to demonstrate that they have achieved the learning outcomes for each placement. At QMU, the term ‘disabled’ relates to the impact of an illness, impairment, developmental disorder or specific learning difficulty on the specific tasks associated with university level study. 

The QMU disability service develops an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) following a disability needs assessment.  The ILP details the reasonable adjustments and supports recommended by the disability service.  The ILP is developed and expected to be implementing in all on campus and online teaching and assessment.  The ILP can be shared with the placement provider with the student’s consent and can be used to inform the placement but it does not have to be implemented by the placement provider.  When a student is on placement the placement provider is responsible for any reasonable adjustment and the placement providers policies and guidance needs to be followed.  

The Disability Service works with a broad range of students including those with long term medical conditions (such as MS, epilepsy, diabetes, chronic fatigue etc), mental health difficulties, sensory impairments, physical impairments, those on the autism spectrum and those with specific learning difficulties (such as dyslexia).

Disabled students are actively encouraged to meet with the Disability Adviser (DA) to discuss their Individual Learning Plan (ILP). Disability Advisers email the ILP to the university’s Academic Disabled Students Coordinator (ADSC) as this is an opportunity for dialogue between them to check if there is a recommendation which may need to be amended. In some circumstances, though not often, the DA may ask the ADSC to share the ILP with relevant academics. The student can of course choose to share their ILP for any reasonable adjustments and assessment arrangements to be made, which may be necessary to enable them to meet the learning outcomes of each school experience.

QMU acknowledges that not all information about a student’s disability or health may be relevant to placement providers and that normally, information would be provided with student’s agreement.

Reasonable adjustments during school experience are dependent on students disclosing a disability or health condition, or at least, sharing information about their needs with the placement provider.

Students should keep their Personal Academic Tutor, or Programme Leader, University and School Based Educators, Disability Service and their ADSC informed of any changes to their health status. It is essential that students discuss any concerns they may have with staff as early as possible. If students require further information or advice, please feel free to contact the Disability Service for a confidential chat.

Changes to Placement School

Placement allocations are non-negotiable. Students do not have the right to exchange allocated placements with their peers. Normally, the programme teams do not enter into third party communications about allocated placements. The responsibility lies with the student to raise reasonable and relevant concerns directly with the relevant Year Tutor. The following are not considered valid reasons to request a change in placement:

  • Personal preference - allocated placements are deemed relevant and will offer appropriate learning experiences.
  • Financial hardship - students should consider the cost of school experience as being a necessary and integral part of the programme and plan for this in advance.

Students may only request a change in placement allocation for extenuating circumstances not identified on the school experience information form, e.g. changes to health or well-being requiring reasonable adjustments. Relevant supporting evidence must be provided to the Placement & Partnership Officer (e.g. medical certificate) before any such request can be considered.  Requesting a change of school placement allocation does not guarantee that it can be made.

Travel and Accommodation

There is no direct provision by QMU for the cost of accommodation or travel expenses whilst on placement. Students should consider the cost of school experience as being a necessary and integral element of the programme and plan for this in advance.

The University Student Finance Service administers two discretionary funds provided by the Scottish Government. These are the Childcare Fund which is aimed at students who incur childcare costs whilst studying and the Hardship Fund when students find themselves facing exceptional financial problems. An application form is completed and submitted with supporting evidence which is then considered at a confidential monthly meeting of the Hardship Committee. It is useful to make an appointment to see the Student Finance Adviser before submitting an application


Students are expected to arrive at their placement school well before the start of the school day to ensure lessons are well prepared and resourced before pupils arrive. They should also expect to stay on after the end of the school day to tidy up, mark pupils’ work, put up displays, attend any staff or planning meetings, plan and prepare lessons or activities for the next day or help with after school clubs. As a guide, student teachers are expected to arrive at school between 8.00-8.30am and leave 4.30-5pm.

If difficulties arise with placement hours, School Based Educators, and the student are actively encouraged to draw this to the attention of the school and university so that a mutually acceptable plan of action can be developed.

The University is aware that many students now find it essential to find work whilst studying. However, employment outside of the programme must not adversely affect student’s work during school experience. Students are expected to mirror their working patterns to those in operation at the school. They must recognise that flexibility on the part of the school is not to be expected.

Similarly, all requests for pre-arranged absence from placement must be discussed with the University. Planned absences from school experience placement may be approved by the University in exceptional circumstances only.

IMPORTANT: Students do not have the right to negotiate holidays, or other leaves of absence during a placement directly with the School Based Educator.

Absence from Placement

Students are expected to comply with the attendance and reporting sickness policies of the University and must familiarise themselves with these policies within the first week of placement. If absence is before the start of a placement the student must contact the School Based Educator and Placement & Partnership Officer to report any sickness or absence. Every student is required to inform the school and the University should they be unable to attend their placement on any given day. Students should:

  • Contact the placement school, the Placement & Partnership Officer at ITEPplacements@qmu.ac.uk and report all absences via the Student Portal in the usual way
  • If absent for more than one day, students should contact both the placement school and the ITEPplacements@qmu.ac.uk on each day of absence
  • If absent for more than 5 working days students must submit a medical certificate to the Student Portal and to  ITEplacements@qmu.ac.uk
  • When students return to school they should advise the Partnership and Placement Officer, again, via ITEplacements@qmu.ac.uk
  • Any days missed due to absence must be made up at the end of the placement if the schools is in agreement or by undertaking an additional placement.  This is to be arranged by the Placement & Partnership Officer, the SBE and the UBE.  Student’s should not arrange this themselves
  • Appointments, i.e. dentist, doctor, driving test etc should all be rescheduled out with of placement time, where possible.

IMPORTANT: Failure by students to inform the School Based Educator, and the University that they are not attending placement will be regarded as unprofessional behaviour.

A School Based Educator should only report unauthorised absences, but these should be notified to the University’s Placement & Partnership Officer - ITEplacements@qmu.ac.uk as soon as practicable, and certainly within 48 hours.

Attendance must be monitored throughout the placement and all absences from placement must be recorded by School Based Educators.

Fitness to Practise, Health-related and/or Personal Issues

At QMU we must ensure that all students maintain proper teaching standards whilst on placement. This is about safeguarding that our students are fit to practise so that public trust and confidence in teachers is maintained and the learning of our children and young people is protected.

If the University becomes aware of an issue regarding a student’s health or behaviour which may have an adverse effect on the student and or school experience, a Fitness to Practise (FtP) Panel may be convened by the University. The Fitness to Practise (FtP) Panel has the delegated authority to impose a range of sanctions including requiring a student to suspend study or withdraw from the programme. If the outcomes of the FtP Panel prevent a student from starting or continuing with a school placement these will be discussed within the team and a recommendation made regarding their progress on the professional programme. See QMU Fitness to Practice Policy 

Prior to School Experience: Guiding Principles

    • Any student experiencing ill health and/or personal issues prior to a placement should make an appointment to meet with either the Personal Academic Tutor (PAT), and/or the University Based Educator.
    • A course of action will be agreed in order that appropriate measures and /or reasonable adjustments are in place for the duration of the placement. This may involve the Programme Leader, Disability Advisor, Student Counsellor and the school as required.
    • Following a discussion with the student, the Programme Leader may recommend the student consults a medical practitioner in order to obtain a medical assessment on whether the student is able to commence the placement. A supporting medical certificate must be obtained by the student and forwarded to the Programme Leader.
    • If the student is unable to commence a placement, it will be deferred, and the student will undertake another placement once she/he is in sound health, subject to confirmation of fitness to practise by a medical practitioner.

During School Experience: Guiding Principles

    • Students developing a health issue during school experience that significantly impacts on their performance, safety of self or others are advised to discuss their situation with the School Based Educator, and their University Based Educator as soon as possible.
    • Following discussions with all relevant parties the student may be advised to consult a medical practitioner to obtain a supporting medical certificate providing confirmation of their current health status and forward this to the University.
    • This may result in the placement being terminated with the student commencing another placement when she/he is of sound health, subject to confirmation of fitness to practise by a medical practitioner.

Acceptable use of Social Media, ICT & Other Mobile Devices

Using Social Media

The University acknowledges that social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, Blogging, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram) is a significant part of people’s lives and is a positive way to keep in touch and share information.

Student teachers could be putting their registration at risk if posting inappropriate comments about pupils, parents, teachers, schools, others employed by the school, as well as other students or posting any material that could be considered explicit. COPAC and the GTCS produced statements/briefings on the use of social media.

As a student-teacher, be cautious about the information posted on-line. Students should remember that:

  • The law around defamation and harassment, and confidentiality applies at all times
  • Anything posted on-line to a social networking site is in the public domain, even with the strictest privacy settings
  • The more personal lives are exposed through social networking sites, the more likely it is this could have a negative impact
  • What may be considered as “letting off steam” about a situation at placement could potentially be seen by another person as unprofessional behaviour.

The following points are offered to students as guidance:

  • Make use of appropriate etiquette when posting materials to social networking sites
  • Act responsibly at all times upholding the reputation of the profession, and QMU
  • Protect their own privacy, think through the kinds of information students want to share and with whom, and adjust their privacy settings
  • Observe placement providers’ bullying, harassment and dignity policies when posting on-line (including e-mail, and text messaging) with colleagues, and peers
  • Do not post information to social networking sites that may lead to the identification of service users
  • Do not make disparaging remarks about the placement, service users, or employees on a social networking site (even when anonymised these are likely to be inappropriate).

Using official ICT Facilities, and Mobile Devices

Educational settings offering school experience have policies regarding the use of mobile devices (e.g. smart phone, iPad, Android tablet, lap top computer, digital pen, memory stick) stating where and in what circumstances such devices are permitted or prohibited.

It is important therefore that when students go out on placement that they make it a priority to familiarise themselves with the local regulations. This will give students a better understanding of what is permitted and what is not.

Any ICT/official mobile devices offered to students during placements are provided for use in learning and/or pursuit of their studies. Students should keep usernames and passwords private at all times. Students must not abuse ICT facilities for any other purpose, e.g. use of social networking sites or for recreational internet use. Students should be aware that organisations hosting placements may have auditing systems in place that can identify who is looking at what, and where, and when this activity took place.

Service user confidentiality, privacy, and dignity must be maintained at all times. Students should never use their own mobile devices or QMU ICT to create or send official school records (including photographs, videos, audio recording).

Keeping Safe

As an ITE student their studies may involve internet searches relating to young people. This may generate unwanted links to objectionable websites. Students are advised to use wherever possible, specific education related search engines.

Even if students are careful they may accidentally access internet sites they did not mean to. This might happen because they clicked on a misleading link, clicked on a link by accident, or because a site has been ‘hijacked’. Students may also find that they get bombarded by unsolicited and explicit ‘pop-up’ advertising. If any of these things happen whilst a student is on placement, they should:

  • Take a note of the URL (web address) of the site and the time it was accessed
  • Tell someone immediately
  • If possible, show them what happened
  • Record the details of the site accessed, before logging off the computer)
  • Tell their School Based Educators as soon as possible
  • Tell local ICT staff (any alerts regarding inappropriate internet use will go to them first)
  • Contact their Personal Academic Tutor at the University to advise them of what has happened.

There may be an investigation into their on-line activities, but if the accident was legitimate and these steps are followed, it will be resolved quickly.

The University does not discourage students from using such services. However, students should be aware the University will take seriously any occasions where these services are used inappropriately. If occasions arise of what might be read to be on-line harassment, or materials deemed to contravene professional conduct these will be dealt with in the same way as other such instances.

Student Withdrawal/ Removal from School Placement

If a student chooses to withdraw from a placement without prior discussion with the School Based Educator, and approval of the University, normally, the student is deemed to have failed the placement module. However, if extenuating circumstances occur which preclude prior discussion (such as serious illness, or a sudden family bereavement) then a course of action will be mutually agreed.

There may be rare occasions when the school and/or School Based Educators(s) feels it appropriate to remove a student from the placement area immediately, and they have the authority to do so. While, on these rare occasions, the placement school will report the matter at its earliest convenience to the University, the student is also required to inform their University Based Educator and Personal Academic Tutor immediately any such event occurs.

Complaints Handling Procedure

The University has implemented a Complaints Handling Procedure (QMU 2014a) which can be found here complaints at QMU.

Any queries about the complaints procedure or any complaints written on the Complaints Form may be e-mailed to complaints@qmu.ac.uk