Astra trainees interviews & videos

Interview with Gareth  - MFL Teacher and Astra Trainee Alumnus

Gareth Babbs


Gareth studied for a BA in Languages at Oxford University, having completed his secondary education at a comprehensive school in the North West of England. Having taken the decision to complete the degree in three years, rather than four, Gareth joined the army in 1987  and spent the next four years in Germany.  After leaving the army, Gareth worked in Russia prior to returning to the UK.  

Why teaching?

During Covid, Gareth discovered a love for teaching his children at home and helping out with Scouts and Beavers, prompting him to re-evaluate his career pathway.  One day, he made a call to the DfE’s ‘Get Into Teaching’ line and was encouraged to apply to train to teach in French and German, which thankfully he did!

Why Astra?

Gareth was attracted to the ‘hands on’ nature of the SCITT route into teaching, after speaking to Astra.  The practicality of the training and being able to do two different school placements was particularly valuable to him. The contrasting placement was particularly important because it allowed him to experience a different context which is particularly important for the teaching of languages.  Gareth also cites the ability to return to his main placement school to contextualise what had been learnt in the second placement to be particularly powerful, including exploring behaviour management strategies.  He found the Astra QTS assignment on the curriculum and his PGCE assignments to be particularly motivational as they supported his understanding of the wider picture of education, the evolution of his subject, and potential to move it in other directions.

Memorable moment as a trainee teacher

Gareth recalls one of his first times he was teaching in the classroom during his training year, around three weeks into his training.  He had a Year 8 German class in a new classroom.  He recalls how he tried to turn on the projector and it didn’t work.  He tried to turn the computer on and it didn’t work. He went to write on the whiteboard, only to find it filled with scribbles from a previous lesson which turned into a thick black mess when he tried to wipe them away.  It was hardly the ideal lesson starter! Gareth recalls how his mentor sat at the back in the room, remaining wonderfully calm and observing what had unfolded while the Year 8 class looked on, vaguely amused.  Eventually, the lesson started and he regained full control of the situation.  After the lesson, his mentor asked him the inevitable question, ‘what did you think about that?”  Gareth reflected immediately that it had been a bit of a mess.  But at the end of his placement, his mentor celebrated his calmness, and Gareth reflected: you just have to do what you have to do.

Future Aspirations

Gareth believes that the first and most important thing is to be the best teacher you can be in the classroom, and to work towards sowing the two philosophies of language teaching together.  At the moment, Gareth is keeping an open mind about middle or senior leadership roles in the future, or perhaps even a role at the DfE?


“Remember to keep the mind calm in difficult moments.”  Horace.