What to expect on your teacher training

Published 6 March 2020
By Jan Ashbridge

A university-based postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) year is an exciting, challenging and exhilarating one — a real roller coaster of an experience. It is also a busy one!

How is the course delivered?

There is a good balance between school and university learning, with three blocks of extended classroom practice throughout the year. This does not mean that you will just be in university for the rest of the time though — most weeks, you will be in school for at least two days. This gives you opportunities to learn in different environments, and provides a forum for you to explore the ways that educational theory can inform and enhance your teaching practice.

Do I get the school holidays off?

Programmes usually begin in January or at the beginning of September and will align with the school year. You get holidays at Christmas and Easter in-line with the University’s holidays, and if your placement goes across half terms you will have the school half term to catch up and perhaps even get ahead with your planning. Be careful when booking travel though — the dates of the holidays in schools near you may not be the same as the university or your placement schools.

How many times would I have to attend lectures?

The university timetable is, as far as possible, designed to fit into the working day — so sorting out any childcare well in advance is advisable. That is not to say that you will be timetabled all day every day, but be aware that sometimes this will be the case. However, we do our best to make sure that each week you will have a day or half a day that is freer so that you can reflect and make the most of the library facilities!

What is the coursework like?

You will usually be assessed through essays. The content of these will be linked to work that you are doing in school, which gives you lots of scope for you to think about themes that really interest and motivate you. The school holidays are often a good time to get ahead on your coursework without distractions.

Is a PGCE manageable if I have a family?

Many of our students train to teach later in life, either because they’ve had a career break to look after children or because they want a change of direction. This means that you’ll have plenty of support from people facing similar challenges. You’ll also be assigned a personal tutor who can provide academic, professional and pastoral support.

About the author

Jan Ashbridge is a Principal Lecturer with responsibility for primary PGCE at the University of Cumbria. She has particular expertise in early literacy and systematic synthetic phonics.

If you’re interested in enriching the lives of young people, find out more about how you can become a teacher. Or discover what else to expect in your initial teacher training.