Posted Jan. 30, 2018
Do you want to become a teacher?
Studying a PGCE is a popular way of training to become a teacher in the UK after studying an undergraduate degree, as not everyone who becomes a teacher knows that's what they want to do when they are applying for their initial degree..
If you've done a little bit of research into PGCE study, you'll probably have read about how tough the course is! It’s true that it’s a lot of work, but it’s also worth the effort.
So, what's it really like to study a PGCE?
Is there a difference between primary and secondary level PGCE courses?
Primary and secondary level PGCE courses are similar in many ways and the costs are basically the same. Being a PGCE student on either PGCE course will involve lectures, coursework, teaching placements and critiquing of your teaching skills, however there is a reason they are taught separately. This is because different age ranges require different approaches, so the trainee teachers need to be taught different skills dependent on what age group they wish to work with.
Primary school teachers need to have a large range of general skills, along with creative and artistic talents, to make lessons fun and interesting for younger children. Older children and teenagers at secondary schools require a different style of teaching and support to younger ones. So, primary and secondary PGCE courses will train the teachers differently, so they are specialists in their chosen age range.
How much time will you spend studying and attending lectures?
A PGCE is usually taught as a full-time postgraduate course, so expect at least 35 hours a week of lectures, as well as time needed to complete written assignments. There are some part-time PGCE courses that take two years to complete, but the majority of courses are full time. Most former PGCE students will advise you to get your assignments out of the way quickly to leave your mind free to get on with planning lessons and improving your teaching skills.
How much time will you spend preparing lessons and teaching?
When studying a PGCE course you are learning to teach, so initially you are going to need to spend more time planning lessons than a teacher with 20 years’ experience. You’ll probably hear stories of student teachers taking two hours or more to plan a single lesson. However, in real life students can usually whittle this down to about 30 minutes of planning per lesson, and then add in the time to create the resources needed for the lesson. You'll spend at least 24 weeks in teaching placement throughout your PGCE course, and during your teaching placements, you also need to factor in the time you'll spend reflecting and critiquing your teaching skills.
PGCE study – how will you fit it all in?
Your PGCE year is likely to be the busiest year you'll ever have, but you can do it! Complete your assignments as soon as you can, always avoid leaving them to the last minute. Try to spend your time on your school placements efficiently, making good use of all your time by arriving a little early and planning to stay after school time ends until at least 5pm to plan the next days’ lessons and catch up on any marking.
When you're not teaching, you should be doing your marking, planning lessons and creating resources. Make life easy for yourself by using resources that already exist, as well as creating resources that can be easily adapted for future lessons. Take advantage of all the support your fellow teachers, students, lecturers and mentors offer. Use other support as well, like online communities such as the Times Educational Supplement online community of student teachers.
Prepare the people in your life for the fact that you're going to be busy for the foreseeable future, so they’ll know what to expect and when to offer that vital support. Also, make sure you find out about any PGCE funding opportunities so you're not too worried about financing your studies.
Day in the life of a PGCE student
Bearing all of this information in mind, we asked a PGCE student what it’s really like to study a PGCE. Georgia Flint is a School Direct PGCE student at the University of Winchester, and one of our recent Postgrad Solutions Study Bursary winners. This is what her usual day as a PGCE student is like.
“I am currently studying for Qualified Teacher Status on a School Direct PGCE and am the trainee class teacher for a fantastic Year 4 class. This is what a typical day looks like for me.
6:30am – The dreaded alarm, luckily at this time of year it’s light outside so getting up doesn’t seem so bad.
7:15am – This is when I leave for my drive to school, making sure I’ve got my lunch and my laptop I start my commute always listening to Heart radio.
8:00am – Arriving at school, the first thing I always do is turn on my computer and check my timetable for the day’s lessons.
8:15am – Time to get printing. Any worksheets that we need for the day will need to be printed and trimmed to go into the children’s books. Usually this is extra maths challenges and some reading pages for English.
8:30am – After I’ve written the new date on the whiteboard me and my mentor will decide on a morning task. Usually some kind of brainteaser.
9:00am – The school day starts! We have a maths and English lesson followed by a topic lesson like science or PSHE (Personal, Social, Health & Economic education). At the moment I’m teaching decimals and we’re writing about the digestive system.
1:00pm – Usually in the afternoon we do more hands-on learning, like creating a digestive system out of a pair of tights!
3:00pm – Just like that the school day is over for the children. This is usually when I catch up with my mentor about the day and what we’ve got planned for tomorrow. We’ll look through the children’s books and do a bit of marking to see how they found the work today and if we need to go over anything again tomorrow.
3:30pm – Time to check I’ve got everything ready I can for tomorrow and have a look over my planning to see what tomorrow’s activities are and if I need to get any resources for them like Play-Doh or cubes for maths. Then, I check my printouts for tomorrow and send them to the printer if I’m feeling organised!
4:00pm – As a trainee my day finishes usually around this time depending on how much we have to do in the classroom or if we’re working on classroom displays.
4:10pm – Now it’s light in the evening I like to meet a friend for a run after school, we have a lovely common near my school and it’s been really nice to get some fresh air and have a chat. Unwinding like this is vital to staying positive especially in the current environment.
5:45pm – Finally home and first on the list is dinner! I eat early and usually spend the evening watching some TV. I try to be organised and do my school planning during my PPA time (planning, preparation and assessment time). Some evenings I will catch up on some uni assignments but that’s only if I have one due imminently! Having a work/life balance is really important so you don’t burn out.
9:00pm – I shamelessly go to bed very early and usually read for a bit before watching a show before I go to sleep. Most days I am tired but still very happy to get up the next day and do it all again.
I hope it’s been helpful for you to see what a normal trainee teacher day is like! If you’re thinking about going into postgraduate teaching, I would highly recommend a School Direct route. The School Direct route means that the PGCE student spends 80% of their time in school for the duration of the school year. This is different from the PGCE route, which has more time spent at university with placement times at schools throughout the year.”
Find PGCE courses
Discover a range of PGCE courses at Postgrad. Our course directory includes a variety of PGCE options from different universities, with full-time and part-time options available. Get started with your teaching career today.
What Is A PGCE?
Getting Into Teaching
What Is A PGCE Student? A Definition
Postgrad Solutions Study Bursaries