Doing a PGCE is a popular way of training to become a teacher 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 just a little bit of research, then you'll probably read about how tough the course is and yes, it is a lot of work, but it’s worth it. So, what's it really like to study a PGCE?
Is there a difference between primary and secondary level PGCE courses?
Both courses seem 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. Different age ranges require different approaches, and so the training teachers need different skills when working with different age groups. 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 need a different style of teaching and different types of support to younger ones. So the differently trained of teachers will be specialists in their field.
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 40 hours a week of lectures, as well as time needed to do assignments. There are part-time courses that take two years, 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?
On a PGCE course you are learning to teach so you are going to spend more time in the beginning planning lessons than a teacher with 20 years experience. You’ll probably hear tales of it taking student teachers 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 course, and during your teaching placements, you also need to factor in the time you'll spend reflecting and critiquing your teaching skills.
How will you fit it all in?
Your PGCE year may be the busiest year you'll ever have, but you can do it! Do your assignments as soon as you can and always avoid leaving them to the last minute. Try to spend your time on your school placements working the whole time by arriving a little early and plan to stay there until at least 5pm. 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, creating resources that are easily adapted for future lessons and take 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 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.