My advice to future PGCE students – Guest Blog

Last year I trained to become a Primary school teacher by completing a Primary PGCE. Although the year has been filled with very hard and stressful times, it is worth it coming out with your qualification at the end and knowing the impact you can make on young children’s lives. The Primary PGCE consisted of university based lectures to develop subject knowledge and professional studies, and four school based placements.

Break Down of Placements:

  • Intervention placements were set up to introduce you to the primary classroom. During this placement we taught groups of children who were underachieving in mathematics and English in order to provide additional support. I found this placement an exciting start to my work experience.
  • Initial placements were set up to introduce you to whole class teaching. This placement was not assessed and gave you the chance to experiment with different ideas to teach. During this placement I shared a year 3 class with another student and we helped one another to plan lessons. Paired placements are an excellent way to introduce you to teaching as you have support from someone going through exactly the same experience as you.
  • Intermediate placements were then exactly the same set up as initial placements, however this time you were assessed. They assess you at lower standards however you will have access to the grading sheets. Use these sheets whilst planning your lessons, to ensure you have included all the aspects within your lesson to become good or outstanding.
  • Final placements are then a chance to show off and demonstrate the skills you have learnt throughout the year, whilst taking responsibility and teaching a class on your own. This placement is by far the most stressful, however it is also the placement which you learn the most and begin to feel like a qualified teacher. During this placement you will be teaching the same amount as you would throughout your NQT year. I found this placement prepared me more for my working career and excited me about the potential in the future.

My course also allowed you to gain a third of a masters, something which if you are considering to progress within the profession is advised to achieve. This was achieved by completing two assignments at level 7, one about a subject you specialised in and the other about modern issues influencing the primary school.


Overall the PGCE was the busiest year of my life to date. Definitely try to do work as soon as you are set it, as things build up over time and the situation becomes more stressful the longer you leave things. At the very end of the year, you will be asked to produce a set of evidence to show how you have met the teaching standards. My advice would be to collect this evidence as early as you can to minimise work on your final placement. Your assignments are not graded, you only pass or fail, therefore follow the assignment brief and you should pass. Finally don’t forget to keep some time aside for yourself. It is very important you still socialise and keep active during this course or else it could become a very lonely year.

When it comes to applying for jobs I relied on help from a Careers Adviser, there is a lot of competition and your applications need to be incredibly strong. Even just having two meetings allowed me to see what employers are looking for and the quality of my applications improved. I am currently working as a Supply Teacher for an agency, although this is not what I first wanted I am really enjoying it. It is great teaching a variety of different ages and having to quickly adapt to a new classroom in a short space of time is really strengthening my teaching ability.

Jenny O'Neil

Jenny is a Careers & Employability Adviser at York St John University. She is linked primarily with students from the Business School and really enjoys working with students to help them achieve their career aims.

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