Interested in teaching? The PGCE is one of the most popular ways to get qualified. It gives you all the skills and experience you need to land your first teaching job.
The PGCE stands for the Post Graduate Certificate in Education. It’s a postgrad qualification that gives you qualified teacher status (QTS). QTS allows you to teach in state schools in the UK.
The structure of the PGCE
The PGCE is a mix of university study and teaching practice.
The course takes a year, or two years part time. It’s not designed to teach you subject knowledge – you have to have an undergraduate degree that’s relevant to the subject you want to teach. If you don’t, you can do a conversion course. This usually adds another 6 months full time onto your training.
During the university sections of the course, you study topics around teaching and learning theory, current educational issues, and behaviour management. There will be several assessed assignments to complete.
After the first few weeks you’ll spend most of your time on school placements. Part of the challenge is to fit in your studies and assignments outside school hours.
You usually spend a short time observing in a school before the course starts, and then work in two different schools as you progress from assisting to teaching a full schedule of classes on your own. You’re assessed through occasional observations so your assessors can see how you manage in a real school environment. You’ll receive plenty of feedback and advice after these observations to help you improve.
Types of PGCE
There are three main types of PGCE:
PGCE Primary prepares you to teach children up to year 6. You may specialise in a particular age group. This is the most in-demand PGCE, so there’s a lot of competition for places.
PGCE Secondary prepares you to teach the secondary school and sixth form years. You’ll be teaching classes in your specific subject.
PGCE Further/Adult Education is for people who want to teach in colleges or adult education classes. It doesn’t include QTS – if you decide to teach children later, you’ll need to requalify.
How is the PGCE different from other routes into teaching?
As we said, the PGCE is usually a university course. However, you can gain qualified teacher status without going back to university, and sometimes you can even get a PGCE too.
If you take the School Direct path into teaching, you’ll be employed in a single school as an unqualified teacher. Usually you’ll earn a wage. This means the programme can be much more accessible financially.
The School Direct path does have some drawbacks. You miss out on a lot of the teaching theory, which can leave you feeling unprepared. Also, you’re employed in a single school, with no opportunity to move around to different placements. If you have problems and want to leave the school, you’ll need to quit the course.
The skills you need
To succeed at the PGCE and become a great teacher, you need:
- communication skills
- conflict resolution skills
Behaviour management is something you’ll work on a lot during the PGCE course, so don’t worry if you feel like your conflict resolution skills are quite up to scratch yet. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to improve.
Paying for the PGCE
Mostly the PGCE works like any other university course – there’s a £9,000 tuition fee for UK students, and you can take out student loans and bursaries to help you financially.
In certain in-demand subjects, things are completely different. You can get a bursary that amounts to a decent salary, which you don’t have to pay back. These can be:
up to £30,000 if you want to teach physics
up to £25,000 for maths, chemistry, computing or languages
up to £20,000 for biology
There are smaller bursaries available for English, history, music, RE and design & technology.
Do you really need qualified teacher status?
You may have heard that you don’t need a teaching qualification to teach in an independent school. Technically this is true – independent schools and state-funded academies have the freedom to employ unqualified staff. However, most schools would be very unwilling to employ someone without QTS.
There are also circumstances when other state schools can employ unqualified teachers. Usually this is because the job needs specific expertise or vocational skills. Unqualified teachers also can perform some teaching tasks when supervised.
In general, however, if you plan to go into teaching you’ll be severely limited without a teaching qualification.
The PGCE has one other advantage – most courses give you credits towards a Masters degree. Many universities offer part time continuation courses so you can earn a full Masters in your first years as a teacher.