In September 2016 I began my PGCE at New College and hand on heart I can honestly say it was the most truly incredible year, but what is the PGCE, I hear you say? Well let me shed some light on one of Oxford’s lesser known courses.
What is the PGCE?
The Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) is a one year course that allows you to become a teacher. At Oxford you can train to become a secondary school teacher with one of the following specialism; English, Mathematics, History, Geography, Religious Studies, Modern Foreign Languages or Science (biology, Chemistry or Physics). It’s worth noting that unlike other universities, Oxford does not offer a primary training program. I trained as Biology teacher, however in practice I teach all three sciences.
How is the course structured?
The course eases you into the classroom gently, so don’t worry, you’re not on a full teaching timetable from day 1! The first term is a mixture of days on placement at a local secondary school, and then also days at university. Uni days are usually full days and are a mixture of subject specific lectures/seminars/tutorials or whole cohort ones with students from other specialisms.
The second term was entirely placement based so that you can really get your teeth stuck into teaching- but don’t panic you always have a mentor at school for help planning and support when lessons don’t go to plan. In the second term there were only had a couple of university days in February and a few twilight sessions, this allows you to become much more independent as a teacher and to grow in confidence.
The third term was also placement based but this time at a different school, this way you can try out your skills on a new set of students and try out lots of new ideas along the way. There are a couple of one off uni days in this time too.
I remember being asked this exact question at my interview. I smiled back at the tutor and just laughed nervously saying “I never expected to get an interview, I’m just so grateful and happy to be here”. The lady, who later turned out to be my tutor smiled and told me not to doubt myself because I was worthy of being there. The reputation of Oxford speaks for itself and I saw my application there as something of a ‘dream choice’, I never considered myself an ‘Oxford person’ I didn’t think they would want someone like me - but that couldn’t have been further from the truth; Oxford is for everyone and I’m so glad I took that leap of faith in applying, it’s been the best decision I ever made.
The work load?
Yes it’s tough, but it is 100% manageable - I mean, I did it! The key is organisation! When you have an essay to write on the use of assessment, lessons to plan on the solar system and your trying to organize your teaching portfolio (evidence that you can actually teach), as well as maintain a social life and remember to eat dinner, it can be stressful. But, the support at the Department of Education is phenomenal and your school mentor, uni tutor and other lecturers as well as your fellow trainee teachers is just a message away. The one thing I’d suggest above all others is investing in a teacher planner or diary so you can keep track of all your commitments and still manage time for binge watching a tv series (or two!)
The best thing about being at Oxford
It’s Oxford! You’ve worked your socks off to be there, you’ve earned it, so enjoy it! Being able to do all those ‘Oxford things’ such as punting and formal dinners is incredible and like nothing else in the world, don’t forget to embrace every day of it.
You’re training to be a teacher and to inspire the hearts and minds of the students you meet (or at least we all hope) and there is no better place to do so that at Oxford. The city is wonderful, the course is demanding yet exciting, the support and opportunities available are like no other and it will be a truly unforgettable experience. Good luck!