We asked former senior BBC producer, now history teacher, Matthew Booker what it's really like doing a postgraduate teacher training course (whilst achieving qualified teacher status). Find out what he learned and why he thinks it's worth doing one.
I was quite baffled at first when I began looking into the huge range of different teacher training courses on offer, not least because I was getting quite a bit of conflicting advice.
Some argued a PGCE didn’t matter but several teachers I spoke to (including my first mentor) were very clear that they would always look at candidates with a PGCE more favourably, so at first, I thought it would be a good way to cover myself.
Even before the course started, I realised I’d made the right choice. I enrolled in a history PGCE at the Institute of Education (part of UCL) and got an instant thrill from walking around the UCL buildings, I was actually going back to university.
“Career change is such a radical move and enrolling really brought that home to me. It felt so exciting taking those first steps into a new career and the PGCE was definitely a big part of that.”
I think it’s fair to say when I was at university as a teenager, I didn’t take my studies quite as seriously as perhaps I should have done. There was no way I was going to make that mistake again.
As teachers, I firmly believe we should be cheerleaders for education, it can be a joy in itself and it was so exciting to be in the lecture halls or tutor rooms, listening to experts talk about their field. Lots of the techniques and resources I learned that I still use today.
I found the course hugely enjoyable; we got some interesting insights into the latest thinking on pedagogy as well as some fascinating lectures covering a wide range of topics on education in the UK and how to navigate it.
Most importantly for me, the IoE course was very tailored towards teaching history and the historical skills I needed to teach my students. For someone who had been out of the education system for so long (I was 45 when I started), it was incredibly useful. It was also good just to take some time to think about the nature of teaching and discuss these ideas with other students.
There was also a great support network, the IoE is a big place and there were over 50 of us studying for a history PGCE. We had our sessions every Monday and it was nice to catch up with everyone and swap stories about our experiences in the classroom.
Those first few months as a trainee can be tough in your placement school and the university days helped to keep me motivated. I still keep in touch with the 10 or so teachers from my tutor group and we swap advice, and resources or just have the occasional moan.
“I’m very proud of my PGCE, I’m sure it did add to my workload but if we want to call teaching a profession, I think it’s important.”
Of course, it’s not for everyone, but I’m convinced my teaching would be much poorer without it. It’s installed in me a desire to keep learning more and more about how we teach. In fact, the PGCE counts towards a Masters in education and I’m certainly tempted... not sure it would do much good to the work-life balance though!
There are a variety of training options available. Our career change specialists are here to help you make an informed decision on which training route would suit you most, whether that’s university or school-based, part-time or full-time, and PGCE or QTS (you can do both, you know).
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