How to Survive the PGCE

As this is becoming relevant as many people are about to embark on their PGCE journey I thought it was worth posting it again 🙂


There is no two ways about it the PGCE is a tough and stressful course and not for the faint hearted! Everyone had told me how difficult it was going to be but through planning and preparation I didn’t find it so bad. Sure there were days I’d cry with exhaustion but seriously you can get through it and it is worth it (hey, you might even enjoy it!).

You’ll find yourself back in university type lectures with a heavy workload, I had come straight out of my undergraduate degree and so this wasn’t a shock to the system to me. Although some of the more mature students did find it difficult.

This first survival tip is common sense: KEEP ON TOP OF EVERYTHING. Simple to say but very easy to forget to do when you’ve so much going on. You’ll have research to do, “homework”, and don’t forget the Masters…

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Exciting times

So if you’ve read one of my first few blog posts you’ll know that my partner has decided to apply for a PGCE. To do this he needs some classroom experience (one of the most important parts of any PGCE application) and so I had a little word with the Head and got him some at our school. On Monday he’ll be entering my domain; my very class! One of the support assistants suggested that it would be weird for him having to take orders from me… she clearly doesn’t understand that I’m the boss at home. The only difference is of course he’ll have to do as he is told without the moaning and whinging (Yes!) In any case he will only be with me for two Mondays before heading into year 3 for a few and finally up to year 5. Upon discussing him coming in with the year 5 teacher we had a good chuckle on the experience he would get with a particularly difficult year 5 class towards the end of the school year. It’ll all be a fab experience for him 😉

From first hand experience from both ends of the scale I know that volunteering in a classroom can either be a great value added experience or a complete bore and a waste of time. Taking that into account I stayed behind a bit longer than usual Friday after school to plan some activities in for the other half to do on Monday. He’ll be delivering a phonics session to an EAL pupil with barely any English anf a new school starter with very little phonics so that’s quite a few PGCE application boxes ticked. Also I’ve planned a maths activitiy for him to do with my top maths group. Then of course there will be the general listening to children reading and supporting groups and I’ll be letting him have a go at levelling a few pieces of writing with APP- should look good on his application too! Next week after he’s had the chance to observe me reading to the children he’s going to have a go at that and I’m going to let him have a go at planning a few activties himself.

We shall see whether the experience gets him all worked up for teaching, or completely puts him off!

How to prepare for the PGCE

When I applied for my own PGCE course I left it rather later and had my interview in July. So by then the university had sent me everything in one package that they had sent to everyone else in dribs and drabs over the year. Obviously I had a lot to do and very little time to do it. However if you have been accepted for a PGCE course around this time of year, you have plenty of time!

That being said, if you are anything like me and sadly enjoy preparing and feel like a nervous wreck sitting around letting time idly pass by then here are a few things that you will find beneficial. Do these and you’ll be top of the class 🙂


The first thing you will want to do if you haven’t done so already is register with It’s free and has fantastic resources, ideas, and general help for PGCE students, new teachers and experienced teachers alike. Do it and do it now!

Behaviour management is a major worry for most. Will they listen to me? What do I do with the screaming child sitting under tables? etc etc 😉

Well there are plenty of great resources out there to prepare, a lot of great articles with advice on behaviour management can be found on the TES website as linked from above! When you get onto school placement you will be expected to follow the same behaviour management system as the school so there is little room for freedom. Having said that your observers will be looking for a balance of you being able to follow school procedure and developing your own style so here are a few of my favourite little behaviour management techniques.

  • To call a busy classroom to attention without raising your voice pre-inform the class that when you clap a rhythm you expect them to stop everything they are doing and join in with the rhythm. This is great because 1. it means they have to put everything down and won’t be fiddling. 2. it allows you to gain attention almost immediately with little effort and no shouting!
  • Whilst writing that first one I used the word ‘expect’. Clearly explaining your expectations and instructions is much more important than you realise. Unless you explain step-by-step what you want a class to do, something will go wrong! No more than 3 steps at a time is a good rule to follow.
  • STAY POSITIVE. This is important, every instruction you give must be a positive not a negative one. This is tricky at first but once you get into the swing of it it comes naturally. For example say WALK instead of DON’T RUN. Say PUT YOUR HANDS UP rather than DON’T CALL OUT. Say KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF instead of STOP HITTING. If you lead with a negative instruction it is likely the child will only hear the bit you don’t want them to do. Not only does this keep a positive, happy learning environment but the children will respond better too- no one likes a telling off 🙂

I’m not going to go on with that as like I said there is great behaviour management advice right at your finger tips on the TES website.

Ok let’s see, what else would you benefit from doing… Ah yes, brush up on your maths and science. It’s probably been a while since you’ve done either, unless you’ve just graduated and did said degree or A Levels. Anyway it won’t hurt to get to grips with what you’re going to need to know. is fab for this and regardless of what year group you think you’d like to teach in you really need to be up to GCSE standard for both of these. You certainly need to be ahead of the children anyway!

Getting to grip with some uses of ICT in the primary classroom would be a good idea. Even I (and I consider myself to be pretty tech savvy) benefitted from this. There are hundreds and hundreds of ways to enhance learning both through and from ICT. Just a few things you might want to start off with: animation, blogging :p, audacity, photo stories, windows movie maker.

Finally (all I can think of for now and this is a fair bit to keep you going) start immersing yourself with children’s literature. You need to make sure that you’re exposing your pupils to the very best books- sub standard stuff just won’t do. Here are a few to keep your eye on if you’re wondering where to even begin: Julia Donaldson, Michael  Morpurgo, Mini Grey, Anthony Horowitz and Michael Rosen. They should whet your appetite a bit 🙂


And please make sure you enjoy your free time now while you have it. You’re in for one heck of a ride with this course- There’ll be ups, downs and loop the loops. But by the end of it you’ll be caught up in the excitement and thrill of teaching and you won’t want to get off!

Miss Sykes

10 Ways to Maximise your Work Experience Placement in a School

I was reminiscing on the work experience I did in order to ensure I got on the PGCE; there were bad ones and amazing ones. I’m going to give you 10 top tips to make sure that you don’t have to suffer a week of sitting at the back of the class observing the teacher. This is all well and good but we learn by doing! And do you must!

  1. Fail to prepare and prepare to fail! Make a short list of things you’d like to achieve out of the time you are in that classroom/school. If you go in with a clear and reasonable set of ideas that you can pass on to the class teacher you are more than likely going to get a value added experience. Wondering where to even start with such a list? Well keep reading as there are plenty of ideas to follow 🙂
  2. Group work: Supporting a group of children is the easiest thing that you can do on a work experience placement in school. It requires no prior work and is something that the class teacher will likely ask you to do anyway. This will allow you to interact with the children and will give you plenty to write about when it comes to writing a personal statement.
  3. 2+2=5?: If you are going to get onto a PGCE course then your best chance is evidence that you have planned and delivered an activity to at least a small group of children yourself. Ask the class teacher if this would be ok and make sure you ask what topics they are covering in class that week. Make your activity fun and engaging- Maths is the easiest subject to turn into a game so get creative!
  4. Elicitation: Wondering what that means? Well get used to it, the education sector is full of jargon and abbreviations. Elicitation is hot hot hot in terms of the PGCE. So doing an elicitation activity with a group of children means your personal statement will pop right up on the radar of the people reading it.  So what is elicitation? In the most simplest terms it is finding out what the children know.  As a teacher it’s something I do before starting a new topic in everything so as to make sure we’re not wasting precious time covering stuff the children already know. (Blog posts on elicitation to come shortly)
  5. Do you understand? Being an extra pair of hands in a classroom will almost definitely mean you will be asked to listen to children read. To maximise the potential of this opportunity ask the class teacher if you can prepare a comprehension activity based on the book of one of the children you are going to listen to. You may like to choose just one or a few different children to do these activities with. (For some simple but effective comprehension activities keep checking this blog)
  6. oo ee oo ah ah: Giberish right? No actually it’s phonics; something that was lost on me whilst studying for my PGCE. I wasn’t taught phonics at school so had no idea that there were specific sets of letters that combine to make certain sounds. By the way after teaching 5 year olds for almost a year I am now an expert and regularly drive people crazy by sounding out everything!  The point of this one is make sure you observe a phonics session! Phonics is another buzz word in the world of education and to mention it on an application is a sure fire way to get noticed. Once you’ve got a handle on phonics and you’re in a ks1or reception setting it would be a fab idea to ask if you can deliver a phonics activity to a group of children. Something extra to make your application that little bit more amazing.
  7. Volunteer: Being a teacher isn’t all about teaching children, it’s much more than that.  Are there any after school clubs that you could also volunteer in? Find out! When applying for a teaching position schools want to know what else have you got to offer. Do you have any sport skills? Are you musically talented? Either way volunteering at an after school club will show that you are willing to go the extra mile 🙂 and will be sure to get you a glowing reference from the school if you need one.
  8. Get Connected: The education sector is surprisingly small, somewhere along the line you are bound to meet someone who knows someone you did work experience with: Even more so if you are planning on looking for employment in the same area you are doing work experience in. So basically be nice, make friends and take in all the advice you are given. I mean every bit of advice you get might not be the best advice but you are there to learn, take it all in and mull on it all later. P.S teachers love free goodies so make sure you grace the staffroom with some with a little thank you note upon leaving!
  9. Hoarder Alert: Whilst on placements you are bound to see some fantastic resources. If you spot something that has the wow factor make sure you ask where its from. The internet is full of fantastic resources but it took me months and months to find something as simple as loop cards that I had seen a teacher use. If I had just asked where she had got them from I could have saved myself a lot of time and effort!
  10. FRANKIE SAYS RELAX: As clichéd as it is to have this as my last top tip believe me it’s a good one. Make sure you take the time to enjoy working with the pupils in the class and more importantly take the time to reflect on your experience. Teaching is a tough career choice, you will get stressed and be exhausted many many times. If you don’t enjoy the work experience (unless it was a poor one) then I can guarantee you won’t survive a PGCE, let alone a career in teaching. That being said I love my job and wouldn’t give it up for the world 🙂


That picture just about sums teaching up!

Cheers for reading, I hope it was of some use!

As always any requests for posts are gladly received.