Aggie - PGCE Primary Early Years

Aggie has just finished her PGCE Lower Primary - Early Years. She’d worked in schools for six years before starting the course, progressing from Teaching Assistant to teaching the class for half a day a week whilst the teacher was out planning lessons. At the end of her PGCE Aggie has achieved her lifelong ambition to become a teacher. "I’m very proud that I’m a teacher – it’s what I’ve always wanted to be, and now I am."

How did the course prepare you for life as a teacher?

By the sheer intensity of the course – but staff are very open about that at the beginning. Teaching is very full-on all the time and the course tests your organisational skills, but if you can do this course you can do anything. Doing a PGCE with a family brings special challenges - get support from your family and friends so they can help prepare you for the work.

How does UWE help you with deal with contemporary issues in the classroom?

There is strong support for teaching children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) for example, autism, dyslexia and ADHD. UWE gives you the tools you need before you go out into the classroom. For example, they may set tasks for you around issues such as SEN children to focus on these. When in schools you have to meet with the SENCO and work with SEN children.  Motivating children is key to improving their learning. My viewpoint changed forever on motivation; I now question the use of  reward and sanction schemes.

Behaviour management of children is a key topic on the course – UWE provide strategies for dealing with this via lectures, and we get very clear steers from the lecturers. Using technology like video has really helped as they show problems in the context of the classroom. Blackboard (UWE’s e-learning platform) is a really useful resource for research, lecture notes, websites etc.

The lecturer who taught us English is sensational.

What support did you get on your course?

Seminar groups have been incredibly useful - it’s a chance to share experiences with your fellow students and learn from each other – they’re an amazing group of people. There’s a wide mix of ages, genders and sexuality on the course and I wasn’t the oldest on the course by any means. When you need help you get floods of e-mails from fellow students. When I had a problem on placement UWE was supportive – you’re not alone.  You may feel vulnerable on placement but your concerns are taken seriously.

What’s the benefit of studying at UWE?

At UWE you go on three placements a year; other universities often just have two placements.

The opportunity to gains credits at Master’s level is a real benefit to doing the course at UWE. You choose two of your assignments to be marked at this level. You may think that this would only be beneficial to us as practitioners, but the chance to do it is thrilling, and now I’ve got these credits I want to go on and study more to gain the Masters. Studying here makes you want to be the best teacher that you can be. That’s what this course is about.

What were your placements like?

In my case I was able to get experience of reception, year one and year two classes. I had excellent placements. They were varied – urban, inner city and a nursery where I saw the best of early years practice.  I found this inspiring. The nursery was outstanding – it celebrated cultural diversity and supported English as a second language.  UWE was considerate of me as a mother and gave me placements close to where I lived. Also on placements you can make good contacts. At my placement they were sorry they didn’t have a job available at the time and would have like to have worked with me – but if an opportunity did arise they said they’d contact me in future.

During your placement UWE offers teaching days which takes you out of your placement, but it was useful to remind yourself you’re a student - and we get drip fed with information along the way to help us.

What do you think makes a successful teacher?

UWE aims to produce reflective practitioners – teachers who want to improve all the time – I’m always questioning myself and what I’m doing. It’s not just about what I do but who I am that makes a good teacher.

What advice would you give to future students?

Get as much experience in schools as you can before you start your PGCE. But you need to go out in the classroom to practice the theory. Also prepare yourself that for 10 months you’re going to be fairly absent from family life, but it is only for 10 months and at the end of it you become a teacher.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m going to do supply work. The job market is difficult at the moment but teaching is different in different schools – depending on the cohort of children, ethos of school, head teacher and the way communication is done – so supply teaching is a great way to get a range of experience in different school settings.

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