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Universities and PGCE Placements

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Why bother with a post grad? Are they even worth it? Have your say! 26-10-2016
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    I am going to be applying for a secondary Geography PGCE (2017 entry).

    I know school placements are a key aspect on the course so wondered if anyone has any recommendations for universities that organise placements particularly well. Also, did you find that some schools did not seem very welcoming/supportive even when the university organised the placement?

    Any opinions on which universities are best in terms of the placement experience would be very much appreciated.


    I didn't do secondary geography, so I can't provide you with any advice about that, but I would suggest choosing a university located in an area in which you are interested in working after you have completed your training. A good number of trainees are employed by one of their placement schools, so it can make finding a job in the area a little easier.

    The thing about placements is that everybody's experiences differ enormously because it is impossible to ensure that every student has the perfect placement. Most universities will try their best - after all, it is in their interest to ensure that as many students pass the course as possible - but nonetheless, each year, there will inevitably be some students who have terrible placements. There are so reasons why this happens: a few students just won't be cut out for teacher training or don't work well with others, which causes problems for them. Sometimes people simply find themselves in a school that isn't the right fit for them. And, yes, occasionally, the school/mentor isn't supportive. Schools are paid to take on students and so there will be headteachers who are eager to have students, but the teachers who have to mentor them might not necessarily be pleased about or prepared for this responsibility. Ultimately, all of this means that placements are a pot luck situation - you're either in the right place at the right time and with the right people or you're not. Luckily, placements only last a matter of weeks and the next one will probably be better.

    Unfortunately, I feel this aspect of teacher training reflects the job itself. When you accept a position at a school, you usually do so without the full picture of what it's like to work there. You can ask current and ex-employees about their experiences, but this isn't necessarily a good indication of what it will be like for you. A lot can change year-to-year.

    If the pot luck nature of placements concerns you, you might want to consider the School Direct route. I chose this route partly because there was significantly less uncertainty. I was taken a tour of the school on the day I was interviewed, so I was able to get a feel of the place. I met the person in charge of the course who made a good impression. Whilst this still didn't guarantee that I would have a good experience training there, at least I knew where I was going to be for two of the placements whereas students on the regular PGCE course didn't find out until a couple of weeks before each placement began. Some trainees with cars would then discover that they had incredibly long drives to get to their schools.
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