Thursday, 9 April 2020

Preparing for a PGCE (and Going back to University)

Emily shares experience of prioritising mental wellbeing when making crucial decisions during the preparation of a PGCE.
- Emily Maybanks


The thought of going back to university for more intense study either for a MA degree, or a year of teacher training can seem daunting. After a couple of years out of university since graduating with my BA degree in Modern Languages, Translation and Interpreting from Swansea University, it certainly does for me. In September 2020, I will be starting a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in Secondary Morden Foreign Languages at the University of Reading to train to teach French and German at secondary level. Whilst this is without a doubt exciting as it has always been my goal and dream to teach languages, it also feels a little unnerving preparing for an intense year, especially as I struggled with my mental health during my undergraduate degree.

There are certain elements of PGCE programmes which have made preparing for a PGCE easier. Choosing between staying somewhere familiar or moving somewhere new is a huge decision to make when preparing for training to be a teacher and I decided to stay in my hometown to save myself the stress of finding somewhere to live for a year somewhere. For my PGCE year, I will be living at home so I won’t be moving away for my teacher training and will, therefore, be in a familiar place, with people I know to support me, and also I could potentially be doing placements in schools I have already observed in. This is reassuring as it will enable me to get organised more efficiently before September.

Another crucial choice to make when preparing for a PGCE is between university-led routes versus school direct teacher training routes. When I had my interview for the University of Reading, I was determined that a University-led PGCE was my first choice. I’d spent months researching University-led versus school direct teacher training routes and I decided that a university-led route would be more of an “ease you in to the classroom gradually” style compared to “throw you in at the deep end teaching classes right away” style. Also, with the University-led route, I was given the condition to undertake Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses (SKE) to boost my confidence and my specialist knowledge before starting the course.

Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses have been a really good way to increase my knowledge of the languages I’ll be teaching but also of the curriculum and what school students study. I am doing an SKE course in French even though I studied French during my BA degree and I’m essentially studying an A-Level French course, which is great because A-Level French has changed a lot since 2012! And for my German SKE course, I’m studying the language from scratch with conversation classes and insight to pedagogy. It’s very exciting.

Prioritising my mental health and wellbeing has been an important factor when deciding to stay at home and choosing a university-led route. I am anxious and concerned about how my mental health will be affected throughout my PGCE year – especially as I know it will be stressful and challenging. But having the support network of family, friends, familiar environment as well as the university-led teacher training course is reassuring. Teaching is a challenging but rewarding profession to enter and I’m excited for the challenges as well as the rewards.


You can find more tips and resources to help with the transition (back) to university here. If you are looking for mental health support for yourself, a friend or a loved one, you can also find more information and resources here


My name is Emily (Em). In 2018, I graduated from Swansea University with my BA degree in Modern Languages, Translation & Interpreting where I was also passionate about and dedicated to Swansea Student Media and the University students’ newspaper – Waterfront. In September 2020 I will be starting a PGCE at the University of Reading to train to teach Secondary MFL (French and German). I blog for Student Minds because I have experienced mental health issues as a student and now also as a graduate, as well as various other health issues, and I support friends who also have mental health difficulties. I am a passionate writer and writing has been important in my mental health experiences – both in helping me to explore and to cope with my mental health, as well as sharing my story in order to help and inspire others.

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