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My Cambridge PGCE Blog

open notebookCharlotte McLeod, Early Primary PGCE trainee. 2018-19

I began the PGCE Early Primary course at the Faculty of Education in Cambridge in September 2018. I fall under the category of a ‘career changer’: I previously studied Law and worked in policing and community safety management for over six years. I gained invaluable experience working in areas such as children’s safeguarding, domestic abuse and hate crime, and saw just how important education is to make sure children do the best they can in life. Teaching appealed to me as I am passionate about making a difference in my career through helping others, and the opportunity to teach children at an early stage of their development in my view provides an incredible chance to do just that. 

Recognising our potential

To decide on my career change I spent a week on work experience in a primary school, which confirmed that applying for teaching was the right choice for me, and I was delighted to secure a place at Cambridge University. To be offered the opportunity to learn at the best institution for teacher training in the country gave me the confidence that I had made the right decision. It’s amazing to see the varied experiences we have as students on the course, and different levels of teaching experience: in every case the Faculty recognised our potential and the diverse transferable skills we can bring to the profession.

I've been studying at Cambridge for a few weeks now, and I can truly say it has marked the start of an exciting adventure to becoming a teacher. We started the course with a week’s placement at a school close to home, the purpose of which was to observe the start of the school year (as the next time will be when we are newly qualified teachers with a class of our own!). Each morning I was excited to get into school, and really enjoyed supporting the teaching staff and working with the children. As I’ve chosen to specialise in Early Years, the school allowed me to observe both nursery and reception classes to gain as much experience as possible. It was really important to learn more about how the teaching team support young children during their first few weeks of school, which they can find quite a daunting experience.

Welcoming and supportive

Following the placement week came the official start at Cambridge’s Faculty of Education. I was quite nervous, not knowing what to expect, but the very first day truly showed how welcoming and supportive the staff are. In the first few weeks I’ve had many different lectures, on topics such as managing behaviour and the importance of play-based learning, and I’ve had some exciting experiences from creating a Teddy Bears’ Picnic in our Science lessons, to playing with Lego and making playdough during a visit from a fantastic local Nursery team!

There are two areas that have particularly struck me about the course so far. Firstly, how much experience we have actually ‘in’ schools. A university-based course, as opposed to a paid or unpaid programme in a school, may be judged not to be as practical or relevant to the real world of teaching. However, the balance of learning at university from educational experts, combined with applying our learning as we visit around ten different school settings during the year on placements and day visits, demonstrates how much school experience is valued by the Faculty to prepare us as teachers.

Open door philosophy

The second area is the ethos and atmosphere set by the Faculty staff team. From day one I have truly felt that the staff are ‘on your side’, and that they want you to succeed. At every stage the expectations are clear, so that you can ensure you are on track with the workload, and there is always an open door philosophy with tutors and lecturers always happy to help and answer questions you may have.

I am now in the middle of my first school placement, and was fortunate enough to teach my first two lessons last week. Although this is a small step, the rewarding feeling of supporting children in their learning of a new subject is something I have never experienced before. The placement provides crucial opportunities to observe your mentor teaching, to receive helpful feedback, and to reflect on and learn from your experiences to become more prepared and confident as a teacher. Although I am under no illusion that there is a lot of hard work ahead, I feel truly privileged to be starting off in the teaching profession and studying at the Faculty here at Cambridge with the support behind me to succeed.

My Cambridge PGCE