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A really organised course. The workload has been well-paced, demanding and fulfilling without swamping students. Most importantly, the course pointed you in the right direction in all areas without ever spoon-feeding us.

PGCE English student

PGCE Secondary English

'A word after a word after a word is power' - Margaret Atwood

Our Secondary English PGCE is run by a team of committed, passionate and experienced staff who offer a diverse range of expertise and a genuine conviction that our approach to teacher education is the best way to develop outstanding teachers. Our staff have extensive school and university teaching experience, and are active in researching in and working with schools to push forward the frontiers of English teaching. We train you to be critical and creative, and to become educational leaders in your own right!

The PGCE English course has a national reputation for excellence, and its trainees are popular recruits to schools all over the country. It is run by tutors who are enthusiastic about English teaching and who relish the opportunity to work with the next generation of English teachers.

The course is active and participatory, placing considerable emphasis on working collaboratively with others and learning together. We expect you to take a high level of responsibility for your own professional learning and the course includes both taught seminars and workshops and directed or independent study activities which allow your professional learning to be tailored to your needs and interests. In addition, you will have the opportunity to engage with the broader professional field related to English, such as working with the Royal Shakespeare Company, meeting children’s authors, and being involved with national or regional arts-based projects.

The course is informed by research in the Centre for Research in Writing, giving you first-hand access to the latest research on classroom practice in English.

Timetable overview

Term 1 Term 1 begins with two weeks of observation (preliminary school experience). This leads into the University based course which focuses on professional development, specialist subject knowledge, pedagogy and teaching skills.
Two weeks of this term will be spent in your first placement school as part of the Beginning Practice phase of your training.
Term 2 Term 2 is spent in your first school placement with three seminar days held at the University.
At the end of the term, you visit your second school placement for a short induction period.
Term 3 Term 3 is spent in your second school placement with two seminar days held at the University.

We are leaders in Initial Teacher Education. Our unique approach to teaching PGCE is praised by OFSTED and cited as an example of best practice.

We provide unrivalled opportunities for trainees to achieve through our highly original Exeter Teaching Model. The programme runs over three terms with each term providing progressively more school-based work training.

By learning on campus for most of the first term you access the tools to rapidly build professional knowledge to underpin your work in school placements.

Our unique approach gives you opportunities to learn and become part of a community of trainees and teachers who are passionate about education, and will support you during your course and beyond. We carry out a detailed skills audit with every trainee so we understand your particular development needs and can personalise elements of training to strengthen the skills you need to excel as a teacher.

During placements Exeter trainees benefit from the focused support of two School-based Tutors: a Principle Tutor who works as an expert partner, and a Mentor who develops and challenges your thinking about teaching in ways that can be used to enhance performance.

You will be supported in developing the full range of teaching skills and effective reflection that you will need in your first teaching post as a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT).

The PGCE is a Masters level programme and once you have achieved QTS, you can continue your studies during your first year of teaching and work towards achieving a Masters in Education.

How am I assessed?

There are two principal strands to the assessment of the Exeter PGCE course. The first is the written component and the second, the practical component. During the year, English students complete two written assignments, each one directly linking the university and school-based aspects of the course.

  1. Scheme of Work and Critical Evaluation: inviting you to plan a unit of work and justify and evaluate the planning decisions you have made, with reference to your academic reading about teaching and learning in English.
  2. Case Study research: inviting you to investigate and assess one aspect of learning in English, linking your academic reading directly to your own classroom practice and the impact that it has on student learning.

The practical assessment of teaching is to ensure that all students meet the requirements set by the NCTL for all Initial Teacher Training courses.

A strong underlying principle of both the written and practical assessments is that students are always in control of their own learning. Clear guidance is given for all assignments and assessment criteria are detailed in the English handbook. The Exeter PGCE Individual Development Portfolio allows you to monitor and track your own progress and to set achievable targets for improvement.

Academically, the University of Exeter PGCE is a postgraduate qualification, and the English assignments are set at Masters level. The course is intellectually rigorous, and you are introduced to recent research in English teaching, including the research of the course tutors themselves. Many of our students go on to become Heads of English and are creative, critical and reflective individuals who can make connections between theory and practice. We do not see the course as a one year course which ends in July, but as the beginning of your career as an able and highly competent professional - we aim to give you skills, both practical and intellectual, which enable you to change and develop as your career progresses.

We set high standards and have high expectations of our students. Invariably these standards are met - with enthusiasm. Prospective students can be assured of plenty of support: assessment should not be something to fear!

The programme has three fully integrated components:

Secondary Education and Professional Studies Module

The Professional Studies component introduces you to key educational ideas and principles within a range of educational contexts. The module is followed throughout the year with both University and school-based elements and is concerned with classroom issues, whole school issues and the role of education in the wider society.

Secondary Professional Learning Module

Central to school-based work is the development of your ability to meet the standards of professional competence which trainees must demonstrate in order to meet national standards for the award of QTS.

Secondary English Subject Knowledge and Pedagogy Module

The principal aims of the module are to equip students with a comprehensive understanding of the background issues and practice of the current teaching of English and Drama in the secondary school, and to enable them toachieve QTS. In addition, the module seeks to nurture reflective and autonomous professional practitioners who are able to identify strengths and areas for development in their subject knowledge and pedagogy, through evaluating current professional practice in relationship to developments in research and curriculum theory.

Most successful applicants have 2:1 degrees in English (Literature or Language), Linguistics, Drama, Cultural/Media Studies, Film or Journalism. 

For Drama, Media Studies, Film and Journalism, we also require a good A level English grade (or equivalent). Combined-honours degrees are welcome: here we look at the balance of English to the other subject/s, and also look for a high A level English grade if the English element is less than 50%.

In exceptional circumstances, we will consider applicants with degrees in other Humanities or Social Sciences. In these cases, it is helpful if several modules in that degree are strongly relevant to English (e.g. literature or language focused). A high grade in A level English literature or language is required if the degree route is less conventional, and in any case, a secure and broad knowledge of English literature and language is important.

Successful applicants will have a strong academic track record and will be able to demonstrate a passion for teaching English. They will possess a high level of individuality, independence and initiative alongside a commitment to developing learners who are creative and critical students of English. In addition, they will be able to build strong and effective relationships with students and professional colleagues and will have good interpersonal skills.

What experience do I need?

We also look for candidates who have a good understanding of what teaching English in UK schools involves. It's useful to spend some time observing or shadowing teachers prior to your application or interview. Experience of teaching overseas can also be valuable, although we will look for your understanding of the UK context too.

Further information

Read more about entry requirements and how to apply.

Academic staff

  • The course leader is Dr. Annabel Watson, and she is supported by Dr Ruth Newman and Professor Debra Myhill. Together this team bring substantial experience of teaching secondary English in schools, of leading professional development for practising teachers, and conducting research in English teaching, including boys’ underachievement, the teaching of grammar, the linguistic features of writing and teachers’ classroom talk. 

    Annabel's PhD investigated teachers' beliefs about grammar teaching and prior to working at Exeter, taught English and Media Studies in schools in Greater London and the South West. Annabel is the Programme Director for the School Direct PGCE Programme.

    Professor Debra Myhill has been researching English and literacy teaching for over 17 years. She has conducted several research projects into boys' underachievement, the teaching of grammar, the linguistic features of writing, and teachers' classroom talk. She is currently directing an ESRC study into secondary children's writing and metalinguistic understanding.

    Dr Ruth Newman's research interests focus on classroom talk, and particularly, the role of talk in the teaching and learning of language and literacy. Before joining Exeter, she worked as a Secondary English teacher.

Useful links

There is an ever-increasing number of useful websites for English teachers and it would be impossible to list them all here.  However, the links here represent some of the most useful or most important (not necessarily both!)

  • OFSTED:  a large website with details of OFSTED reports in schools and in Initial Teacher Training. The site also has subject inspection reports, summarising key findings from recent inspections.
  • National Curriculum:  the National Curriculum for English website 
  • DfES:  the government education ministry site with up-to-date information about policy and with some useful information for teachers.
  • NATE: the National Association for the Teaching of English.  The principal professional association for English teachers with a host of useful resources.  Their teaching publications are excellent, and they are the principal 'voice' in political debate for English teachers.
  • English and Media Centre:  works closely with NATE, and is particularly excellent at producing high-quality, well-tested teaching materials.
  • Poetry Society: there is a special site for teachers, Poetry Class, which provides teaching ideas and resources for poetry.
  • British Film Institute (BFI): this site provides high-level media resources , teaching ideas and links to other useful media resources.
  • English Resources and Teach It both provide units of work and teaching ideas for English teachers and both are continually growing sites.
  • Poet's Paradise: a very useful portal site that links through to a wealth of valuable resources on poetry.
  • TES English Resources:  full of good resources for teaching English from a reputable source.
  • CyberGrammar (designed & developed by the course leader, Debra Myhill) is a site designed to support and develop knowledge of grammar and to indicate its relevance in the classroom