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The lectures provided in the autumn term have been relevant and helpful, the subject specific seminars have been of a very high quality due to the secure subject knowledge of the course tutors, and the opportunities for extra-curricular and enrichment activities has been really good. I would highly recommend the course of PGCE Religious Education in Secondary at Exeter to anyone interested in receiving high quality teacher training in the subject.

Hayley Motteram, Secondary Religious Education

PGCE Secondary with Religious Education (RE)

Our Secondary RE PGCE course is highly respected nationally and is led by tutors who are experienced practitioners with international research profiles. We offer a diverse range of expertise and a genuine conviction that our approach to teacher education is the best way to develop outstanding teachers. We train you to be critical and creative, and to become educational leaders in your own right!


The Secondary PGCE RE course at the University of Exeter is one of the largest in the country. The course is highly respected nationally and is led by tutors who are experienced practitioners with international research profiles.

Key features include:

  • high employment rates (last year 88% of trainees had secured a teaching post by the end of the course)
  • access to outstanding practitioners (including Heads of RE in partner schools)
  • research led teaching
  • opportunities to enhance subject knowledge
  • a strong focus on the relationship between theory and practice
  • practical tasks designed to develop classroom practice

Who are we?

As a trainee on the Exeter Secondary PGCE RE course you will be taught and supported by two very experienced and internationally well-known tutors. Find out more.

What will you get?

This course will prepare you to teach RE in Key Stages 3-4 with post 16 enhancement. Being an RE teacher in schools today requires that you are able to teach the major world religions; non-religious beliefs; philosophy of religion and ethics. This course will help you to develop your subject knowledge in key areas to ensure that you are confident teaching the RE curriculum.

To be an effective classroom practitioner means that in addition to sound subject knowledge, you need to have a good understanding of teaching and learning. The course will provide you with plenty of opportunities to engage with current thinking in RE and to consider how theories of learning can improve your classroom practice.


The programme lasts 36 weeks and consists of University-based studies and school-based work.


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?

Through University and school-based assignments. There are no formal exams.

Students are also required to pass the Government's numeracy and literacy tests prior to the course.

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 Religious Education 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 RE in the secondary school, and to enable them to achieve 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.

What are we looking for in an applicant?

The usual entry requirement for this course is an Honours degree (2:1 or above) in Theology and/or Religious Studies. Applicants with different degrees and relevant professional experience are considered, particularly if those degrees are in Philosophy or Sociology and applicants are willing to extend their subject knowledge by attending a subject knowledge booster course or completing additional modules in Theology or Religious Studies at HE level as required.

Further information

Read more about entry requirements and how to apply.

Academic staff

  • All our tutors have real-world experience as teachers, senior managers or OFSTED inspectors. They also lead and innovate, developing the latest ideas in teacher education, leading research, writing textbooks, leading subject networks and advising government.
  • 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.

Course leader

As a trainee on the Exeter Secondary PGCE RE course you will be taught and supported by two very experienced and internationally well-known tutors.

Dr Karen Walshe read her first degree at the Mater Dei Institute of Education, Dublin, received her Masters at Falmouth College of Arts and was awarded her PhD by the University of Exeter in 2010. She taught in schools in Devon and Cornwall as Head of RE and was employed by AQA as an assistant examiner for GCSE RE. Karen has published a number of both professional and academic papers in RE and presented at national and international conferences. In addition, Karen is a member of the Devon Standing Advisory Council for RE (SCARE) and one of four members of the RE Expert Panel commissioned by the Religious Education Council for England and Wales to undertake Phase 1 of the national RE Subject Review in 2012.

Dr Geoff Teece has a long experience of teaching RE in schools across various phases. He worked for a long time in Birmingham where his work involved CPD with serving teachers, project development, teacher training and building relationships with religious communities. He has written several books on RE and numerous journal articles. In 2005 he was awarded the SHAP award for making an outstanding contribution to the teaching of world religions.

Both Karen and Geoff were nominated for University of Exeter teaching awards in 2013-2014.

Experienced colleagues in the field, including RE Advisors, Ofsted inspectors and Heads of RE in local schools, have regular input to the programme.

One of the great benefits of undertaking a PGCE at Exeter is that the Graduate School of Education has a strong history of research in RE. Recent research projects include:

a) RE-searchers: A critical dialogic approach to Religious Education in primary schools funded by Culham St Gabriels.

b) Exploring Diversity: Enhancing the training of RE teachers through visits to faith communities. Funded by the St Luke's College Foundation.

c) The RE-flect project, funded by Esmee Fairbairn, has been working with primary school teachers of RE to enhance children's metacognitive capabilities.

d) Understanding 'understanding' in RE, funded by the Farmington Institute, examines teachers' and trainee teachers’ perceptions of what it means to 'understand' in RE.

e) Narrative Theology in RE, funded by the Bible Society, which set out to developing an approach to teaching the Bible based on a foundation of narrative philosophy and narrative theology.

Previous research projects included the FARE, Biblos and Teaching about Jesus in RE projects. Course tutors are keen to ensure that key findings from these and other significant research in RE feed into the RE seminars on the PGCE programme. In addition, trainee teachers are helped and encouraged to experiment and undertake research in their own teaching.

How much do you know about Religious Education...?

The following video addresses four common misconceptions about Religious Education:

  • R.E. is dull and students don't like it
  • R.E. is about reading the Bible and making people believe in God
  • R.E. is only for religious people
  • R.E. makes no difference to students or society

The RE PGCE at Exeter University is an outstanding course, offering prospective RE teachers a superb access-point to the profession. The academic input is excellent and the partnership schools are strong, making Exeter trainees highly sought-after in the jobs market!

Ed Pawson, 
Chair of the National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE) and Secondary PGCE RE Personal Subject Tutor