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PGCE Secondary Science

UCAS code: F1X1

All Secondary Chemists train to teach all three sciences at Key Stage 3 and 4, and those choosing to specialise in Chemistry will also learn about Chemistry teaching post-16. Chemistry sessions focus on inspiring pupils to ask questions about what things are made of and why materials behave the way they do. Drawing on our understanding of both science, and how and why pupils are supported to learn using different approaches to teaching, the University aspects of the course aim to support you in being able to plan and teach Chemistry on placement and beyond. Sessions are led by Associate Professor Lindsay Hetherington. Lindsay is also Head of Initial Teacher Education at Exeter. She has been at Exeter since 2006 and is an active researcher in science education and teacher education, focusing on creativity in science and the role of material objects in learning science. Before joining the Exeter team, she was Head of Chemistry and Deputy Head of Year 7 at Chew Valley School in Bristol.

Our PGCE Chemistry course will prepare you to teach chemistry to GCSE and 'A' level.

You will train as a science teacher who specialises in chemistry, so we will also prepare you to teach physics and biology to at least Key Stage 3.

Chemistry remains one of the most popular choices at 'A' level. In addition to being a key component of Science in the National Curriculum, it is also being offered as a separate GCSE option in many schools. The PGCE Secondary Chemistry option provides a pathway into teaching for good chemistry graduates who, ideally, also have a strong background in at least one other science at 'A' level. It is designed to prepare students for teaching all aspects of science to at least Key Stage 3, and chemistry at GCSE and 'A' level.

Development of subject and teaching knowledge and understanding is a priority and the team of science tutors includes specialists in chemistry, biology, physics and psychology teaching see the Course leaders section below.

Topics covered include:

  • the aims of science teaching
  • the planning, preparation and evaluation of learning experiences for children of different ages and abilities
  • school laboratory management
  • the use of information and communications technologies to support science teaching and learning

More details about the types of sessions you will have and how you will be taught to teach can be found here.

Throughout the course we aim to promote engagement with the wider issues of science and its ethical and social relevance. Practising teachers are involved in delivering the course in the University and play an active mentoring role to foster professional development in schools.

Energetic, able and committed science applicants will find this an empowering course which develops personal transferable skills, strength of character and offers the potential for playing a part in shaping the future of society. Find out more about our students.


The programme lasts for 36 weeks (one academic year). Before the course starts at the beginning of October students are required to spend one week in a primary school and one week in a secondary school and to carry out a variety of pre-course tasks. These include an initial needs analysis focussing on subject knowledge and a variety of reading tasks. The first term is predominately based at the University with one induction week being spent in the first placement school. The first placement then continues in January and lasts around 12 weeks. Induction into the second placement school takes place before the Easter vacation and then continues in the summer term until early July.


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 on their website.

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.

What kinds of sessions will we have?

In addition to school based work, the main elements of the course are:

  • Science education workshops, examples following:
  • 'National Curriculum Courses' designed to help develop to GCSE level your subject knowledge of the areas of science outside your specialism and to show you ways to teach these topics to pupils
  • 'Subject specialist courses' designed to develop to A-level your specialist subject knowledge and to show you ways to teach these topics to pupils
  • 'Subject Support Groups' in which students teach aspects of their own specialism to each other
  • An optional, but highly recommended, weekend field course at the Field Studies Council centre at Slapton Ley, Kingsbridge
  • 'Education and Professional Studies' lectures which are shared with students of other teaching subjects
  • A range of guest speaker sessions delivered by individuals from schools and science education organisations
  • Five seminar days held at the University during school placements.

All these elements of the programme are supported by an extensive range of related material on the dedicated PGCE Science website. This also hosts an electronic discussion forum which students take an active part in.

How will I be helped to learn to teach?

The Exeter PGCE provides useful theory (mainly in the university) that can explain practice, extend and enrich practice and challenge practice, where you will work with expert practitioners (mainly in schools) to understand what they do, how they do it, why they do it, and how you can do it yourself. We expect you to make decisions about your own teaching that are sensitive to the context in which you are working, and informed by broader educational values, thinking and research.  We support you in this through a gradual introduction to the teaching of whole lessons to whole classes, through a carefully integrated system of support from school teachers and university visiting tutors, and through specific tools such as 'Agendas'. More detail is available in the handbook.

How am I assessed?

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

There are two main assessment strands:

1. Assessment of the Standards relating to professional attributes, knowledge, understanding and skills that need to be reached in order to be awarded Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

This strand runs through the whole programme as students gradually develop the expertise needed to achieve the Standards required. Formative Reports are used to identify areas of strength and to construct individualised action plans in areas where further development is required. The final Summative Report, which records either 'pass' or 'fail', is completed towards the end of the second school placement during the summer term.

To be awarded QTS students also have to pass the Teaching Agency Numeracy and Literacy tests.

2. Assessment at Masters level to gain the PGCE.

Student are required to complete three 5,000 word (or equivalent) assignments related to the teaching and learning of science. The first focuses on the nature and purpose of science education and the development of understanding of a particular aspect of science education. This is completed during the first, university based, term. The second is completed whilst on the first school placement during the spring term. It involves carrying out an  Action Research Project or a Case Study. Action Research involves researching your own practice as a beginning science teacher. A Case Study is an investigation of a particular aspect of science teaching and learning in your placement school. The final assignment is completed whilst on the second school placement during the summer term and requires students to write a reflective account of how they have developed as a science teacher over the PGCE year.

Further details relating to assessment can be found in the Secondary Science Study Guide

In science we have use of two recently developed laboratories that also open into a single large teaching space. The labs are equipped with the usual services and IT network points, interactive whiteboards, a visualiser, a video microscope, and video/ DVD players.  We have science equipment similar to that in most secondary schools.  We have a dedicated science technician (dedicated in both senses of the word!), a prep room and a small computer suite specifically for PGCE science students.

Find out more about the general facilities of the St Luke's campus

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 Chemistry 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 Science and Chemistry in the secondary school, in order to meet national standards for the award of QTS.

A typical student will have obtained good GCSE grades in ‘double science’ or in each of the three separate science subjects. They will have a good ‘A’ level grade in chemistry and ideally in another science subject. Most will have a good degree with at least 50% of the content related to chemistry. Equivalent or alternative qualifications are always considered. Where necessary applicants may be required to complete some subject enhancement before joining the course.

We advise all applicants to gain some school-based experience in a state school prior to interview.  Although this is not essential it would be an advantage to be able to reflect on any school-based experience or experience working with young people in another context at interview. It is always very helpful to gain an understanding of what being a secondary school chemistry/science teacher involves through gaining some experience in a secondary school science department.

While as standard we normally only accept applicants who meet this criteria, if you have a 2:2 or equivalent, or are coming from a different academic background which is equivalent to degree level, you are welcome to make an application through UCAS for consideration or contact our PGCE Admissions team for more information.

Further information

Read more about entry requirements and how to apply.

All applications for entry to our PGCE programmes must be made through UCAS Teacher Training and application forms are available online through the UCAS websitePlease be aware that you will need to make a note of the UCAS code for the programme you want to apply to, which can be found at the top of this page, as you will need to input this into UCAS to find the application form.

An academic reference is required from any institution of Higher Education that you have attended within the last five years. Please note: if an academic reference is not submitted then this will cause a delay in the processing of your application.

For further details on the application process, please see our Interview Policy.

We recommend you: 

  • apply as early as possible
  • choose your referees early and explain to them that a promptly returned UCAS Teacher Training reference could make all the difference

Deferred entry

We do not consider requests for deferred entry either at application stage or after an offer has been made. Any applicant who can no longer take up a place offered to them will need to reapply in the following year and will need to go through the full interview process again.

Applicants who will be overseas during the recruitment cycle

If you will be outside the UK during the recruitment cycle for your proposed year of entry, you should make contact with the Admissions Office to discuss this.

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.

The Science team

Course leader Dr Darren Moore has worked on the PGCE programme since 2009. Darren is the psychology tutor, having spent six years teaching psychology at an FE College. Since completing his PhD in Education in 2011 in the Graduate School of Education, Darren has combined contributing to the PGCE programme with research work at the University of Exeter Medical School and more recently in the Graduate School of Education, primarily researching school mental health.

Dr Lindsay Hetherington joined the University of Exeter in 2006 having worked as a Science Teacher, Head of Chemistry and Deputy Head of Year for 5 years. She has held various roles as Science Course Leader and Secondary PGCE Programme Director. She is the Chemistry tutor and her research interests focus around science and teacher education, where she is interested in exploring open and inquiry-based approaches to teaching within the structures of schooling.

Luke Graham is the Biology tutor. Luke has spent over 20 years working in schools and colleges. He has been a science teacher, head of department and deputy head in that time. Luke has worked on the PGCE programme since 2012. He is an associate for the exam board AQA and serves as an appointed member to the National College for Teaching and Leadership.

Jill Noakes is the Physics tutor. Jill taught physics and maths for 7 years after completing her PGCE here at Exeter. She began her career at Bodmin College and was a deputy faculty leader at Truro College. She has also worked for the Institute of Physics delivering professional development workshops in schools around Cornwall.

On the Science PGCE you will be taught by these tutors who specialise in the main science subjects as well as other staff with specialisms in STEM education including Nasser Mansour, Pallavi Banerjee and Justin Dillon.

For details of staff interests and research publications please follow the links.

2020/21 tuition fees

  • UK/EU: £9,250 full-time
  • Channel Islands/Isle of Man: £9,250 full-time
  • International: £18,500 full-time

A variety of attractive financial support packages are available.  Find out more here.