Skip to main content

PGCE Secondary Science

All Secondary Physicists train to teach all three sciences at Key Stage 3 and 4, and those choosing to specialise in Physics will also learn about Physics teaching post-16. Physics sessions focus on supporting new teachers to understand key concepts in physics and apply this knowledge to using practicals, demonstrations and explanations to address pupils’ misconceptions and to make the subject exciting and accessible. Sessions are led by Jill Noakes. Having trained to teach at Exeter herself back in 2007, Jill taught in schools in Cornwall before moving to Exeter to study for a PhD in problem-based learning in Science.

Our PGCE Physics course will prepare you to teach physics to GCSE and 'A' level.

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

The PGCE Physics option provides a pathway into teaching for graduates who have a good degree with at least 50% of the content related to physics, e.g. physics, engineering or astronomy. Ideally, you will also have a strong background in at least one other science at 'A' level. 

Physics remains a popular choice for 'A' level students in schools. 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. STEM subjects are a national priority so physics teachers are in strong demand.

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

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

To help achieve the aim of developing confidence in teaching outside the classroom students are invited to participate in an optional (but highly recommended) weekend field course.  This takes place at the Field Studies Council centre at Slapton Ley, Kingsbridge.

Students begin the programme with degree level knowledge of physics which is often quite specialised. Main Subject Physics sessions and Subject Support Groups, in which students teach each other about their own particular specialism within physics, are designed to help students develop their subject knowledge across all the aspects of physics that are relevant to the school curriculum.

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.

2. Assessment at Masters level to gain the PGCE.

Students are required to complete two assignments related to the teaching and learning of science. 

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 Physics 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 Physics in the secondary school, in order to meet national standards for the award of QTS.

A typical student will have a good degree (2:2 or above) with at least 50% of the content related to physics, e.g. engineering or astronomy. Equivalent or alternative qualifications are always considered. They 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 or equivalent qualification in physics and ideally in another science subject.  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 biology/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 are coming from a different academic background which is equivalent to degree level, you are welcome to make an application through the DfE Apply system for consideration or contact our PGCE Admissions team for more information. Diverse teachers enrich schools and pupils' experiences and we value diversity in schools and encourage potential teachers from a range of backgrounds to consider applying.

Further information

Read more about entry requirements and how to apply.

All applications for entry to our PGCE programmes must be made through the DfE's Apply service at

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 Pages.

We recommend you: 

  • apply as early as possible
  • choose your referees early and explain to them that a promptly returned  DfE Apply 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 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.

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.

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.

TJ Cross is the physics tutor. He teaches science and is head of house at Bideford college and has worked with the Science PGCE over many years. He is the physics lead and will be taking the KS3 and KS4 physics sessions. TJ also organises school trips and visits and has particular experience of working in rural and coastal locations. 

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 Professor Justin Dillon.

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

2022/23 tuition fees

  • UK: £9,250 full-time
  • International: £20,000 full-time

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