Current PGCE student, Shannon, had already completed 2 undergraduate degrees when she joined us. She chose to join Cumbria's acclaimed PGCE programme after chatting to our friendly academic team and loved that she could complete her final placement from her home in Northern Ireland. Keep reading to hear more about her Teacher Training journey.

What brought you to your Primary PGCE?  

I had already completed 2 degrees in Northern Ireland. I have an undergraduate degree – BA (Hons) Spanish with French, including Professional Practice and a Master’s in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). I always wanted to teach Spanish but it didn’t work out, which led me to consider teaching English in Spain - so completed the TESOL. Then, unfortunately, COVID hit and family just became more important. I tried getting into Ulster University, Coleraine in Northern Ireland for 3 years, but it is extremely competitive. I decided to apply to the University of Cumbria and Edge Hill, Liverpool as both universities offered the possibility to complete the final placement back home. I was accepted to both and therefore had to make the difficult decision about which one to choose. I weighed up the pros and cons for each University and the University of Cumbria tipped it.

Why did you choose University of Cumbria for your Primary PGCE? 

I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and after much deliberation, I chose to go down the Primary Education route and I am so glad I did! I decided to train to become a Primary School teacher because I enjoy working with children, watching how their creative minds work and encouraging them to reach the best of their ability. It is an extremely rewarding profession. I was able to complete my final extending placement at home which was a bonus for me as University is very costly in itself, never mind having to pay for transport, food, rent etc on top of that. The interview process was very smooth and Adrian Copping made us all feel very comfortable during the welcome chat before the interview took place. It just felt like home from home for me. I moved from Northern Ireland to the University of Cumbria, Carlisle. As stated above, the university offered the possibility to complete the final placement back home in Northern Ireland and throughout the whole process of applying to being accepted, you were made to feel very welcome and part of the University. 

What was the biggest barrier you experienced, and how did you overcome it?  

Being turned down by my first choice university was the biggest barrier I had to overcome. After 3 applications and developing a variety of experience across Secondary teaching and out-of-classroom Primary age education, I decided that maybe that university wasn’t for me. I didn’t give up and applied to Universities in England, and I am so glad I did! The process was straight forward and to find out after the interview I had been given a place was amazing! I even questioned whether or not it was happening after being turned down before, I thought that there had to be a catch somewhere, but there wasn’t.  

It just felt like home from home for me. I moved from Northern Ireland to the University of Cumbria, Carlisle. As stated above, the university offered the possibility to complete the final placement back home in Northern Ireland and throughout the whole process of applying to being accepted, you were made to feel very welcome.

What was the breakthrough moment when things fell into place?  

Hearing that the University of Cumbria and Edge Hill decided to offer me a place on their course. I was overwhelmed and couldn’t believe it. I was able to access both websites and talk to current students who were at each University to find out about their experience and if they would recommend the University and the course. It was great to be able to do this and it helped with making my decision about which University to attend after weighing up the pros and cons. 

What was your PGCE placement experience?  

Had a brilliant experience overall with all 3 of my placements. The University of Cumbria sourced 2 of my placements and I sourced my placement in Northern Ireland, however, we were provided with a list of schools in Northern Ireland that the University of Cumbria is partnered with. My first placement was quite challenging as around half of the class of 19 children had a support need of some sort. I didn’t have any previous experience working with SEND children, but the class teachers, teaching assistant and my UPT were brilliant in offering support and guidance. It was such a rewarding placement, I learned so much and they were a great bunch of kids! I was in Year 2 (KS1) and thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought my mind was made up that KS1 was the Key Stage I wanted to teach.  

I was anxious about my second placement, I worried that they might have behaviour issues or wouldn’t listen to me. However, I arrived at the school and was made to feel welcome immediately by the Headteacher. Two weeks into my placement something just clicked and fell into place and I can honestly say it was by far my favourite placement. I had a brilliant 6 weeks, the kids were great, my class teacher who was also my mentor was extremely helpful and supportive, gave informal feedback after each lesson as well as conducting my observations. I was lucky to have the same UPT as my first placement and again she was extremely supportive. I couldn’t rate this placement highly enough, to the point I actually really miss the school and the kids.  

I’m enjoying the placement I am currently on in Northern Ireland. I’m in Primary 4 (Year 3) and they’re a great bunch of kids. It’s a job share like my first placement so it’s always great to see how different teachers teach and you can pick up different strategies from each of them. This is the first time my mentor hasn’t also been my class teacher. I found it strange to begin with as my mentor doesn’t see me teach every day but she’s been extremely helpful, supportive and approachable throughout.  

What’s your advice for future PGCE students?  

Ensure that university is somewhere you want to go, then make sure the course you are studying is something you are passionate about and want to pursue. Be prepared for a busy year, especially if you’re doing a PGCE. It’s very full-on to begin with and then again in January, but it does ease a bit. I can assure you though that it’s worth it. If you have the opportunity, I’d recommend looking into the School Direct route as you definitely learn a lot on school placements. Join any university Facebook pages, look on the university website and speak to current or previous students. 

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