About the course
Biology is one of the PGCE Science subjects that we offer and there are normally around 15-18 student teachers studying each of those subjects. Within the 50 people on the PGCE Science programmes we find a vast range of diversity of age, experience and background. Some student teachers come straight from undergraduate studies, while others are undergoing a move from successful roles in other professions. There is no one model for learning to teach Science, but all our student teachers do share an enthusiasm for biology, the other sciences and learning.
The nature of degree study means that student teachers often have quite specialised biological knowledge, so our workshops at the University are designed to help you develop their subject knowledge across all the aspects of biology that are relevant to the school curriculum. You will also be developing your knowledge of chemistry and physics, enabling you to teach across the sciences to GCSE level in school. Hence, collaborative learning and teaching with student teachers from the PGCE Chemistry and Physics programmes will be an important feature of your work, with sessions at the University providing the opportunity to work in specialist and mixed subject groups.
Workshop sessions are practical and active in approach, based in our facilities in the School of Education and in “We The Curious”, an internationally renowned hands-on Science Centre in Bristol. Both venues have up-to-date school laboratories and excellent technical support. The laboratory-based sessions will enable you to look at both well-established and new approaches to biology. Topics in applied biology, such as biotechnology, genetics and the associated ethical issues, are given particular emphasis. Bristol Zoo and the local Botanical Gardens provide contexts for ecological work, while you will also collaborate with student teachers from other PGCE subject disciplines to create a project exploring issues that might be controversial or relate to sustainability.
The PGCE Biology programme is demanding and challenging, but our student teachers enjoy and value it. Employment rates are very high with many of our biology student teachers securing jobs in schools within Bristol and the surrounding area. We also take a long-term view of teacher development; enabling trainees to find that science teacher in them that will deliver sustained good practice for a number of years. Excellent practitioners, leaders and innovators emerge from our PGCE Biology programme.
If the potential to be a good Biology teacher is evident in your application, we will invite you for a half day interview session at the University. These sessions take place every 3-4 weeks and in line with our commitment to collaborative learning we typically invite up to 10 applicants at any one time. You will be interviewed by one of the University Science tutors and a teacher mentor from a local school. The interview is subject-specific in nature and the following activities will take place as part of the selection process:
- you will receive detailed information about the content and ethos of the PGCE Biology and Science programme so that you can sense whether the course is right for you;
- you will take part in a group task that will explore conceptual understanding in a science topic and pupils’ misconceptions;
- you will give a short presentation explaining how you will teach a particular biology topic;
- have a short individual interview with the course tutor and school mentor;
- carry out a written task that focuses on assessment of pupils’ work and subsequent planning.
How school placements work
Our stable and well-established Partnership compromises approximately 65 schools. Some are in the City of Bristol itself, and others are typically within a day’s commute of Bristol (up to one hour travelling) - in North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset as well as a small number in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Somerset. We work with some schools in South Wales (e.g. Chepstow). The Partnership comprises a diverse range of schools and we are therefore able to offer opportunities to experience different contexts across the year including schools with high numbers of BAME and/or EAL pupils. Where appropriate, we are also able to offer experience in a special school.
You will be placed in a minimum of two schools and when making placement decisions we take account of where you live as well as doing our best to accommodate personal circumstances. We know our Partnership schools well, however, and our priority is to place you in schools where your needs will be met, where you will be well-supported and that will offer you the opportunity to thrive. The majority of student teachers are required to travel for at least one placement and we offer some assistance with the cost of travel where appropriate.
Our programme comprises three distinct phases. During the Induction Phase (Autumn Term), you will complete a short teaching placement (5 weeks). During the Assimilation Phase (Spring Term) you will complete your main placement (typically 12 weeks) in a second school. In the Summer Term, you will complete a final, shorter placement (5 weeks) as part of the Extension Phase. Typically, this is based in the main placement school, but also often involves additional experiences in other schools, gaining additional experience such as teaching pupils with EAL, focusing on Key Stage 5 teaching or experience in a special school. Whilst the majority of our Partnership schools teach pupils 11-18, some teach 11-16 or 16-19. Therefore a priority when selecting placement schools is to ensure that everyone has experience of teaching across the age ranges including A level/BTEC classes.
The course fees for 2019/2020 are as follows:
You’ll get a bursary of £26,000 if you have a degree of 2:2 or above in any subject.
You don’t have to apply for a bursary - you’ll automatically start receiving it once you begin your course. Find out how you’ll be paid.
Financial support if you’re from outside the UK.
Financial support from the training provider
In addition to teacher-training bursaries, the University of Bristol offers a small contribution to travel expenses during placements.
We have a dedicated department who can offer support and guidance on finances throughout your training year. Further information on additional sources of financial support can be found here: Financial support
You should have a minimum of a 2.2 degree in a biology or biology-related degree (at least 50% of modules constituting your degree being biology). Where applicants clearly show the potential to be a good teacher and perform well at interview, consideration will be given to applicants who have less biology in their degree, but they will be asked to complete a subject knowledge enhancement course. It is also advantageous to have at least one other science subject at A-level.
Skills Tests and GCSE Grade C/4 in Maths and English must be in place for the start of the course.
We look for applicants with passion who want to inspire the next generation. The PGCE is demanding but we'll support and guide you to become an excellent qualified teacher.
As our aim is for you to thrive and become a confident and successful teacher; we look for:
- good subject skills
- good understanding of the secondary curriculum
- awareness of current effective teaching and learning in your subject
- interest and awareness of what working with young people involves
- commitment to the state sector
- communication skills
- critical analysis
- good organisation
In addition to the academic entry requirements, all applicants will be subject to suitability checks. This includes a full enhanced disclosure and barring check for child and adult workforce, as well as clearance by our Occupational Health department.
If there any concerns with either of the above, applicants will be referred to the University’s suitability panel.
About the training provider
Our Partnership offers subject-specialist training in 8 secondary subjects. We are currently rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted and our programme was ranked in the Top 5 of the Good Teacher Training Guide 2017. As a designated 11-19 provider you are guaranteed training and direct experience of A level/BTEC teaching as part of your programme. We also offer comprehensive training in generic elements such as behaviour management, pastoral care and working with pupils with SEND.
Throughout the year, you will be supported by a subject specialist university tutor, as well as dedicated mentors in Partnership schools. The support that we offer is highly praised by our student teachers, and in the last two years, 99% of student teachers rated the quality of their training with us as either good or very good.
You are also able to take advantage of being part of a research-intensive university which offers the opportunity to benefit from cutting edge research in areas such as neuroscience and education. As part of the University’s Green Apple Project, we encourage our student teachers to focus on ‘sustainable education’ for the future.
Typically, over 50% of those qualifying with us choose to remain in the Bristol area and have successfully secured teaching posts within our partnership schools by the end of the PGCE year. Many of our student teachers progress quickly in their careers, taking on roles such as subject leader and head of year. A number have gone beyond this, joining senior leadership teams.
Training with disabilities and other needs
We welcome applications from candidates with disabilities and other needs and, within the context of University of Bristol support structures, we make reasonable adjustments to ensure that the programme is accessible to all. When a specific need is declared, offer holders are assessed by the University’s Occupational Health department and recommended to liaise with our Disability Service to ensure a Learning Support Plan can be put in place.
Many lectures are audio-recorded and are made available via our VLE. When possible, lecture slides and handouts are made available to the whole cohort at least 24 hours in advance of the session. All University buildings are accessible including ramp/lift access. In cases where student teachers are required to move around the University campus to attend lectures, provision is made to support them, as appropriate. The University works closely with placement schools to ensure that needs are met whilst on teaching practice. For example, a student teacher with hearing disabilities was placed in a school that could provide carpeted classrooms.
The University has a comprehensive support structure to support students with a wide range of medical conditions, including mental health. This includes support from the Personal Tutor, the Senior Tutor and Programme Director, Professional Services staff as well asdepartment-based Student Welfare Advisors. If appropriate, student teachers can be referred to the University’s specialist Counselling Service or Occupational Health team. Further information on student wellbeing can be found here:
Student health and wellbeing
Apply on the UCAS website. You’ll need to register with UCAS before you can apply.
Visit Get into Teaching for guidance on applying for teacher training.
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Support and advice
For questions about this course you should contact the training provider using the contact details above.
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