About the course
Our Secondary Biology PGCE course is an 11-16 QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) course with post-16 enhancement. This means that whilst you must meet the standards for QTS within the 11-16 age range, you will also have additional experience of post-16.
The programme has three fully integrated components:
- Education and Professional Studies - The Education and Professional Studies component introduces you to key educational ideas and principles and provides you with opportunities to consider these in relation to your subject specialism and the wider school context. This component includes one summative assignment worth 30 Masters level credits.
- School Experience - Central to the course is the developing your ability to meet the DfE’s Teachers’ Standards which trainees must demonstrate in order to be recommended for Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). School-based tutors and mentors are responsible for your learning & development and receive well-designed training. You initially work with groups of children, before taking on more responsibility for planning and independently teaching whole classes. You will have two main placements offering contrasting environments.
- Specialist Subject Knowledge and Pedagogy (Biology): The PGCE Biology course is designed to prepare you for teaching all aspects of science to at least Key Stage 3, and Biology at GCSE and 'A' level. The course includes: * Science education workshops; * 'National Curriculum Courses' to develop to GCSE level your subject knowledge of the areas of science outside your specialism and show you ways to teach these topics; * 'Subject specialist courses' to develop to A-level your specialist subject knowledge and show you ways to teach these topics; * 'Subject Support Groups' where students teach aspects of their own specialism to each other; * An optional weekend field course; * 'Education and Professional Studies' lectures; * A range of guest speaker sessions delivered by individuals from schools and science education organisations
Note: The DfE entry requirement to pass professional skills tests in literacy and numeracy has been removed for 2020/21 entry onwards. Instead trainees will be benchmarked during their training against a Government-defined set of fundamental mathematics and English skills. This will be embedded into the training and will not involve any specific testing at interview. Trainees will be given tools to help identify areas for development where needed. The course will include activities to enable trainees to demonstrate the requisite skills by the end of the course.
The PGCE interview day comprises various elements, all designed so that you can showcase (and so we can assess) your skills, attributes and subject knowledge.
We notify all interviewees ahead of time what will be expected of them on interview day, so you have plenty of time to prepare. Primary and secondary interviewees attend on the same day and activities in the morning are conducted in mixed subject groups. The day is divided up as follows:
- A welcome talk so you can find out about the structure of the programme, including school placements and the taught course
- A short written task in which you can demonstrate your subject knowledge and understanding of current issues in education
- A document check so you can bring with you your certificates (you will be told what to bring)
- A short presentation in which you present a teaching idea using an artefact of your choice
- A short discussion about a filmed lesson which encourages you to explore your own, and others’, ideas about good teaching
- A one-to-one interview with an Admissions Tutor. This is where Subject Tutors will discuss your application, your suitability for teaching and your subject knowledge. This is also an opportunity to learn about the particular course you are applying for.
The interview day is designed to give you a flavour of the PGCE programme. There will be plenty of opportunities to ask questions on the day. You should allow a full day for the interview.
How school placements work
You will be working within at least two schools during the course and all of our partner schools have specially trained mentors who will assist you in learning to teach. These colleagues are essential to your development as a teacher and will help you to develop both classroom skills and reflective and evaluative strategies. Together with schools, we will provide you with opportunities, training and support.
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. You will spend two weeks in November in your first placement school to begin your classroom practice.
Term 2 is spent in your first placement school with three seminar days held at the University.
Term 3 is spent in your second placement school with two seminar days held at the University.
The University of Exeter currently has partnership agreements with over 250 schools across most parts of the South West (Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset).
Every effort is made to take into consideration your personal circumstances and preferences when allocating your placements. Trainees generally live in and around Exeter for the Autumn term, and then move to the area their placements will be in. Once on placement, there are 5 seminar days on campus throughout the year, offering the opportunity to share experiences and good practice. You can claim a contribution towards expenses for these days if you are living away from Exeter.
Our accommodation office can offer advice regarding finding accommodation for the Autumn term. Many trainees will be placed further afield than Exeter for the whole of their school-based work, and will need to find accommodation in that area. Once registered, we provide an accommodation database, which lists many accommodation options previously used by our trainees. Many trainees live together during their time on placement and some live with school staff.
The course fees for 2020/2021 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 - if you’re eligible, you’ll automatically start receiving it once you begin your course. Find out about eligibility and how you’ll be paid.
You may also be eligible for a loan while you study.
Find out about financial support if you’re from outside the UK.
Financial support from the training provider
For information on Government loans and training bursaries, please visit the Student Finance England and Get into Teaching websites.
The University of Exeter offers a £520 bursary to all UK students studying for a PGCE with us, whose household income is £25,000 or less. There is no separate application procedure for this bursary. Instead, we make an assessment using the household income information you provide to Student Finance England (you must make sure you give consent for details of your SfE application to be shared with the University of Exeter). This consent to share is requested during the application for financial support, but can be given at any time throughout the year by contacting SfE.
For more information, please see our Fees and finance webpages
A typical student will have obtained good GCSE grades in ‘double science’ or in each of the three separate science subjects. You will have a good ‘A’ level grade in biology and ideally in another science subject and a good degree (first or upper second class Honours) with at least 50% of the content related to biology. Equivalent or alternative qualifications are always considered. Where necessary you may be required to complete some subject enhancement before joining the course.
Passes at GCSE in English and Mathematics at Grade C/4 are required.
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.
Most successful applicants have a 2:1 or above. If however, you have a 2:2 or different academic background, equivalent to degree level, you are welcome to make an application through UCAS for consideration or contact our PGCE Admissions team for more information.
In addition to the academic requirements listed, selection is based on performance at interview and a satisfactory fitness to teach assessment and DBS enhanced disclosure.
Although not essential it would be advantageous to be able to reflect on any school-based experience or experience working with young people in another context at interview.
About the training provider
We are leaders in Initial Teacher Education, consistently graded as outstanding in all areas by Ofsted and ranked 3rd amongst university providers of teacher training in the most recent Good Teacher Training Guide (2017).
We have strong partnerships with over 250 schools in the south west where you will spend two-thirds of your training year, putting into practice what you have learnt on the taught course. Our PGCE is uniquely characterised by innovative research-led teaching informed by professional practice and academic excellence. All our tutors have real-world experience as teachers, senior managers or OFSTED inspectors. They lead and innovate, developing the latest ideas in teacher education, leading research, writing textbooks, leading subject networks and advising government.
We provide unrivalled opportunities for trainees to achieve through our highly original PGCE teaching model ‘The Exeter Model’, praised by OFSTED and cited as an example of best practice. 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 become part of a community of trainees and teachers who are passionate about education and will support you during your course and beyond.
Training with disabilities and other needs
The University of Exeter provides comprehensive student services that include AccessAbility and Wellbeing teams, Student Learning Skills Service, Student Advice Unit, Counselling Service, Students’ Union Advisors, Student Health Centre, Family Centre and the Chaplaincy.
For further details on the wealth of support available to you please go to Student Support Services
PGCE trainees can access the support of a Wellbeing Services Welfare Caseworker to discuss concerns, talk through options for support or understand more about how the University Wellbeing Services may be able to help.
Alongside the support described above, every PGCE trainee is assessed by an Occupational Health provider as part of the admissions process to ensure they are fit to teach in a school setting. If the Occupational Health provider recommends any adjustments, the University’s Partnership Office will ensure you are placed in schools where these adjustments can be made, providing they are logistically possible and reasonable.
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.
When you apply you’ll need these codes for the Choices section of your application form:
Training provider code:
Training programme code:
Choose a training location
You’ll also need to choose a training location – select the relevant location name on the application form.
University of Exeter (Exeter Campuses)
PGCE Admissions Office, Northcote House, The Queen's Drive, Exeter, DEVON EX4 4QJ
Support and advice
For questions about this course you should contact the training provider using the contact details above.
Get support and advice about teaching
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