Over the last couple of weeks our blog has been looking at how to choose a university from the offers made via the UCAS system. There’s one key group of UCAS users, however, who may well not be at the stage of having received offers, or even submitted their application: PGCE candidates.

Until a year or two ago PGCE candidates had their own separate system for applying for a course. Now, however, it’s all run through the UCAS system. And although the system opened for PGCE applications in late November, PGCE courses tend to be open for vacancies for much longer than undergraduate courses, especially the ones for secondary school teaching.

So, if you’ve been thinking about a career in teaching, there may well still be time to put in a PGCE application. That said, the applying process isn’t just a question of filling in a few details on the UCAS system and picking your course. Unlike many graduate courses, you will almost certainly be interviewed for a PGCE course, and they are likely to pay close attention to what you put in your personal statement when preparing to interview you.

So, before you register for a UCAS account, keep these pointers in mind.

Before you submit the application:

Get relevant experience working with young people

This is an absolutely fundamental thing that you need to do before you make a PGCE application. The key thing that PGCE admissions officers need to know is: Can this person cut it in front of a group of 5/12/16 year olds? If you don’t have any such experience to talk about on your personal statement, it’s imperative that you go and get some. Volunteering at a local youth group or contacting a local school for a work shadowing experience are your two best bets for getting this exposure at short notice.

Make sure you understand the challenges of the teaching profession in the UK

Again, the PGCE admissions officers need to know that you’ll be able to survive in the UK school environment. They’ll work this out both through your interview and what you say in your personal statement. So when you’re getting your experience of working with young people, think about issues such as: How do teachers handle the needs of diverse groups? What adversity might they face in the classroom? What is expected of teachers in terms of workload?

Putting your application together:

Convey your personality with your statement

Your personal statement for PGCE courses is designed to convey who you are, your outlook on the importance of education, and what you hope to achieve through teaching. In other words, it’s about putting down what genuinely motivates you to be a teacher, rather than trying to put in a formulaic set of things that sound superficially impressive. Your interviewers will see you through you if you can’t back up what you say in your statement.

Don’t overlook the importance of small details

Attention to detail is important when you’re a teacher. And so if you haven’t taken the time to make sure your statement is polished and error-free, it simply suggests that you don’t have this necessary attention to detail. Proofreading and checking your statement before you send it may be the very last thing that you want to do after spending a long time on writing it, but it’s undeniably worth it.

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