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PGCE Early Years Teaching (DL)

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The PGCE Early Years Teaching (DL) is a postgraduate teaching qualification, subject specific to early childhood development (children aged 0-5); teaching and learning pedagogy encompassing early literacy and early mathematical development; observation and assessment techniques; and key transitions in the formative early years.

This course includes two masters modules and, on successful completion, trainees may progress to Stage 2 of the MA International Education or MA Education.

Please see the answers to frequently asked questions about the course below:

Published: 7 January 2021

The Qualification Assurance Agency (QAA) in the UK requires all universities to undertake a rigorous approval process for their programmes. This involves scrutiny by other academics and stakeholders from outside the institution who will only allow a programme to be offered if they are satisfied with the rigour of the academic standards and the organisation to support it. This PGCE Early Years Teaching was revalidated in August 2019. Annually, a report is written on this programme to monitor its quality and part of that process is a commentary by an External Examiner whose role it is to assure the University that the programme is comparable to other similar programmes, that it meets its stated aims and is maintaining quality standards. This programme always meets or exceeds these requirements.

This programme regularly has trainees from over 50 different countries and all countries have somewhat different conditions for awarding their own qualified teacher status (or similar). The programme is based on the UK Teachers’ Standards (Early Years) which are similar to those in many other countries. As far as the requirements of getting Qualified Teacher Status or Early Years Teacher Status in England (Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Irish Republic are different) are concerned, the only trainees who get QTS or EYTS are those who undertake their training in a state school in England and then complete their ECT (Early Career Teacher) induction for two years afterwards.

Therefore – no, you don't get QTS or EYTS.

In terms of QTS being the equivalent to EYTS, what this means is it's equal with regards to the quality of teaching. However, for the market that this programme caters for – the international/private schools around the world – you don't need it unless the school only employs teachers who already have taught in the state system and have QTS or EYTS. You'll need to check with the school and consider you own position in this respect.

This programme should not be seen as an alternative route to gaining state registration (QTS) or EYTS. Although it may be possible to get QTS from an individual country, there's no guarantee that it will be granted. If QTS or EYTS are key drivers for doing this programme, you're advised that this may not be the programme for you or, at the very least, you should take steps to assure yourself that any country you apply to may look favourably upon your request.

There is an Assessment-Only Route to QTS available which can now be completed internationally – provided that you satisfy the rigorous and extensive entry criteria. Trainees wishing to complete the PGCE Early Years Teaching programme may be eligible to continue on to the Assessment-Only Route to QTS subject to one of the teaching experience blocks (6 weeks) being undertaken in the Primary age phase, usually age 5-6. All trainees completing PGCE Early Years Teaching are assessed against the Teachers’ Standards (Early Years).

Further information for this can be found on our Assessment Only Route to QTS course page. At present, the University of Sunderland does not offer an additional route to EYTS.

No, you won't receive a DfE number. Only trainees who undertake their training in England and whose teaching practice is in a state school will automatically get a DfE number during their PGCE year.

Some international schools may ask for this but it is meaningless unless the holder has also completed the ECT period and has full state registration. If a school does ask for QTS or EYTS, they're probably expecting you to already be trained and state-registered in another country, and in the case of many international schools, that will mean England, the USA, Canada, New Zealand or Australia. This programme does not recommend for QTS or EYTS.

The programme is marketed for in-service teachers or pre-service teachers (those looking to join the teaching profession) in international schools around the world. The expatriate teaching community is an extremely fluid one and teachers tend to move around the world regularly. It's our experience over the past two decades that this award is recognised in many countries – the programme has grown simply by word of mouth with its graduates and teachers who have worked with trainees, recommending it. We cannot guarantee that any particular school will accept it, but we have good evidence that they will.

The PGCE Early Years Teaching course is not designed as a shortcut to English QTS or EYTS. It's designed for the overseas market and this is made very clear on application. A declaration of understanding is signed by all applicants to the programme.

There's currently one way of obtaining QTS after completion of the PGCE Early Years Teaching – this is the Assessment Only Route to QTS. No guarantee can be made that this option will remain open indefinitely but for the moment, it's still available. We've carried out international assessments for QTS in China, Qatar, Kuwait, Dubai, Switzerland, Romania, Egypt and Vietnam and anticipate this will grow.

Overview of the Assessment Only Route to QTS for those completing PGCE Early Years Teaching:

The Assessment Only Route to QTS is for experienced teachers, who have been teaching whole classes for a minimum of two years. For entry to the route, you will need to have been teaching in at least two schools or settings, for at least two years and across the 3-7 age range (hence the requirement of one teaching placement to be completed in the primary phase – see above). Typical applications to this route include people who have taught for more than two years in the independent sector or overseas.

The Assessment Only Route to QTS allows you to demonstrate that you already meet all of the Teachers’ Standards for QTS. The assessment period is a maximum of 12 weeks. We'll ask you to present detailed preliminary evidence at interview, then for the final recommendation for QTS we'll assess your teaching – normally at the school or setting where you're currently working.

If you're awarded QTS, the next step is to undertake the period of NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) induction. This includes a personalised programme of professional support and further assessment against the core professional standards for teachers, normally organised by your employing school or local authority.

Entry requirements for the AOR to QTS:

We require applicants to have the following:

  • An honours degree, normally a 2:2 or above
  • GCSE grade C, or equivalent, in mathematics and English language. If you intend to teach at primary level you also need at least a grade C in a sciences subject.
  • Full proficiency in English language
  • Recent significant experience of teaching in at least two schools
  • Teaching experience across the breadth of the chosen age range
  • An enhanced check from the Disclosure and Barring Service and Fitness-To-Teach approval (or equivalent for your country)
  • References recommending you for the Assessment Only Route from the Head Teacher or Principal of the schools in which you have gained your experience

We invite potential students to an interview (these can also be carried out online) where you present a portfolio of initial evidence that shows clear progress towards meeting the QTS standards. For further information, see theAssessment Only Route to QTS course page.

This is an International Teacher Education (ITE) programme and, as a prospective trainee on the course, it's a requirement for completion of the teaching experience element that you find a school locally willing to host you throughout. The school will need to be clearly informed about the arrangements they'll need to put in place for the teaching experience element.

We're not able to help with finding placements for trainees but are willing to provide information and talk to interested schools about the course and its requirements. Further advice about finding a placement can be found on the PGCE Early Years Teaching course page.

We'll also need the school or setting to send us the completed school/setting proposal form demonstrating their agreement to hosting you during your placement

Your mentor needs to be someone who has experience of teaching and schools but not necessarily of mentoring. The mentor is expected to have completed a teacher training programme themselves and have at least one year of post-qualification experience. If they've already mentored other trainees elsewhere in the world, that would be an advantage, but support and guidance is provided for mentors via the designated mentoring space on Canvas (the University of Sunderland’s Virtual Learning Environment).

The requirements of a mentor include:

  • Initiating regular observations, getting to know the trainee's circumstances and concerns, etc.
  • Providing friendly professional support and helping with any problems raised by the trainee
  • Introducing the trainee to key staff in the school so that they can benefit from help from a range of colleagues
  • Offering guidance with the preparation of lessons and teaching materials
  • Observing the trainee’s teaching (once per week) and providing constructive feedback
  • Meeting formally with the trainee (once per week) to discuss progress and set targets
  • Discussing the trainee’s progress with other staff and providing feedback where necessary
  • Discussing, and if practicable, sharing teaching materials with the trainee
  • Discussing construction of assessment strategies and lesson evaluations with the trainee
  • Listening actively, asking open and appropriate questions
  • Making suggestions without being prescriptive
  • Preparing interim and final reports on the trainee’s teaching
  • Assisting in the evaluation of the trainee’s evidence portfolio against the teaching standards

Mentoring would normally cover approximately 1.5 hours per week. The University makes a payment of £500 to the mentor for the two placements and their involvement in observing and writing an interim and final report on the trainee. On occasions, you can have two mentors, one per placement. This would mean that each mentor would receive £250 for the above work and commitment.

Your PGCE will be based on the phase that you're working in while training – at least one teaching experience must be within Early Years (0-5) – and your academic assignments will focus on that phase. Therefore, by the end of the course, you'll be able to demonstrate a good understanding of that age group.

International schools may be willing to accept that you have good subject knowledge from your first degree and that the PGCE has given you grounding in the aspects of teaching and, therefore, be willing to employ you outside the phase in which you trained. We cannot, however, comment on how likely it is that this would happen. You should be able to show competence to teach in the phase you were in during training from the standards you achieved and the academic work you submitted, and you should consider the position carefully if you're hoping to teach outside this in the future.

We work with trainees from around the world and across many curricula and school structures, but to help you understand what we mean by phases (or by the term Key Stages) please note the following:

Early Years:
Ages 3-4
Ages 4-5, Reception Year

Key Stage 1: Ages 5-7, Years 1 and 2
Key Stage 2: Ages 7-11, Years 3, 4, 5 and 6

Key Stage 3: Ages 11-14, Years 7, 8 and 9
Key Stage 4: Ages 14-16, Years 10 and 11

Post compulsory education
Key stage 5: Ages 16-18, Years 12 and 13

If you're able to gain experience across the age phase (0-5) then this is beneficial (though not compulsory) in terms of understanding progress and curriculum developments. Ideally, this would usually be with the same mentor. It's possible, however, to have a different mentor for each experience. This is most likely to be the case if trainees opt to complete one of the teaching experience blocks in the primary phase – usually age 5-6.

The practical teaching element is full-time and although you're expected to teach 11 hours per week in the first block and 14 hours per week in the second block, you're still expected to be in school five days a week. This will allow you to enjoy the full school experience, attend meetings and undertake duties which your school and mentor see fit, carry out observations, meet with your mentor and other members of staff, and collect data in relation to your academic modules.

If you're a full-time member of teaching staff at the school then you would usually designate the teaching practice hours from within your normal schedule. While you would still have to have time for the activities/meetings/tasks mentioned above, much of this 'school experience' would already be part of your schedule. Many of our trainees are in-service teachers or teaching assistants and, although it's more of a challenge undertaking the PGCE at the same time as full-time employment, many have done it before.

If you're a Teaching Assistant (TA) or Educational Assistant (EA) you may be able to work with classes that are already part of your schedule, but this is an agreement that will need to be made with your school.

You wouldn't necessarily be expected (particularly if new to teaching) to teach whole classes immediately. We can allow trainees to begin with observations, one-to-one, small group, and team teaching in the first week and then build rapidly to whole-class teaching. The expectation in your second practice would be that the majority of your teaching would be whole-class. This will be different for every trainee and some full-time staff will already be teaching full classes as per their normal schedule.

Yes, it's possible to complete your two practices in two different schools. However, the schools would need to be in the same education phase (Early Years) unless one teaching experience block is to be undertaken in primary phase – usually age 5-6. The subjects and phase you're teaching in should be clearly indicated when you provide your School Proposal form either as part of the initial application or before you begin your teaching practicum.

This is a postgraduate course, so the entry requirements include holding a bachelor’s degree with honours. In certain circumstances (at our discretion), we can accept other qualifications if their content and specific background is of an equivalent or corresponding level. This is not automatic, and we look closely at your qualifications and make judgements on individual cases.

It's possible for you to send a copy of your degree certificate to us before application so that we can tell you what your qualification equates to – please email pgceearly.tne@sunderland.ac.uk.

We have two entry points for the programme. Currently, our start dates are usually September and February. The course is 36 weeks long.

Those who wish to take part in our graduation ceremony are welcome to do so. For the September intake, this is held in Sunderland around the second week of July each year after the main course is completed. If you complete at a different time, you can still attend graduation. 

If you're located in Hong Kong, you may also attend the University of Sunderland in Hong Kong graduations if you wish.

We require proof of English language proficiency from all students, including those from the UK. If your degree was studied in the medium of instruction of English, you may be exempt from providing the proof of English requirement (degrees from any UK university are exempt). Please check if your degree certificate has this stated on it, or the transcript. If not, ask your University to provide a note on headed paper, which clearly states the degree and medium of instruction.

If you cannot provide this, you may have to undertake the academic IELTS test to prove that you're ready to study at postgraduate level in the medium of instruction of English. A minimum IELTS band score of 6.5, with 6.5 in writing and no less than 6 in Reading and Speaking and Listening is required.

Other types of evidence that we accept are GCSE/iGCSE in English Language (as a first language) of Grade C or above and Malaysian STPM Grade C or above if completed within the last five years. If you have any questions regarding proof of English, please email Pgceeducation.tne@sunderland.ac.uk for advice.

Payments can be made via our Payment Portal. This is the quickest way for the University to receive your deposit and there are no chargers by the University for using this portal. Payments can also be made via bank transfer, but please be aware that there may be some hidden charges which you will be liable for. Bank details can be found on our How do I pay my fees? Help and Advice article.

Self-funded students

£1,000 will be due at least two weeks prior to the course start date. The full tuition fee will be split into three instalments (with your deposit being allocated to your first instalment) that will be due throughout the programme. Further financial information can be found within the tuition fees policy for independent learners.

Sponsored students

The sponsored amount will be invoiced in one instalment. We'll require the following to be emailed to Pgceeducation.tne@sunderland.ac.uk two weeks prior to the start of your course (if this isn't received by this deadline, it will result in you being invoiced for full fees):

  • Name of school/company paying for the fees
  • Name of the student along with the student application number (e.g. 189095994)
  • How much the school/company is paying for on behalf of the applicant – it must be in GBP
  • Contact details of the school, which must include address, email and telephone number
  • Point of contact at the school/company who will deal with any future enquires relating to this invoice
  • Letter must be on official letter headed paper

We'll consider your application as soon as possible, but it will be subject to certain checks first. In some cases, we may also need you to provide some outstanding documentation.

Once your application has been reviewed, you'll be given a conditional offer pending either paying of the £1,000 deposit and/or proof of English Language Proficiency. Once you've met all the conditions of your offer, you'll then be sent an ‘unconditional’ offer. You'll be advised to enrol at least two weeks prior to the course start date (at which point your deposit will become non-refundable) and once enrolled, you will be contacted by the FES registry and academic teams via your student email account (access to this will be given when enrolling) regarding induction before the start of the programme.

Please note that you can be accepted onto the programme without a school and a mentor, though these will have to be secured before a you can begin the teaching experience element of the course.

The application timeline is as follows:

1. Submit application along with all possible documents

2. Application reviewed

3. If application is successful, conditional offer made

4. Once conditions are met, unconditional offer made

5. Enrolment information sent

6. Induction email sent from FES Registry

We'll provide successful applicants with a pack of Keeping Warm activities. These aren't compulsory, but will be useful if you're new to teaching. Other than this, we don't expect you to do anything before we open the Virtual Learning Environment to you (one week before the scheduled course start date), but any reading around education or teaching and any involvement with schools will be beneficial.

Make sure you have a computer that's rated for multimedia use (typically with a minimum speed of 1GHz and a minimum memory of 256Mb, but the faster and with the greatest memory, the better). As all the tuition is web-based, you should also ensure that you have satisfactory internet connection.