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Case Study

Emily Manson

Birmingham, UK

PGCE Further Education and Skills (FES)


After discovering her passion for teaching SEND students and aiming to one day teach within the prison service, Emily Manson joined the PGCE Further Education and Skills course, specialising in the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities pathway. She is now working in the job she was hoping for after graduating and has just enrolled on the MA SEND to further her knowledge.

Before returning to university, I had worked in the NHS and the army. I had just finished an undergraduate degree in Human Communication, with a view of working in speech and language, but I soon realised that this wasn’t the right fit for me. Having completed placements within schools, I found that I was drawn to teaching – particularly the area of Special Education which I highly enjoyed and had a lot of experience of. I was keen to eventually get a job working within the prison service, as a high percentage of the prison population have undiagnosed SEND, and I wanted the challenge of helping people turn their lives around. My desire to teach adults is what made me decide to study for the PGCE Further Education and Skills.

I relocated from Birmingham to the North East in 1996 and I wanted to study close to home as my daughter was settled at school, which is part of the reason I chose the University of Sunderland. Another factor was that it offered a PGCE focusing on teaching adults, which is where my interests lay, as opposed to teaching children. I liked how the University felt when I came to visit, not just for the academic support but the pastoral care too. Coming from an old-fashioned university where I studied for my undergraduate degree, the modern feel of Sunderland was like a breath of fresh air.

I really enjoyed the collaborative aspect of the course – we were encouraged to share resources and experiences throughout the year. There was a lot of practical work involved and assignments which helped us to develop our own teaching styles. I always enjoyed coming onto campus. My fellow students came from a wide variety of backgrounds, such as dance, theatre, design, child development and sport, which meant that I learnt lots of tips and techniques to incorporate into my individual teaching practice. Not having any written exams to worry about was a bonus for me too!

I’m about to start working for a company that teaches in prisons and I will be specialising in functional skills, but also have the opportunity to help teach a diverse range of other subjects, which is exactly what I wanted to do before I started the course. The psychological and sociological aspects of learning that were taught on the PGCE FES will undoubtedly be very useful in my role. My learners have complicated histories and understanding the barriers they have faced and continue to face really helps me with my approach to teaching them.

The School of Education is so friendly, welcoming and supportive, so I would recommend coming for a visit to see for yourself just how great the University of Sunderland is. The tutors will do everything they can to support you throughout your time here – which goes by really quickly!

Before coming to Sunderland, I was full of self-doubt and didn’t have any confidence in my abilities. Through the support and encouragement of my fellow students, my tutor and my placement mentor, I have grown so much and now feel ready to start my new career. I have also just secured a place on the MA SEND to expand on my knowledge – I never would have thought I could do a master's degree before starting this course but now I know, the sky is the limit."

Published 3 August 2022

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