Jump to accessibility statement Skip to content

Case Study

Tania Watson

Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

PGCE Further Education and Skills (FES)

Tania Watson had completed her master's degree and PhD when she decided she wanted to pursue a career in Further Education. After doing some research, she came across the PGCE Further Education and Skills course at the University of Sunderland. She has been impressed by the engagement of staff and the inclusivity, as well as strong student and staff relationships. Tania has recently gained employment at HMP Durham and has just achieved QTLS.

I wanted to pursue a career in the Further Education system and the University of Sunderland was the only local university that offered the PGCE Further Education and Skills course. Before studying this course, I'd completed a master's degree and PhD focused on the experience of and attitudes towards, challenging behaviour linked to disability in secondary schools.

Overall, the PGCE FES was structured so it was achievable with a clear work-life balance, which was of benefit particularly for students with wider commitments. The course was also cohesive in terms of the fostering of peer relationships and extracurricular activities. There was always someone to support you if you had any queries or problems and a willingness to signpost you to alternative sources of support if necessary.

I found the course fun and engaging, and it has enabled me to progress my career. Equally importantly, there was no expectation of prior learning, particularly in regard to technology – this was immensely helpful to returning students who were less familiar with computing software. By assuming a lack of prior learning, these students were able to keep pace with their peers and gain useful transferable skills.

There was very evident awareness of the next phase of professional development (Qualified Teaching and Learning Status), and the skill requirements were factored into the course structure. This made the follow on steps much more manageable.

I would recommend the University of Sunderland for a few reasons. Firstly, from my initial query about the course, I was impressed by the engagement of all staff, including the Programme Leaders, who made themselves available to me and were able to offer a detailed overview of both the course and sources of finance options. Secondly, although the University was initially a culture shock compared to my previous institution, I was most impressed by the ambience, particularly the availability of the teaching staff and the inclusivity I observed, which I felt was perhaps not so obvious to those more accustomed to Sunderland, but which I think is its greatest asset. Finally, I found the relationship between tutors and students to be very equal, which invited engagement and the opportunity to discuss any problems or queries you were facing. Staff were also notably physically present and didn't mind you dropping by to speak to them, or even phone them. This made contact much more personal.

If you can, try and attend an Open Day, or even make an appointment for an individual tour and go to get a feel of the place first hand. I would also say that if you feel that you are not university material, go and talk to them, as they are masters of offering second and third chances. If you are motivated to succeed, this will be the institution to support that ambition.

I was very fortunate to gain employment with my training institution, HMP Durham, and have just achieved QTLS. I have also successfully passed my probation period at work and am now on a permanent contract, which for many years felt unachievable. I am looking forward to joining the National SENCO Diploma programme in the autumn and hope to progress to Advanced Teacher Status (ATS) following that.

For me, Sunderland reaffirmed the potential of what Higher Education can and should be, but most often isn’t. The University may best be summed up as progressive by its regression back to a long abandoned culture of collegial staff/student relations and sense of community based on equality and common educative purpose. On a personal level, it enabled me to move on with my career and develop the vocational skills that I needed to secure employment.”

Published 29 May 2020

More case studies