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 PCET. Before studying this course, I had completed a Masters and PhD focused on the experience of and attitudes toward, challenging behaviour linked to disability in secondary schools.
Overall the PGCE PCET was structured so it was achievable with a clear life/work 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 fostering of extracurricular activities. There was always someone to support you if you had any queries or problems and a willingness to sign post you to alternative sources of support if necessary.
I found the course fun, engaging and at times frustrating, however it has enabled me to progress my career and I would happily repeat the experience. 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 (QTLS)), 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 available to me. 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 did not mind you dropping by to speak to them, or even phone them. This made contact much more personal than that forged through email contact which is more general in higher education.
If you can, try and attend an Open Day, or even make an appointment for an individual tour and go check out the feel of the place first hand. I would also say that if you feel that you are not university material, go and talk to the University, they are masters of offering second and third chances and 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.
I feel 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 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 enabled me to develop the vocational skills that I needed to secure employment.”
Published 29 May 2020