Initial Teacher Education

Career progression of PGCE alumni

Below you can read more about Rob's journey from undergraduate to assistant head teacher and how Oli's role as deputy mental health lead supports his pupils.

Oli Douch- Secondary PGCE Mathematics
Graduated 2019

Oli studied maths at undergraduate level at the University of Nottingham, which included a year abroad at the University of Queensland in Australia.  

Oli says:

When I returned from my year abroad, it hit me that I was going to need to go into employment. I started looking at my options and it struck me that the jobs that involved maths didn’t appeal to me. I struggled to do any form of coding and I wasn’t interested in finance. What I did know from my previous experiences in working with young adults was that I thoroughly enjoyed it and never felt bored. Taking that idea, I combined my enjoyment of maths with the daily unpredictability of working with children and decided to start my training as a maths teacher. 

Q. Why did you choose the University of Nottingham for your teacher training course?

The University of Nottingham has always reminded me of where I grew up with its countryside feeling within University Park. I had friends that were staying on for another year and I was part of the volleyball team, so I had roots already in Nottingham. Having met Claire Clemmet, who interviewed me, I knew I had someone I could go to that would mentor me through the highs and lows of training to be a teacher. 

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about about your experience of PGCE course?

I am a really social person, so having an environment that allowed me to interact with my peers in maths as well as other trainees from other subjects exposed me to so many different viewpoints. Hindsight allows me to express how lucky I was to have conversations, with peers, which challenged my maturity, my willingness to take on feedback and confirm if teaching was the right thing for me. I am very fortunate that I keep in touch with people that I trained with.

Whilst this is expected to promote teaching, I wanted to give a personal shout out to those members from the School of Education who supported me when I struggled with my mental health, continued to believe in me and have aided in my resilience developing, which is so important for this job. 

Q: What was your first teaching job after completing the PGCE? 

I wanted to move back home, to be closer to friends and family. The university still offered me support with the application.The first job I applied for was the job I still am at now. Had I failed the interview, I would have spoken with my mentor about how I could improve.  

Did you continue to receive support from the university during your ECT years and attend any events?

My first year of teaching was when Covid hit, so I was unable to access all of the events from the university. However, I still chat with my tutor from the course. We try to meet up yearly and this allows me to keep up to date with the best research in maths. 

Q. Can you give us a brief summary of your career path since completing the PGCE? 

  • I have been teaching at the same school since 2019. I never felt the need to move around to different schools due to the opportunities provided and support that I received.
  • I have always enjoyed teaching maths, without feeling a pull to go toward a head of department role.
  • I have shown a great interest in mental health in children. So much so, I now have an additional responsibility alongside teaching maths which is Deputy Mental Health Lead. I am in charge of the wellbeing ambassadors in the school. It is another way we are trying to support students. Rather than them approaching adults, they can get the first bit of support from their peers who have had training. 

Q. Now you are an established teacher, what do you enjoy most about your job?

I love seeing a eureka moment from my students. When something clicks and they understand a little bit more about the interconnectedness of maths. This job is so social and that is what I love. There are times when I wake up and know that it doesn’t feel like a job, but more so an opportunity to just help someone develop.

Q. What advice would you give to someone thinking of studying a PGCE course?

Try to teach at some point in your life. You’ll understand how rewarding it is imparting your knowledge about something you are passionate about. 

Then why Nottingham? 

You will get support from those on the course, from your peers and your tutors.


Rob Orr - Secondary PGCE History
Graduated 2012

Rob completed an undergraduate degree in history at the University of Nottingham. During his final year he volunteered on a primary school outreach programme where he planned and delivered a Horrible Histories after school club, enjoying the creative freedom to engage young people with the subject. After graduation he stayed at Nottingham for his PGCE.

Rob says:

I loved my undergraduate degree at Nottingham. My tutors, particularly Gwilym Dodd, Philip Ridden and Rob Lutton, were so enthusiastic about their chosen fields of study that assignments never felt a chore. When I made the decision to apply for a PGCE I did not look anywhere else for this reason. I had friends who were staying for their fourth year of study and others who were looking at similar roles. I didn’t know anyone personally who followed the same exact route as me and therefore I knew that beginning my PGCE was going to be much like joining university in my first year of undergraduate study.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about about your experience of PGCE course?

I cannot speak highly enough of the programme that was put together by Gary Mills. I felt a clear extension from my undergraduate course in thinking about what the discipline of history is. I had some physical health troubles in my PGCE year and Gary’s support, alongside school mentors like Tom Crowther, gave me the confidence to continue teaching. 

Q: What was your first teaching job after completing the PGCE? 

At the very end of my PGCE year I was fortunate to complete a short two-month maternity cover at my placement school. This transition before starting an NQT (now ECT) post in Solihull was incredibly useful at seeing what my NQT year would be like.   

Q. Can you give us a brief summary of your career path since completing the PGCE? 

So I have been in the profession since 2012 and worked as a teacher of history and politics in Solihull. I was fortunate to be given numerous opportunities including EPQ coordinator, lead of KS4 history, subject lead of politics and then head of year roles.

Six years ago I made the progression to assistant head teacher at a state boarding school in the West Midlands and am currently in the process of completing my NPQH. 

Q. Now you are an established teacher, what do you enjoy most about your job?

I still love teaching history and I am fortunate to teach the OCR A level History Y104 unit on England between 1377-1455. This was my specialism at undergraduate level and it’s great (if not at times unsuccessful) to showcase the value and oddities of studying the medieval world.

I also really enjoy supporting students when they are deciding on their post-18 ambitions. It’s great to see students transition from being a student of a subject to a student thinking about what their subject is. 

Q. What advice would you give to someone thinking of studying a PGCE course?

Make sure you do the pre-reading in the holidays. I was given The Reader and The Girl With a Pearl Earring to complete before I started. Never in a million years would I have thought to read these specific texts, but the ideas it gave me in initial seminar discussions were invaluable. Also, Blooms Taxonomy is the most important topic to get your head around.




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