Initial Teacher Education

Primary Initial Teacher Education alumni profiles

Click on the links below to view profiles.


Current student

Lewis Pickford - graduating 2024

Lewis Pickford - Primary PGCE student

I’ve always wanted to go into career where I am giving something back and having an impact on other people’s lives. Working with children is also something I have always done through coaching and sport and something I’d like to continue.


Lewis studied sports and exercise science at undergraduate level, which contains a lot of transferable skills for teaching. From around the age of 16 onwards, he has coached a variety of sports at summer and half-term camps to children aged between six to 13 years.

Lewis is currently only in the first term of the PGCE course but when he finishes he plans to travel to Australia and teach in Sydney for four months and then travel for two months. Upon arrival back to the UK he would like to work in London at a school where he can teach and coach rugby and aspires to work up the leadership ladder, hoping to one day become a head of school or as close to as possible.

Below Lewis answers questions about his experience of the course so far.

Q. Why did you choose the University of Nottingham PGCE course?

Since I started my undergraduate course I have loved Nottingham and I always knew that if I was to do a postgraduate course it would be at Nottingham. The campus and facilities and Russell group status was a key factor, as well as now being a postgraduate bursary athlete who plays for the university first team in the highest league in the UK.

Q: What are the main skills from your UG course that you've found helpful for this postgraduate level course?

Dealing with workload, presentation skills, team work, time management and student athlete lifestyle.

Q. What did you think about the university-based academic sessions on the PGCE?

They are long hours, always being from 9-5, and although they are effective, some session do seem to not be as important as others. However they are run very well and always engaging.

Q. How have your tutors supported you during your course?

Tutors have been very supportive with constant check ups and meetings regarding the workload and managing, which has been very reassuring.

Q. Can you describe a typical day on placement – do you get involved in anything like clubs, parents’ evening etc? 

The typical day consists of teaching a variety of lessons, as well as certain jobs like break and lunch time duties, meeting parents on the door at pick up, and extra work in evenings if needed.

Q. Do you get involved in any enrichment activities?  

I personally haven't because I already have lots of experience dealing with children during my education.

Q. What is the best part of the course? 

The opportunity for each day to be different within the school,  where no day is the same through what you teach and how children respond to it.

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

100% do it. The qualifications you get from it are second to none and it will put you in a fantastic position going forward.


 Class of 2023

Sebastian Jones 

Seb Jones - Primary PGCE
Teaching truly is a career where you are able to make a difference to children’s lives. It is incredible to see how much of an impact even a beginning trainee teacher can have on individual children over a short placement. We are at a time when there are many, many challenges facing children, from eco-anxiety to the cost-of-living crisis. Being able to help children navigate their way through their education and social development is simply extremely rewarding.

Seb worked as an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teacher in South Korea for just over four years prior to starting the PGCE course. Originally he studied business and management at undergraduate level and began a career as an estate agent. However, he was dissatisfied with the job and decided to try teaching. After discovering how much he liked the job, he wanted to become qualified so he could gain a much wider and secure skillset and be able to progress his career in the future.

Seb planned to return abroad once he completed his PGCE and has now secured a teaching job at a British International School in Eastern Europe starting in September. He feels the course really helped him to look for the signs of a school that will help their new teachers thrive and provide a continuation of the learning and development offered by the Primary PGCE and the sessions on applying for jobs helped him get a lot of interest from schools in Europe.

Below Seb answers a series of questions about his experience on the PGCE course.

Q. Why do you want to be a teacher?

One of the benefits of being a teacher is simply the fact that every single day at work is different. This can be challenging, but it does mean you will never, ever be bored. I’d dabbled in other jobs aside from the previously mentioned estate agency and found that after a period of months, the work would become incredibly repetitive. With teaching you really don’t know what to expect every day, and while it can be daunting at first, it means that every day you get a fresh start and a new challenge.

Q: Why did you choose the University of Nottingham PGCE course?

Simply put, the support network and systems in place to help students on the course seemed unparalleled anywhere else. The course as a whole feels incredibly collaborative; everyone from the mentors, to lecturers, to tutors wants to see you succeed and will support your development every step of the way. I cannot overstate how supportive the environment of the University of Nottingham PGCE is.

Q. What did you think about the university-based academic sessions on the PGCE?

The university-based sessions are really thorough and prepare students for as much as possible prior to becoming an Early Careers Teacher (ECT). There are so many facets to being a teacher that it is impossible to fully cover every last detail, but the university sessions are organised in a way that you are able to logically progress your development as a teacher. An example of this is the focus on wider curriculum subject lectures prior to going into the second placement, which is when you will begin to teach these lessons more frequently. The vast majority of lectures are also interactive and allow for plenty of reflection on the placements so far.

Q. How did your tutors and/or the school-based mentors support you during your course?

I feel extremely fortunate to have had both the tutor and the mentors that I did. My tutor was incredibly supportive in keeping me on track for what needed to be done and helping me stay up-to-date with my university-based work. Both of my mentors were also extremely willing to give up their own time in order to discuss the happenings of the day and to help me reflect on how I can improve or what new things I can try. I feel that having such a positive relationship with my tutor and mentors was so vital as I never felt under-pressure or stressed when something didn’t go exactly as planned. I always felt like I had a really strong support network that wanted to see me develop and succeed.

Q. Can you describe a typical day on placement – did you get involved in anything like clubs, parents’ evening etc?

would usually get to placement around 8am in order to set up for the day. Children will typically arrive around 8:50pm and I’d usually go outside just before this to welcome them and speak to parents. Depending on the part of the course, I’d either teach one or two lessons or a full day. The children would typically leave around 3:20pm, when I’d take them outside to dismiss them for the day. Then, I’d usually have some time to talk to my mentor and reflect on the day. I am also a big fan of getting resources prepared at this time so that everything is ready for the next day. 

Depending on the day, you can also be expected to participate in a lot of other activities around the school. Things like assemblies, school trips and parents evenings, for example, really help you build up your experience and understanding of what being a teacher entails.

Q. Did you get involved in any enrichment activities? How did they help?

There are lots of opportunities for enrichment activities throughout the course, and you won’t always have time to attend them all, especially when you are at your busiest during placement. I do recommend getting stuck in wherever you can though. An example from my second placement was a CPD meeting with a subsequent enrichment activity we had regarding questioning techniques to help children develop their reading comprehension. Sometimes it just takes a slightly different approach to something as simple as questioning for you to see a huge difference in your practice, and I could see how much more the children were engaging with our class texts once I changed this. The Primary PGCE also has some mandatory enrichment activities that were some of the highlights of my year. Learning and experiencing what it is like to take part in a forest school was a fantastic experience that was both fun to take part in and really made me re-evaluate the potential types of teaching I could offer to pupils.

Q. What was the best part of the course?

While it may be the obvious answer, the best part of the course had to be the friendships I made along the way. It’s quite funny to consider how much shorter the PGCE is than an undergraduate course, but how much more instrumental my peers have been in helping me pass the year. No two days on the course are the same; there will be days where you feel everything has clicked and that you are the greatest teacher to ever live, but there will also be days where everything goes wrong and you question if you are really in the right place. Having people going through the same experiences, both during school placements and when doing academic assignments, is so valuable because you have people who understand exactly how you are feeling and will support and encourage you. I think the tutors do a really good job of encouraging collaboration during the first month of the course which helps you build up the support network of friends that will last for its whole duration.

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

I would advise you to get things started early whenever possible. There are a lot of things to keep track of between university-based work, placement-based work, assignments, knowledge development, relationship building and such. If you let things pile up in order to rush them nearer a deadline, you will create a really stressful environment for yourself. Getting things started early is really important to stay on track with what needs to be done. Also, do not be afraid to talk to your mentors and tutors if you are falling behind. They are incredibly helpful and want to see you succeed. If you are falling behind or need more support, they will always be willing to lend you a hand.


Joe Beastall

Joe Beastall - Primary PGCE 2023
 Teaching has been a career that I have wanted to be a part of since I was really young. I have always wanted to inspire people and help people achieve the best they can. Teaching is something that also never gets predictable. Facing new challenges and obstacles everyday helps keep the job interesting and allows me to feel more engaged in the tasks and activities I am doing.

Joe studied a BA Philosophy, Religion and Ethics at the University of Nottingham. He chose to stay here for his PGCE because it felt like home. Studying his undergraduate degree allowed him to get to know the university, the local area, and the city before stepping into the next big part of his life. He is glad that staying at the University of Nottingham allowed him to focus more on his new course rather than trying to get to know the city alongside teaching. It helped him settle into the course quicker than at another university.

Joe has secured a job at a school in Milton Keynes teaching year five pupils.

Below Joe answers a series of questions about his experience on the PGCE course.

Q: What are the main skills from your UG course that you've found helpful for this postgraduate level course?

Although philosophy and theology don’t necessarily have direct teaching characteristics associated with it, the transferrable skills such as critical thinking, analysing situations, and being able to conduct a debate have all proved to be an integral skill to be a teacher. These skills were not obvious when I was applying to the course but were distinctive when I began the course and settled into my placements.

Q. What did you think about the university-based academic sessions on the PGCE?

They provided me with an insight of what to expect from the classroom. Being a student that started the course with no previous teaching experience made me feel nervous and already behind the rest of my cohort. The university sessions allowed me to catch up and feel prepared for my placements. They provided me with information and new skills that I can use in the classroom and inspired me to try out new and different pedagogies that I thought would work. 

Q. How did your tutors and/or the school-based mentors support you during your course?

Both my university tutor and my school-based mentors provided me with as much support as I needed. This helped me settle into university and placements easier. They were always on hand to provide feedback for lesson plans and my own academic writing. There was never a time on this course where I felt unsupported by the tutors and mentors around me – they are truly the people that got me through the course.

Q. Can you describe a typical day on placement – did you get involved in anything like clubs, parents’ evening etc?

I would normally arrive at school by 8am, this was to make sure I was ready for the day and was able to get to the printer before others! Getting to school earlier made me feel more confident with my lessons as I had more time to speak to other members of staff where needed. My mentor and I would always meet at lunchtime to discuss what has happened and where I could improve or to feed back on the pupils' learning. Any issues would be presented here with a plan being made on how to support those pupils who needed it. After school finished, I would normally get ready for the next day and file work that needed handing back out. I would normally leave at 4.30/5pm mostly prepared for the following day.

Q. Did you get involved in any enrichment activities? How did they help?

My placement school constantly offered extra enrichment activities for both student teachers, teachers and support staff. One example was a first aid inset say after the Easter holidays – this involved all staff members attending a first aid course that focussed on refreshing memories on core first aid training. This was very insightful and provided me with more skills that are integral to the safety of all the children in the class.

Q. What was the best part of the course?

The best part of the course was the foundation subject lectures. They were provided by an expert in that area who led us through a ‘typical lesson’ for that subject. Then, linking this to theorist research, we discussed the positives and negatives to the lesson whilst looking at the potential impact on learning. These lecture were more based on active learning which made them more engaging and enjoyable to do with your other teaching friends.

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

Don’t expect to learn everything in that year. There is so much to learn from lectures and placements, but ultimately you will always be learning, even when you are twenty years into your career. University and placements will prepare you for becoming a beginning teacher, but the learning will not end when the course does. Do not stress that you do not know everything because it is impossible to be an expert in a career that is different for every class you have.


Megan Dainty 

Megan Dainty - Primary PGCE 2022/23

Teaching is an opportunity to support children to develop socially, emotionally and academically. I am very passionate about providing children with opportunities that cultivate curriculum knowledge as well as develop curiosity, excitement for learning and an understanding of the world around them. I believe being a good teacher requires advocating for children and their futures, not just in the classroom. 


Megan worked for a tuition company in Birmingham during her A-Levels and there discovered her passion for education. Following A-Levels, she completed a BA Education at the University of Nottingham which gave her an insight into the theory behind education. She always felt the staff in the School of Education are immensely passionate about the development of education and the impact that teachers can have on this development. Hence, she decided to stay in the school to do the PGCE, to continue studying in a faculty that is supportive and in line with my own values as an educator.

Megan has secured a job as a reception teacher. Although not one of her placement schools, the headteacher was involved in a university-based session, so Megan was aware of the school.

Below Megan answers a series of questions about his experience on the PGCE course.

Q: What are the main skills from your UG course that you've found helpful for this postgraduate level course?

Through my undergraduate course, I developed a lot of independence. The field of education is so broad and so it was important that I could narrow down my own passions and explore these independently for my assignments. However, I also learned the value of asking for help. I have always felt supported by the School of Education and knowing I could ask for help with assignments, placements or anything else was very important. 

Q. What did you think about the university-based academic sessions on the PGCE?

The university-based sessions are a great opportunity to build a bridge between theory and practice. I really admired how the teaching staff would utilise the strategies they were talking about in the sessions to model good teaching practice. For example, during the scientific thinking session, we had an opportunity to carry out an experiment and think about how we could use this in our own classrooms. The sessions are always very informative and interactive; it was great to hear from a range of individuals and pick up various teaching hints and tips.

Q. How did your tutors and/or the school-based mentors support you during your course?

My tutor was extremely supportive throughout the course. If I ever had a question about the course, a pedagogical inquiry or something more personal, I was always able to contact a tutor and receive the appropriate support.

Working with school-based mentors was a really exciting opportunity to work with, and learn from experienced teachers. My mentors always made sure I knew what I was doing well and pushed me to be the best teacher I could be. 

Q. Can you describe a typical day on placement – did you get involved in anything like clubs, parents’ evening etc?

On a typical day, I would arrive approximately an hour before the children to make sure I had time to set up for the day and speak to my class teacher. I was often on the door in the morning to greet families and begin to build a relationship with them. Then I’d do the register and teach whatever I’d planned for that day (usually phonics, English, maths and topic). I loved being on home-time duty with my mentor as it was a lovely opportunity to speak to some of the parents about what we’d done that day. I would then stay a bit later to catch up with my mentor about the day and prep for the following days. I had a staff meeting every Wednesday and also joined in with parents’ evening. 

Q. What was the best part of the course?

Developing relationships with children and staff has been my favourite part of the course. I feel I have built strong relationships with both the adults and staff at the schools I’ve been at. It has been a huge achievement to know that I have impacted on children’s time in school and to also know that they perceive me as another one of their teachers. Similarly, I have learned a lot from the staff that I have worked with and hearing them refer to me as a valued member of the team feels like a big achievement.

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

Absolutely go for it! The PGCE course is demanding and has its challenges but if you have a passion for teaching, it is absolutely worth it. Whether you’re coming onto the course with experience or not, my main advice would just be to grab the bull by the horns, enjoy the time with the kids at school and know it’s okay to ask for help.


 Class of 2022

Ifeoma Uchendi, PGCE graduateIfeoma Uchendi 

Ifeoma studied both her undergraduate and postgraduate degree in microbiology in her home country, Nigeria. She wanted a profession that would allow her to share her knowledge and add value and became a lecturer. However her passion for lecturing was not as she thought and she decided she wanted to teach, gaining a job teaching science in a primary school. She had been teaching for five years before starting the PGCE! Having completed the teacher training, Ifeoma will now be starting a new teaching job in Surrey.

Ifeoma says:

Becoming a teacher

The drive and passion for adding knowledge to children and seeing their academics and well-being improve, made me want to be a teacher. Being a teacher implied that I had the privilege of laying the foundation of knowledge, moulding lives and becoming a part of shaping their destinies. Teaching made me genuinely happy. 

Choosing the University of Nottingham

After teaching for five years in Nigeria, I was hungry for the right experience and training to make me suitable to teach globally. I needed a university competent enough to equip me, and the University of Nottingham was one of the best top 10 universities for the PGCE course. 

University-based academic sessions

The university-based academic sessions are well-structured with a realistic curriculum. The content is accessible and informative, and most of the content prepares you for the realities in the classroom.

Tutor and mentor support

My tutor and school-based mentor (especially the second placement) were supportive. They ensured I reflected on my practice and knew how to achieve my development target. They also helped me to manage my workload when I became overwhelmed.

School placements

A typical placement involved me teaching core subjects in the morning and foundation subjects in the afternoon. I was involved in preparing the Year 6 children for SATs, taking the children on a school trip to Nottingham Castle and attending parents' evening.

Best part of the course

The best part of my course was in my second placement. I completely evolved into an excellent teacher. I was effortlessly teaching those subjects (PE and computing) I didn't feel confident in, and becoming more independent in my practice. I received incredible support from my mentor, which boosted my confidence as a teacher.

Advice for anyone thinking of taking a teacher training course

Firstly, you need a solid conviction about being a teacher. The journey is intense and requires you to be resilient, but your unrelenting passion for teaching will help you persevere till the end.

Secondly, always ask questions. Maximise the support of your university tutor, mentor and even classmates.

Lastly, be open-minded and ready to adapt because your teaching philosophy may change along the course. 


Jonathan Green - Primary PGCE studentJonathan Green 

Before undertaking his PGCE, Jonathan spent four years in Vietnam teaching science, English and maths. He decided he wanted to be a teacher during his undergraduate studies and went to teach abroad to see if it was the right decision for him. Turns out it was! Jonathan has secured a job at a school in Nottingham where he completed the Early Years immersion week. He enjoyed it so much that the school was the first one he applied to and he was very happy to be offered a job there. 

Jonathan says:

Becoming a teacher 

Teaching runs in my family. My mother was a class teacher and headteacher before moving on to other careers in education. Besides that, my time spent abroad showed me that I have a real passion for teaching and making an impact on the lives of all the young people that I teach.

Choosing the University of Nottingham

The interview process was really positive in comparison to some of the other PGCE courses that I applied for. All the tutors were so enthusiastic about the course and had a lot of questions for me to see if the course was the right fit. In my interview there was a headteacher from the Nottingham area present, which I thought was a really good thing.  

University-based academic sessions

The university-based academic sessions provided a really good base knowledge of teaching before going to our placement schools and that continued throughout the year. What I found most helpful was the number of resources the sessions gave us to help us with our planning and teaching.

Tutor and mentor support

I was really well supported by both my school-based mentors during my placements. They were both really well informed about the course and I felt like I could turn to them at any time about any questions, issues, or ideas that I had. My mentors were also both excellent examples to learn from as a trainee teacher. My university tutor was also very supportive when I needed it and the regular feedback that they provided throughout the year was brilliant.

School placements

On both of my main school placements I would arrive at school no later than 8am, to give myself plenty of time to set up my classroom and resources for that day if I was teaching, or to help my mentor with any preparation needed. Some days I would be teaching, some days I would be observing my mentor or other teachers, and some days I would be in the classroom supporting the children. I usually left school before 4:30 unless there was a staff meeting that day. 

Best part of the course 

Genuinely the best part of the course was the challenge, it’s a tough year but at the end of it you will feel really proud of yourself.

Advice for anyone thinking of taking a teacher training course

Do it! The PGCE primary course is definitely challenging but it’s also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. 


Atlanta Beeby

Before completing the PGCE, Atlanta attended Birmingham City University to study textiles as fashion was always a passion of hers. Alongside university she worked as a play worker for children with autism. She has now secured a job in a school in Nottingham where she undertook her second placement and will be teaching Year 5s.

Atlanta says:

Becoming a teacher

I decided to become a teacher as I had always loved interacting with children of all ages and being able to support them and making a difference in their lives always bought me joy. Although working with children can often be challenging and no day is the same, it is so rewarding.

Choosing the University of Nottingham

I chose to study at the University of Nottingham because of the high reputation. As I live in Nottingham I had such high expectations of the university.

University-based academic sessions

The university-based academic sessions were extremely useful even if I didn't think so at the time.  After the sessions I was able to relate to them within the classroom and put my knowledge into practice.

Tutor support

My tutor, Cath, was absolutely amazing. She would always motivate me to challenge myself and keep going despite any personal circumstances that arose. If I had any concerns or general questions it was made extremely clear that her emails were always open and if she didn't know the answer she would always find out.

School placements

A typical day on placement was eye-opening and no day was the same. On placement I encouraged myself to get as much experience and get stuck into teaching as early as possible. I was involved in school trips, parents' evenings, weekly staff meetings and sports. 

Best part of the course

The best part of my course was my placements and meeting other trainees. Both of my placements were close to where I live, I made some life-long friends and had schools and experiences I will never forget. 

Advice for anyone thinking of taking a teacher training course

If you are thinking of doing a PGCE, do not get put off by how challenging or intense you think the course may be (it is) but it is honestly so worth it. The workload is manageable if you organise yourself and the friends, experiences, and qualification that you gain will definitely make the course worth it. 



School of Education

University of Nottingham
Jubilee Campus
Wollaton Road
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

Contact us