Initial Teacher Education

Secondary Initial Teacher Education Student Profiles

You can use the links below to navigate to subject-specific profiles, but please do take some time to look through some profiles for other subjects as they may address different aspects of the course to the profile/s of the subject you wish to teach.

Two of our geography profiles are for students who completed the course a few years ago and give you an idea of how their career has developed since becoming a teacher.

Becky Denyer - PGCE English student 2019-20

Becky Denyer 

English - 2019/20

Becky studied English literature at undergraduate level and had the opportunity to mentor secondary students, as well as teach in China for three months. She knew the balance of university and placement on the PGCE course would suit her and is keen to use the credits from the course towards a masters degree. Becky has moved to London to start her new teaching job. 

Becky says: 

Choosing the University of Nottingham

I was drawn to the University of Nottingham since they prioritised the wellbeing of trainee teachers and seemed keen to train teachers for a life-long career in teaching. 

Tutor and mentor support

I had an exceptional university tutor and school-based mentor. During the pandemic I had a weekly meeting with my university tutor, and he made it clear throughout the year that he was only ever an email or phone call away.

My TP2 (second placement) mentor was incredibly supportive, offering me constructive feedback for my lessons, but also supporting me through the process of applying for jobs and navigating the challenges of my trainee year.   

School placements

A typical day in my second placement would start with a cuppa and morning briefing, before preparing to teach one or two lessons before morning break. I was assigned to a tutor group and co-tutored with an NQT. This was a great opportunity to ask questions about what life after the PGCE would be like. During lunch our department would all sit for a de-brief of the day so far and they were incredibly supportive and nurturing of me as a trainee teacher.

I would typically teach three or four lessons per day but also had a five-period day. This was a chance to build up some stamina for my NQT year and to understand how to manage resources and organise myself for a full teaching day. 

Best part of course

Without a doubt the best part of my course has been the relationships I have built with students, staff and my PGCE cohort. Also, at TP2 as I took ownership and responsibility for whole classes they truly began to feel like my classes. I will always remember the students I have taught in this formative year.

Musarrat Yasmin - PGCE English student

Musarrat Yasmin 

English - 2019/20

As a strong believer in social justice, Musarrat undertook a career in law and qualified as a solicitor. Her desire to teach grew from the insight her job gave into challenges faced by families and the impact on children. She chose the PGCE course because it is university-led, with placements in contrasting schools. Musarrat has secured a job in a multicultural catchment area with different challenging needs.

Musarrat says:

Becoming a teacher

Prior to undertaking the PGCE, I worked with an independant school of national and international students. My main motivation to become a teacher was social justice and the sincere belief that education is key to offering all young people life chances. I wanted to offer pupils not only my subject knowledge but inspire them to achieve their ambitions and goals in life.  

University-based academic session

These were extremely insightful and offer open discussion on key areas that require consideration. The cohort and tutors offer shared experiences which furthered my personal development and understanding of meeting key Teaching Standards.

Tutor and mentor support

The tutors and mentors offer tremendous support throughout the course. I was well informed throughout and support was always on hand when I needed further support or information. It is always important to reflect on constructive feedback and act upon it to improve.  

Advice for anyone thinking of studying a teacher training course

Put yourself into it completely and in an honest and open way - remain positive and take anything challenging as an opportunity to become a more experienced practitioner.


Thomas Kendall - PGCE English studentThomas Kendall

English - 2019/20

Following the completion of his media production degree, Thomas went travelling and worked with young people in rural communities in India, in a summer camp in the USA and as an English teacher in China. He enjoyed the experiences so much he applied for a School Direct programme on his return, spending more time in a single school, but still having the  opportunity of seeing how a different school operates in the second placement. Thomas' degree has proved useful as he has secured a job teaching both English and media studies.

Thomas says: 

University-based academic sessions

I found the university-based days incredibly beneficial to my ongoing development as a teacher. The course managed to contain a nice mixture of education-wide topics, as seen in the Big Questions series of lectures, as well as English specific sessions and seminars, which served to improve my understanding, ability and confidence to teach English.

School mentor support

Both of my school mentors did a fantastic job of making me truly feel part of the English teams. I never felt as though it was the English department and me, but instead that I was fully included as a valued member. The main way they supported me though was their constructive feedback critiques of my lessons. If there were issues or behaviours in my practice which needed approaching in a different way, they were always honest with me about it. I enjoyed these in-depth discussions of what does and doesn't work as a teacher. It was as it is only through this that I was able to improve my abilities and become a better teacher.

Advice for anyone thinking of studying a teacher training course

My one piece of advice would be to go for it, but be confident in your decision. Teaching is such a social job and one where you will constantly be thrown curve balls and challenges multiple times every day. Be ready for that challenge but don't let it scare you, because honestly, teaching is the best and most exciting job in the world.


Amy Wood - PGCE Gegraphy studentAmy Wood

Geography - 2019/20

Amy travelled prior to her starting her undergraduate degree. She worked part-time teaching dance and drama to children with additional needs whilst at university, then took another year out to travel and worked as a nanny in Guatemala. She then started working in sales, but missed working with children and applied for the PGCE course because the balance of teaching practice and university days suited her. Amy is now enjoying the diversity of teaching in Leicester.

Amy says:

Becoming a teacher

I am passionate about bettering the lives of young people and improving life chances for all. I l love my subject and believe geography opens doors as it teaches you to be a critical thinker. The transferable skills are so important and carry you through life. 

Choosing the University of Nottingham

It has a good course reputation, was close to home (living at home) and had a small cohort size. The staff were welcoming and friendly on interview day. 

University-based academic sessions

These provided an excellent place to share ideas and collaborate with peers. The set up at the University makes it feel like a family. They have really strong support systems and tangible strategies you can take to school the next day, as well as exciting sessions from outside providers such as Royal Meteorological Society and teachers from local schools coming in to discuss key points such as behaviour management/data. Lectures were informative and planned around “big questions” which accompanied the closer knit lessons in subject cohorts. 

Tutor and mentor support

My university tutor, Mal, was invaluable from an academic and pastoral perspective. I never felt alone and even in the most challenging times, I knew I always had someone to go to for help.

School-based mentors were there every day as a first point of contact with any problems and were great at offering a positive space to reflect in mentor sessions. These really helped me to grow as a teacher and discover my teacher identity.

One piece of advice for anyone thinking of studying a PGCE or PGCE schools direct course? 

Get on twitter, there's a #edutwitter community out there ready to welcome you with open arms! If you are a #geographyteacher, there’s lots of inspirational geographers out there to help you. It’s good to see the bigger picture and build connections with teachers at various stages of their career. You are not alone! Not to mention the free CPD and resources shared from organisations such as the @ECGeogNetwork @RGS_IBGschools and @The_GA


Claire HollandClaire Holland


Claire not only completed her PGCE with us, but is now an in-school mentor for our trainees. At first she found it strange to be on the other side of the process but by continuing to be involved with the PGCE course it has allowed her to remain reflective on my her own practice. She has also been involved in the Geography Subject Advisory Group (SAG) which aims to refine the PGCE course and build up the geography community within the East Midlands area.

Looking back on the course, Claire says:


One highlight of the course were the fieldwork sessions in Lea Green. One of the reasons I chose to do a PGCE route into teaching was the inclusion of dedicated fieldwork planning. I felt this was such an important factor in my training year and to gain hands on experience in this area by planning and running session for school students was invaluable.

The fieldwork we undertook came in handy in 2019 when I led our school’s first KS3/4 trip to China! Two other teachers and I travelled with 29 students to visit our sister school and strengthen links between the two, taking in the sights of Shanghai and Ningbo. Whilst it was not a geography field trip, having had the chance to plan a smaller scale field trip during my PGCE year helped me understand the logistics and planning needed to organise a school trip. 

School placements

My two school placements were at quite big secondary schools and although I enjoyed both placements, it helped me decide that I wanted to work in a smaller secondary school where I could really get to know all the students throughout the school. This allowed me to focus my job search when it came to applying for a full time job later on in my PGCE year. Additionally, the way the course built up my teaching hours enabled me to become confident that I could cope with a full NQT teaching timetable when I started my job.

Career development

I am looking to start a NPQML course to tackle my next challenge!


alex-boothAlex Booth


Alex takes the mentality that if you do not like being busy, then teaching is not for you! After the PGCE course, he completed an MA Education and is involved in the Geographical Association and Geography Subject Advisory Group. He had a fantastic time on the PGCE saying there were stressful moments, but these were far outnumbered by the positive experiences and breakthrough moments in the classroom. 

Looking back on the course, Alex says:

University-based academic sessions

The university days offer a much welcome opportunity to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of school life. With so much to take in and process, university-based days help to consolidate your own understanding of what and why happenings in the classroom took place, and share in a few good stories in the process.

The assessments, rather than acting as a ‘time vacuum’, genuinely foster a greater understanding towards your own teaching. They really support your teaching; you can see the benefits in the classroom. Particularly, I remember the ‘Fantastic Geographies’ assignment as a watershed moment. Designing a scheme of work from the ground up, on a topic of personal interest, really encouraged you think about reflect on your classroom teaching. Rather than just saying that ‘the scheme of work/exam specification/National Curriculum told me to teach this’, a PGCE, and its associated assessments helps you consider why choices on curriculum, pedagogy and assessment are made. 

School mentor and tutor support

When applying for my first teaching job, I found that my school mentor provided fantastic support. They were able to cast a critical eye over my letter of application, and even offered to observe my interview lesson to provide guidance prior to teaching it at the interview. When asked to think back on my lesson, and respond to associated interview questions, I found that the reflective focus of the PGCE course enabled me to better deal with this portion of the interview. I was better able to ground my responses within educational theory, which gave a greater sense of purpose to my responses. As for the university side, I remember my tutors telling us not to rush into a job. They were keen to stress that finding the right school involves a two-way fit; that the school has to fit the person, as much as the person the school. Their advice must have been sound, because I still have not left my first teaching position.  

Career development

Alongside the demands of teaching, I have taken a role in leading curriculum research for the school. Under this remit, I am aiming to promote an active teaching and learning community within the school, and most recently sourced and led an inset on Cognitive Load Theory (with a significant critical perspective). 

Outside of school, I have recently completed a masters degree in education and have, probably naively, started the PhD application process. Unsurprisingly, I enjoy writing and have been fortunate enough to be published in Teaching Geography on a couple of occasions, and am currently working on adapting my masters dissertation for publication. In order to promote geography as much as possible, I sit on the Midlands Geographical Association Committee, as well as being a member of the geography Subject Advisory Group; promoting intra-disciplinary cooperation and supporting the development of the PGCE programme.


Jinal Patel - PGCE History studentJinal Patel 

History - 2019/20

Jinal completed an MA History at the University of Nottingham before starting his teacher training. He felt the PGCE course offered him the best balance between university sessions and two contrasting school placements. Jinal secured a job in a school in the local area.


Jinal says:

Becoming a teacher

Being able to inspire and help young people discover their passion for history is something which has driven me to train as a history teacher. I think that being able to study history is incredibly important for young people for understanding and being able to be active citizens who contribute to society. Education is so important for young people and being able to provide young people from all backgrounds with the tools to help them open opportunities for themselves is incredibly rewarding. As well as that, there are few jobs or careers which give you the opportunity to keep “doing” the subject you love and continue to develop your understanding of history, it's a real perk of being in teaching. 

Choosing the University of Nottingham

Having completed my undergraduate and masters degrees at the University of Nottingham I was aware it was a university which provides their students with as much support as they need, both academically from experienced tutors in terms of student wellbeing, so I was keen to complete my PGCE here.  

I also liked the sound of the modules,  particularly the ‘Schools and Society’ module. It encouraged us, as beginning teachers, to consider the role of education and its importance in relation to wider society. Having the opportunity to complete a research project around schools and wider societal issues was something I was very interested in doing.

School placements 

My school placements provided me with an authentic experience of being a history teacher. As a student, it was not the case of being expected to teach a full-time timetable in the first weeks on placement. The amount of time spent teaching was gradually increased and towards the later stages of the second placement it meant we were teaching approximately two-thirds of a full-time timetable. Being able to observe lessons and teach allowed me to reflect on my practice and think about the parts of my practice I wanted to develop with the help of experienced teachers.  

Advice for anyone thinking of studying a teacher training course

Always remember why you want to teach, it will get you through the most difficult and stressful times. 


Annabel Plimmer - PGCE History studentAnnabel Plimmer

History - 2020/21

As a child, Annabel knew that she wanted to become a history teacher. She feels really passionate about working with young people and fostering a love of history within them and believes in its importance in helping people understand where they have come from and the world they live in. She chose to study a PGCE because she wants to make a positive difference to people’s lives.

Annabel says:

Choosing the University of Nottingham

Nottingham was the clear choice for me. Having studied at the university during my undergraduate degree, I knew that Nottingham could provide me with a high quality and academically rigorous programme. I also knew that Nottingham would provide incredible support. 

School placements 

Placements are personally selected for you by your tutor to ensure the best possible match for your professional development needs. Despite some disruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, I never felt that I was missing out as the support from both departments and mentors was truly incredible - I really felt part of the team. It’s a learning curve, but one that has undoubtedly made me a better teacher. You don’t go straight in on a full timetable, so don’t worry! Make sure to observe other teachers, both inside and outside of your department, as much as you can. This really encourages you to reflect on your own strengths as a teacher, as well as areas for improvement and development.

University-based academic sessions

The university-based sessions provide a chance to consider a broad spectrum of educational and history specific educational issues. Moreover, I loved these sessions as it was a great opportunity to meet with peers in the history cohort; we were able to discuss our experiences, challenges and – most importantly – our successes! 

As part of the course, you are introduced to a community of practice who share your goal of ensuring the best possible education for students. Subject Interest Group seminars run throughout the year, providing opportunities to meet with beginning teachers, secondary mentors, and other history colleagues. This is great for sharing knowledge, advice, and best practice. Ample other opportunities to engage with the community are seamlessly woven into the course through workshops, university-based sessions, subject knowledge enhancement groups, blogs, and whole course lectures. You will actively learn from others just as others will learn from you.

Advice for anyone thinking of studying a teacher training course

Teaching is truly a community – join #edutwitter! No question is a stupid question, so always ask away. Get organised and stay that way for an easier life. Above all, remain focussed and determined to building relationships with your PGCE peers, university tutors, mentors, and with your students.


Eleanor McHarg - PGCE Maths studentEleanor McHarg

Maths - 2019/20

During her BSc Mathematics at the University of Nottingham, Eleanor gained some experience of tutoring GCSE students online. She chose the PGCE course so she could network with maths teachers across multiple schools, and also compare placement schools when considering what kind of school she wanted to work in when qualified. Eleanor secured a job in her second placement school, with the advantage of starting in July and therefore gaining a little extra experience before the new academic year.

Eleanor says:

University-based academic sessions

On Fridays during the autumn term, we would all get together in university for academic sessions. I loved these as it gave us space to talk to each other about how the week in teaching had been. We would also learn what everyone else had taught and how they had gone about it. The academic sessions themselves were very useful as often in teaching you don’t get time to reflect on ways to improve your practise, including behaviour for learning and assessment for learning techniques. We often focused on how learning theories can improve our practise, and we would use a lot of interactive and fun activities to do this.

Tutor and mentor support

I really can’t sing the university tutors’ praises enough. They were incredibly supportive, right from the minute we set foot in university on our first day. We would hear from our tutors regularly throughout the weeks when we were in school. They were always  contactable if we had any issues or most importantly, if we wanted to share things we were proud of with regards to our teaching. 

The school-based mentors were just as great, and they work closely with the university tutors in order to best support you. The regular mentor meetings in school really helped me as it allowed me to raise any issues I had
or just discuss how the teaching had been going that week. My school-based mentor became a very good friend, and they are actually my colleague now, so it shows how important these relationships you build during the
course are.  

School placements 

A typical day on placement would be arrive and have a coffee (or a tea if you are so inclined). Then I would often teach a few lessons: one lesson would be with my mentor’s class, and the others would be with other members of the department. This gave me the opportunity to see how different teachers approach classroom methods, and I would get valuable feedback from each lesson I did. I would then have a free period or two, and a mentor meeting. In these meetings, my mentor and I would discuss how the week had gone, how particular lessons have gone, and how I was feeling.  These were really valuable as they gave me an opportunity to reflect on my teaching and how much I had learned in just a week. Then it would be home time. 

Advice for anyone thinking of studying a teacher training course

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, no matter what they are. I used to think that my questions were all silly and should be obvious to anyone training to teach, but my university tutor and school-based mentors encouraged me that this was not the case. I ended up learning heaps just from asking those “stupid” questions. 


Kimberley Fallon PGCE Modern Languages studentKimberley Fallon 

Modern Languages - 2019/20

During her English and Hispanic Studies degree in Sheffield, Kimberley took part in outreach work with local secondary schools and taught English at language academies in Spain. From her teacher training interview at the University of Nottingham, she felt she would be really supported by tutors and accepted her place on the PGCE course. Kimberley will be staying local as her new teaching job is in Nottingham.

Kimberley says:

Choosing the University of Nottingham

I was drawn to the University of Nottingham because of their reputation for excellent Initial Teacher Education, and the support available from tutors, which has been especially helpful during the Covid-19 pandemic.

School placements 

I had amazing experiences at both my teaching placements in my training year. Both departments were fantastic, and I had really supportive mentors whose help was invaluable. A typical day would involve getting to school at around 8am and checking my emails or attending any before school meetings. I would always make sure that any printing I needed to do was done the day before to avoid any last-minute scrambles for the printer. I would teach my lessons and check in with the class teacher for feedback at either break, lunch or after school. I would use my free periods to plan and print resources but also to talk to other teachers at the school, they were always really kind and supportive. After school, I would check all my resources were organised and printed for the following day and once I got home, I would plan for other upcoming lessons.

University-based academic sessions

The university-based academic sessions were great in facilitating discussions and gave us the opportunity to share our experiences and thoughts on issues we had encountered on placement and more widely in teaching and education. They also supported us in preparing for QTS tasks and masters level assignments.

Advice for anyone thinking of studying a teacher training course

Plan ahead and stay organised!


Ben Hayes - PGCE Science studentBen Hayes

Science - 2019/20

Ben started training to be a teacher following his mathematical physics degree which he also studied at the University of Nottingham. He felt the PGCE course provided him the mental space between the two placements that he needed to evaluate and be aware of strengths and weaknesses when starting his second placement. Ben has secured a teaching job in north Nottinghamshire. 

Ben says:

Becoming a teacher

My desire to teach was largely down to my love for passing on knowledge and experience – inside and outside of my subject. I love to communicate with people and discuss difficult issues (be it social or scientific.) Prior to applying for the course, I had worked briefly, programming for data acquisition with a propeller company. I loved the work and I was part of a fantastic team, however, this is where I decided that I belonged in a more interactive role.

Choosing the University of Nottingham

Having applied to other universities, I chose the University of Nottingham during my interview, as my interviewer (who later became my tutor) talked a lot about the holistic approach they take with education – something which is central to my development as a teacher.

Tutor support

The university tutors take a student-first approach and genuinely care very deeply about you. I always felt very comfortable confiding in my tutor and was treated as though no problem was too big or too small. They go above and beyond to adjust the training programme to suit your needs.

University-based academic session

The university-based sessions are in general angled towards teacher education rather than subject teacher education (though not entirely). I think this is really useful as Initial Teacher Education is about teaching foundations, not a polished end product. In science we frequently talked openly about socio scientific issues and how these impact different groups in different ways, these big questions often resulted in insightful debates with a sense of openness.  In the ‘Schools and Society’ module, we focused more on the pastoral roles that teachers and schools take. These sessions took place in different groups, which helped to widen the access of teacher experience I got during the course.


Jessica Turner - PGCE Science studentJess Turner

Science - 2019/20

Jess decided for sure she wanted to a teacher, applied and started the course all within five months. She previously took an animal science degree at the University of Nottingham and with little school experience, chose the PGCE route to gain as much university support as possible. Jess' new teaching job is in a local school which belongs to the same trust as her first placement school.

Jess says:

School placements

With regards to a typical placement day, no two were the same! You get lots of time to work independently on both university assignments and planning; something that I was worried there would be a lack of. All the teachers that I got to meet were lovely and so helpful, and very empathetic with the challenges of training to teach. You also get to take part in regular CPD sessions and other teaching requirements such as parents' evenings and open evenings; all of which were wonderful opportunities to develop in self-confidence.

University-based academic sessions

They are very involved and debate based. This helped me enormously; my self-confidence has developed considerably and I’m now a lot less shy and quiet than I was at the beginning of the course! The tutors are so supportive and encouraging, and you leave every single session having learnt so much.   

Best part of the course

If I had to choose one particular aspect, I would say the last few lessons I had with a particularly challenging year 10 class. At the start, I was petrified of them and spent many sleepless nights worrying about teaching them, but towards the end I had made such positive relationships with all of them and each lesson was a pleasure.  

Advice for anyone thinking of studying a teacher training course

Be organised! I can’t stress this enough. If you aren’t organised, the year will be much harder, as many PGCE graduates will tell you. If you can get on top of your planning and get ahead, it is 100% more enjoyable. I took so much pride in planning ahead and being able to relax at the weekends was amazing.! If you aren’t naturally organised though, don’t be put off. A lot of people on the course have developed so much in their organisation skills over the year, so it is possible.


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