School of Education

Science Student Profiles

Ben McCallaBen McCalla

PGCE Science 2016/17

Having worked in healthcare project management for a number of years, I was looking for a new challenge that would feel more meaningful on a day-to-day basis. I also love working with young people so teaching felt like a good choice.

Once I'd made that decision, I then needed to choose where to study. Nottingham was top of my list as a well-renowned institution in close proximity to home, with a well-reviewed PGCE course. I decided to train on the PCGE course because I wanted to learn how to teach on the job, but also have periodic opportunities to stop, step back and reflect on my practice. The bursary also meant that I could support my family while not employed.

I began the course very soon after our second child was born, so it was a very hectic time. However, the university tutors were very supportive and flexible, particularly during the first term, which made things much more manageable.


The part of the course that I enjoyed the most was working with the students. I really enjoy interacting with them, developing relationships and seeing them learn and develop. This certainly wasn't always easy, but working through the challenges that it brought over time and seeing the changes in them and myself was my favourite part. I also enjoyed doing this as part of a team. I was fortunate to spend the majority of my teaching practice working with a really good science department that was friendly, supportive, encouraging and experienced.

With regards to the academic aspects of the course, I really enjoyed regularly returning to university and catching up with course mates. It was great to swap stories and compare experiences, all within the context of considering the academic literature and how it applies to teaching and learning. Even though having a newborn baby meant that I couldn’t take full advantage of all the opportunities that being a student provides, it was still great having that community around me.

I have since completed the course and am enjoying a well-earned break over the summer!  I have a job secured for September in a local school, and look forward to beginning the next step on my teaching journey.


Annie O'Brien

Annie O'Brien

PGCE Science 2013/14

Why would someone choose to teach? Why would they decide against a job in research? Maybe most importantly, why would they leave behind a strong support network of friends and family, and come all the way from Mullaghbawn in South Armagh to Nottingham?

As I looked back on the best bits of my biology degree, I realised that it wasn't the scientific investigations which I enjoyed the most, but instead being able to communicate science to other people. The real magic (or science?) is the light bulb you see going off when a concept clicks in a brain for the first time. Of course, there is a lot more to it than that, which I soon came to realise.


The experience of studying social science for the first time really blew my mind. The science behind learning, which is really neuroscience coupled with psychology and animal behaviour, provided a fresh research challenge to me. Doing readings for the PGCE and then seeing theories lived out the next day in the classroom allowed me to quickly get to grips with teaching theory.

Talking about the PGCE course is not complete without mentioning the other trainee teachers. The network of support which a PGCE provides, in terms of peers with a very diverse set of strengths, is phenomenal. You don't complete the PGCE on your own, but instead work as a team to reach the finish! Don't feel like you'll ever walk alone.

Now after that encouragement, here is some advice. Sign up for all of the extra experiences along the way! These will make the course for you and, in time, your teaching CV. For me, these have included the opportunity to spend a week seeing an Ofsted 'Outstanding' special school and also being able to observe lessons by genius practitioners at my placement schools.

The whole year has been a whirlwind of new ideas, places and people. It is only now as I head to collect the timetable for my new school that I realise that I'm almost a qualified teacher! Things which I've learned include how to facilitate great lessons; how to co-operate with teaching colleagues (and parents!) and how to be critical and analytical of teaching theories.

I would recommend this course to anyone and everyone. It will develop you as a facilitator, a leader and a mentor of young people. I hope to see you soon in a Nottinghamshire school.


Victoria MundellVictoria Mundell

PGCE Science: Chemistry 2012/13

Before starting the PGCE Chemistry I was carrying out research for my PhD. I had assumed that I would go into a career in academia but the closer I got to the end of my studies the more I realised that it wasn't what I wanted. I loved supervising masters students and helping out in undergraduate labs as well as lecturing, but as a mother of two, the hours just didn't suit me and my heart wasn't in the research at all. 

I had been tutoring GCSE and A level science for seven years and really loved doing it, so I decided to turn my attention to teaching. This had in fact been my intention when I started my chemistry degree eight years ago. Luckily, I got onto the course straight away and have never regretted my decision.

University days were really fun and informative, and I particularly enjoyed the way that lecturers modelled good and bad practice and different methods for getting a class quiet. We had guest speakers from special schools and others who came to talk to use about issues that we might come up against during our careers. They got me thinking about things I had never thought about before and my opinions on the way pupils should be taught changed significantly over the course.  


My first placement started off really hectic, and I was worried I couldn't possibly plan and teach 15 lessons a week when I was spending hours planning just one. However, the course was progressive, the mentors and lecturers were supportive, and I felt so prepared for each stage of the course that I coped with everything that was thrown at me, and enjoyed it! By the time I got to my second placement I was raring to go and relished the challenges of having more classes.

I had ups and downs while I figured out what my style was, what did and didn't work, the importance of a good seating plan, and what route I was going to take for behaviour management amongst other things. There were always people around to bounce ideas off and the PGCE students formed a supportive community that I was always able to turn to for support and advice. We often helped each other with ideas and shared good resources. 

At the end of the whole course I can honestly say it has been one of the busiest but most enjoyable experiences of my life and despite the political upheaval I know that I have picked the best job in the world.   

I got my first teaching job early on in the course, in February, at Toot Hill; an outstanding school in the top 2% in the country. I feel very lucky and know that the support the University has given me in everything from developing my confidence to writing a covering letter has greatly contributed to my being able to get this job.



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