Kai Smith

Kai is studying a PGCE Secondary in History, following an undergraduate degree in History. Here he shares his experience studying at The University of Manchester.

On choosing my PGCE at Manchester

Kai Smith

As well as Manchester’s international reputation as a University, it has so much going for it in terms of culture and diversity. Once I’d been given my offers for PGCE providers, the choice was easy! I’ve loved every minute and the student experience has been nothing short of brilliant. Support from University tutors and school-based mentors has been amazing.

On my PGCE experience so far

I spent around 50 days in person at the University doing the subject specific training – and loved this element as it was great to connect with a group of other trainees doing the same thing. Around 140 days were spent on placement in 2 different schools. Placement was also a massively positive experience and learned so much in contrasting, but equally enjoyable settings. The year started and ends at the same school, with a contrasting placement in between.

My subject mentors in both schools were great. They were super supportive and helped me develop my teaching in so many ways. They both had loads of wisdom and advice on pedagogy, behaviour management, and navigating issues like workload and marking. My Uni tutor Tom was incredible – always there at the end of the phone when I needed him and basically a rock throughout. Having an experienced former teacher as tutor was great too – he had so many suggestions for teaching approaches and strategies, and feedback from observations was really helpful in developing my History teaching.

On my highlight so far

That would have to be securing my first teaching post towards the end of the year…..the reason I did the course and such a great moment. I’m taking time out over the summer before starting my post and getting my ECT year underway in September.

I’ve obviously got lot to learn still but I feel so much more confident because of the training I received at Uni and on placement – I’ve got loads of ideas to try out and can’t wait to get started.

On the most challenging parts of my training

The year has its ups and downs, and there are points at which you’re busier than others, but the great thing is that you’ve always got fellow trainees, your tutor, and friends you’ve made on placement to get you through. Lots of the stuff I stressed about before the course started [like subject knowledge and behaviour management] ended up being learned on placement and was actually kind of fun to do.

On my student experience and living in Manchester

My student experience has been amazing. Loved it from start to finish and would recommend without hesitation. Everything was geared towards becoming a better History teacher, but University was never stressful – the environment was totally supportive and University days were a pleasure. The balance between theory and practice was great, and support with academic assignments was also excellent.

In the words of a famous local musician ‘Manchester’s got everything except a beach’! I loved the energy and diversity of the city and the campus. The range of different types of schools and settings is unique to Manchester – I felt like I had a really broad experience.

My advice for future trainees

My advice would be to work closely alongside your fellow trainees and support one another, on personal and professional level. The best schools seem to run well because staff collaborate and work for one another, and I think the same applies to University. Peer support works on so many levels.

I was so surprised by my training year, from the Uni experience to placements, and so many of the things I worried about didn’t end up being issues! The support was fantastic and even when things got tricky the support was there.

The best thing about doing a University based PGCE course has to be the amount of time you get doing subject specific training, and the opportunity to work with and learn from peers.

Teaching gets negative coverage in a lot of media. Don’t buy into it. It’s been a joyful, interesting, challenging and ultimately really satisfying year.