School Based Experience

School based experience plays a large role in our Initial Teacher Education programmes, and it is vital that you have some classroom experience so you have an insight into the commitment and resilience required to become an effective teacher. We want you to make an informed decision about the programme, and this experience will demonstrate not only that, but also your commitment to and enthusiasm for the programme and teaching as a career. It also ensures that you are familiar with the contemporary approaches to teaching and learning within the UK.


You need to complete a minimum of 20 days classroom based experience for the undergraduate Primary Education programmes or a minimum of 10 days for the postgraduate PGCE primary and PGCE secondary programmes. These need to be in a relevant school setting where the National Curriculum is being followed and ideally have been done within the last 12 months. This experience should be completed before you submit your application and will be taken into account when assessing your application for interview.

Appropriate experience settings

  • UK state funded primary school
  • UK state funded secondary school

Remember that you may be able to draw upon experience gained on previous courses, such as BTECs, CACHEs or NVQ qualifications.

Having your own children or babysitting does not contribute towards the experience required.

What should I be doing on my work experience?

  • Work out a timetable, with the teacher who is supporting your placement, to ensure that everything you observe/do in the school has been agreed to
  • Ensure you adhere to school policies and procedures, like signing in/out at the reception each day.
  • Be as fully involved as possible with pupils, teachers and support staff
  • Be keen, enthusiastic and a willing pair of hands to help in all aspects of school life
  • Contribute towards the school’s extra-curricular activities
  • Find out about the organisation of school life
  • Help to develop teaching resources, displays or computer based materials where appropriate
  • Try to spend time in more than one class, different academic years and different National Curriculum subjects
  • Observe how lessons are taught to pupils of different abilities
  • Support classroom work and teach/tutor individuals or small groups of pupils
  • Observe the staff in the school and ask them about how and why they do things
  • Talk with the pupils to find out what they think and feel

Suggested guidelines specific to gaining experience in a secondary school

for PGCE secondary applicants:

  • Ensure you observe/spend time in a variety of classes that cover both Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 (if the school has a 6th form try and do some observation there too)
  • Make sure that you observe other subjects as well as your own specialist subject
  • Look at a range of schemes of work, lesson plans and resources for your subject area
  • Talk to a range of staff in the school about their roles, for example, classroom teachers, subject leaders, pastoral leaders, teaching assistants, SENCO. However, please remember that they are busy people and ask them for a time it might be more appropriate to meet/talk
  • Talk with pupils across the different key stages about their work and the progress they are making
  • Look at how data is used in school to support pupil progress if possible
  • If appropriate become involved with wider aspects of the school, for example, accompany staff on break duties, support with after school clubs
  • Try to look at a range of school policies, for example, on rewards and sanctions, teaching and learning
  • Keep notes, especially of resources, activities and strategies which work well

Other helpful experience

Whilst other types of experience will be taken into account and will strengthen your application, it is not a substitute for the classroom based experience. Additional types of experience that we look for can include:

  • Overseas teaching
  • Voluntary/community groups working with children and young people
  • Youth work
  • After school clubs and groups
  • Supporting or working with younger pupils within your school/college
  • Peer mentoring schemes
  • Scouts or Brownies
  • Childminding

Further advice

  • Reflect upon what you do and observe, considering both positive and negative aspects, and discuss this in your personal statement
  • Try to gain experience in different schools so you that can draw upon the different approaches they take
  • Make sure you have an understanding of the UK educational system and the issues/policies surrounding it
  • Keep a daily log/journal, make notes of materials, activities and strategies which work well and any key questions to pursue
  • Put yourself in the teacher’s shoes – what skills and qualities do you have that make you think you are suited to the role?
  • School experience dates and durations should be in the relevant space on the application form or in your personal statement
  • Additional experience of working with children and young people (e.g. teaching abroad, sports coaching or playwork) should be included in your personal statement