The University of Sheffield has provided courses in initial teacher education for over 50 years. The PGDE course prepares student teachers to teach across the 11-19 age range in: English, Geography, History, Mathematics, Languages and the Sciences. The School of Education has a strong national and international research profile. Photo of PGDE student1

The Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) carried out a full inspection of the department’s secondary ITE course in 2011. The grades awarded confirmed the consistent high quality of all aspects of the ITE courses, across all subjects.



The University of Sheffield PGDE English course is a research-led, reflective and exciting course presenting a balanced approach to language and literacy development. It thoroughly prepares student teachers for working with the Key Stage 3 and 4 National Curriculum and post-16 English provision, nurturing critical inquiry. Student teachers are encouraged to respond critically and creatively to curricular and other legislation.

The overall aim of the course is not only to be as practical as possible in providing for the needs of the beginning teacher, but also to encourage critical reflection which will enable teachers to develop their own rationale for English in school.

Fiction, drama, poetry, media and cultural studies, as well as elements of language study, are all given an important place on the course. There is an emphasis on academic reading and critical enquiry, as well as upon practical experience in the classroom; students frequently share the benefits of their experiences and research with their peers in both formal and informal situations.

Course overview

University-based sessions are practical and workshop based, allowing opportunities to try out teaching ideas. The emphasis of early work on the course is on enabling student teachers to cope with all the aspects of English which they will meet on their first School Experience. Student teachers will be asked to study children´s fiction, poetry and Shakespeare in order to discuss ways of presenting them in class and to read children´s writing in order to decide how to respond to it positively. Student teachers will also be guided in how to plan and present lessons, to set work and assess it, and will be shown how to organise and manage small-group learning. There will be additional workshops on A level teaching, drama and media education.

A close relationship is maintained with the English Departments of the University Partnership schools. Each student teacher will be placed in two of these schools, one on each School Experience. There is close consultation between the PGDE tutor and the English mentor in the schools concerned on existing and changing patterns of English teaching.

What are we looking for?

We are generally looking for students whose degrees are predominantly English based, either in Language or Literature. Where student teachers have a degree in Linguistics or Language, we like them to be able to demonstrate that they have read widely and with enjoyment across a range of literature types including Shakespeare. Even where student teachers' degrees have not covered the full spectrum of literature, a willingness to engage with the canon of English literature is very important. Moreover, knowledge of English Language or linguistics is highly desirable, but not essential, for those who have taken Literature degrees. We also, however, take student teachers with other related degree qualifications (such as in Law or in Journalism), but we are careful to find evidence within the degrees taken, or in students’ further studies, of a strong engagement with literature and/or language related work.

Alternative entry

If a candidate wants to undertake an English PGDE without a language or literature degree, we often encourage them to study for language or literature modules with the Open University or equivalent. These do not have to have been completed before application, but assurance will be sought that plans are in place to complete before the start of the course in September. Completion of a Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) course may also be a condition of an offer of a place on the course.

Candidates with non-standard qualifications are encouraged to apply. Documentary evidence will need to be provided for those who are offered a place in order to ascertain their equivalence. Help with non-UK qualifications can be found here

Open University English Courses
Information on non-UK and non-standard qualifications



Geography is an important and dynamic subject and has an important role in educating young people to live successfully in a diverse society and a changing world. This course will help you to develop teaching strategies and skills so that you can use your enthusiasm to interest and motivate pupils. It is important to make learning enjoyable and to inform and hopefully inspire those you teach.

Sheffield offers excellent opportunities for Geography PGDE student teachers. The Geography PGDE course is regarded very highly both locally and nationally. The course is planned to promote teaching as a research-based profession in which critical understanding is developed alongside practical competence. Alongside this, several of the schools supporting Geography student teachers have been in the forefront of geographical education in this country for many years, and many are involved in innovative approaches to education.

"It was not until I was sat in my first interview that I realised how good the Sheffield PGDE Geography course is. The range of activities such as the Malham field trip, writing a scheme of work, producing displays, the A level marking day by Edexcel chief examiner and PSHE training to name but a few set us apart from other PGDE candidates. We have been snapped up fast by schools in Sheffield and beyond. It has been a fantastic year, and we are all looking forward to an enjoyable career in teaching."


Course overview

The Geography curriculum course aims to develop student teachers´ confidence to enable them to teach in a wide variety of situations. In some university-based sessions the emphasis is on developing strategies for whole class teaching. In other sessions alternative teaching and learning strategies are introduced including the use of group work, simulation games and role-play exercises. There is emphasis in the course on pupils´ active engagement in the learning of Geography and reference to the needs of pupils aged 11-19 at all levels of attainment. The course takes into account the requirements of examination specifications at GCSE and A Level and the Geography National Curriculum, and enables student teachers to develop a critical understanding of recent developments. The theoretical foundations which underlie approaches to teaching and learning are considered, particularly with regard to how these relate to Geography teaching in schools.

The use and application of digital technology is a major feature of the work of teachers and there will be opportunities for student teachers to gain practical experience in this area.The course will also help student teachers to develop expertise in fieldwork activities and working with pupils outside the classroom. All students will have the opportunity to attend a weekend course at Cranedale Field Studies centre in Yorkshire to find out more about teaching Geography in the field. Some student teachers will also have the opportunity to participate in field trips organised by schools.

Geographically, Sheffield and its surroundings provide an interesting area for local studies and field-work. The border of the Peak District National Park is within five miles of the University of Sheffield and the towns and cities of South Yorkshire provide good examples of urban renewal and redevelopment. Furthermore, the national headquarters of the Geographical Association (GA) is in Sheffield and students are expected to become active members of the GA.

What are we looking for?

We are looking to recruit student teachers with a Geography degree or a joint degree where Geography is at least 50%. This is an academic course and we look at degree classification and also take into account A-level grades. It is essential for applicants to have a real enthusiasm for Geography and some experience of working with young people in the 11-19 age group. We expect applicants to have spent time in a secondary school either working, volunteering or as a visitor and to have spent some time with the Geography department if possible. We look favourably on people who have taken the opportunity to travel either before University or after graduating.



History is a school subject with a significant role in educating young people to become well informed and active participants in a diverse society. The PGDE course will enable you to develop teaching strategies and skills so that you can use your knowledge and enthusiasm for history to engage and motivate secondary school pupils.

The University of Sheffield offers excellent opportunities for History PGDE student teachers. The aim of the course is to prepare newly qualified History teachers who have a passionate commitment to the subject and are able to teach it confidently and creatively to 11-19 year olds. Student teachers will be expected to collaborate with others on the course by reflecting openly and thoughtfully about all aspects of professional development as a history teacher.

The teaching of PGDE History is shared between the University and a number of partnership schools. School-based history teachers act as subject mentors to students on placement, play a full part in the recruitment process and contribute to the university-based course. We see no divide between theory and practice. Our work in the University is intensely practical and your practice in school must be thoughtful and reflective. Student teachers will belong to a History subject group supported by university subject tutors with years of experience in teaching History in secondary schools. There will also be an opportunity to participate in a range of externally provided training including  ‘Teaching the Holocaust’.

This is not a lecture-based course. Student teachers will attend university subject sessions covering the History school curriculum; assessment and the ways children learn; the teaching of important historical skills and concepts like causation, historical significance and chronology. Student teachers will consider how to manage a classroom successfully and how to engage pupils of different ages and abilities in the learning of history. The emphasis is on a collaborative, seminar style of learning.

This is a demanding course, which asks for both intellectual rigour and an array of personal qualities and skills. Our fundamental principle is analytical practice in order to create reflective professionals. The use and application of digital technologies is a feature of the work of teachers and there will be opportunities for student teachers to gain practical experience in this area, as well as in various forms of History fieldwork which are used to provide experience in planning and organising school history visits.

What are we looking for?

This is an academic course and we look at degree classification as well as A-level grades in History. Most applicants will have a single honours History degree, although applicants with related specialisms will be considered. Trainee History teachers need to be able to enhance their subject knowledge in order to teach the secondary school curriculum up to GCSE and A level. Other important personal qualities we look for in candidates are enthusiasm, energy, determination and resilience, as well as strong inter-personal and communication skills. Applicants should have recent experience of working with young people in the 11-19 age group. Time spent in the History secondary classroom through employment or as volunteers would be valuable as evidence of subject and professional commitment



Mathematics is an exciting and interesting subject. This course seeks to help you share your enthusiasm with your pupils and to develop teaching strategies and skills, which will empower the pupils to generate their own interest and motivation. At the centre of all of our work is the need to make learning mathematics an enjoyable and a positive experience, which produces confident and competent young people.

Mathematics teaching is constantly developing, and the way you learnt in school may not necessarily be the way you end up choosing to teach. The use and application of digital technologies is a feature of the work of teachers and there will be opportunities for student teachers to gain practical experience in this area. There is an expectation that mathematics teachers should deal with the issue of literacy, and matters of numeracy should reflect contexts that are real.

We see no divide between theory and practice. Our work in the University is intensely practical and your practice in school must be thoughtful and reflective. The course is designed so that you become aware of the theoretical foundations on which the teaching and learning of school mathematics rests. In order to do so, the Mathematics PGDE course is organised around four themes:

Teaching and Learning
Mathematics Subject Knowledge
Digital technologies in Mathematics
Issues in Mathematics Education

"One of the outstanding features of the course is the support that you receive from both the staff in the education department and your colleagues on the course. Not once in the entire year did I feel that there was no-one I could go to in order to talk things through."

Mathematics Student Teacher

Course overview

In the university-based part of the course, seminars and practical workshops form the main teaching approaches. These sessions are arranged so that student teachers are actively involved in their own learning, for example through leading seminars and presenting to their peers. In addition, we work closely with local schools and where possible involve mathematics teachers and departments in supporting our work. We regularly visit schools, and teachers also lead some university-based sessions, in order to ensure that our course is fully up-to-date with current school issues.

Your university tutors will support you in enhancing your own subject knowledge. Additionally, they will help you in developing your skills in using digital technology in teaching Mathematics. They will also support you in your completion of written assessments, and more generally in terms of coping with the demands of the course.

What are we looking for?

You will need a degree in mathematics or have at least 50% of your degree in mathematics. If your degree has less than 50% mathematics, we might still accept you, subject to your undertaking of a mathematics enhancement course. As this is an 11-19 course we are also preparing students to teach up to A-level and we will normally take into account the balance of your degree classification and your profile of A-level results.

We expect applicants to have spent time in a secondary school in the United Kingdom either working, volunteering or as a visitor and to have spent some time with the Mathematics department in particular.



Languages teachers need to be enthusiastic, resourceful, innovative and imaginative in order to create an exciting environment for language learning. They need to respond to a wide range of needs and motivations, building learners´ confidence and enabling them to enjoy the experience of learning about other cultures.

The PGDE Languages course is designed to enable its student teachers to respond to this challenge. It also takes account of the local and national policy contexts, encouraging an awareness of the many opportunities which exist to support language teaching and learning.

Our aim is to train teachers who are reflective practitioners, and the academic masters-level work on the course fosters a deeper understanding and critical stance in relation to language pedagogy and teaching and learning in secondary schools.

Course Overview

My PGDE at Sheffield has stood me in fantastic stead for my first job. The level of tutoring and help you get is very high and you learn a huge amount about the classroom and education in general. Placements are hard work but well worth it as they prepare for the reality of a tough but hugely rewarding career. The work you do in language sessions gives you some great ideas and really helps you understand the thinking behind teaching. Tutors and students are really friendly and everyone helps each other out.

Simon R, Languages student teacher

Applicants will specialize in two languages from French, German and Spanish and it is common for applicants to have a main and support language. The main language is the language you studied at degree level in conjunction with a sustained period abroad in the target language country; this is the language you will teach on the course to A-Level. The support language may be a language you took to A-Level yourself and it will provide the basis for you to teach to at least KS3.

Alongside this and subject to school availability, it may be possible to offer very limited places for Japanese, Chinese, Russian or Urdu plus one other language from French, German or Spanish. Please contact the course coordinator before applying.

The Languages element of the PGDE is designed to give student teachers the confidence and skills they will need as beginning teachers in secondary schools. The course brings together theory, practice and research, to explore methods and strategies appropriate to the range of teaching situations likely to be met in an all-ability school. The importance of using the language for genuine communication is underlined, and we believe that language learning should be stimulating and relevant.

University tutors work closely with partnership schools to ensure that student teachers can observe experienced teachers, develop their own teaching styles and arrive at a greater understanding of how children learn languages. In addition to periods of block school experience, other school visits are organised and student teachers can also take part in the activities of The Association for Language Learning (ALL).

What are we looking for?

It's been a tough year, but also very rewarding. I have lots of friends doing PGCE courses all around the UK, and I can tell you that the support I received at Sheffield made all the difference to me.

Emma M, Languages student teacher

Most applicants will have studied one or both languages as a major part of their degree and we expect a total of at least three months´ residence in an appropriate country. Native speakers may have a degree in another subject. They will, however, need to demonstrate an adequate level of spoken and written English. Applicants will also need relevant experience of at least 3-5 days in a British secondary school before interview.



It’s been the fastest nine months of my life! They say time flies when you’re having fun. This course has been just that: fun, fascinating and exhilarating. I started the course unsure if I could make it to the end, or whether I would be a good teacher. I now feel confident and excited, and can’t wait to start my first job in September. I’m going to really miss being on this course!

Dannii Fox, Balanced Science PGCE

The PGDE in science is offered in the following ways:

Science with Biology
Science with Chemistry
Science with Physics
Physics with Mathematics

Course Overview

All science courses aim to prepare newly qualified science teachers who have a passionate commitment to the subject and are able to teach it confidently and creatively to 11-19 year olds.

The Science with Biology, Chemistry or Physics courses are designed to prepare student teachers to teach Balanced Science in the National Curriculum at Key Stage 3, and in their specialist subject at Key Stage 4 and post-16 courses. The Physics with Mathematics course is designed to prepare student teachers to teach Physics at Key Stage 4 and post -16 and Mathematics at Key Stage 3 and 4.

The University teaching team has extensive science teaching experience across the science curriculum. School teachers participate in recruitment, planning the course and, where appropriate, leading seminars. Early in the course student teachers are introduced to a range of schemes and strategies currently in use in secondary science teaching. Student teachers will prepare and demonstrate practical work of the kind undertaken by pupils and be encouraged to think about the implications for classroom management and organisation. A range of teaching approaches will be explored. Other important aspects of work, at this stage in the course, are lesson planning, laboratory safety and first aid issues for science teachers.

The Science PGCE course has been the best thing I’ve ever done! The Science tutors are always full of encouragement and support. It is consistently hard work but because it is all so interesting I have strangely enjoyed every minute of it! I look back with a great sense of achievement and will miss the moral support of the course leaders and fellow students as I head into my NQT year! My thanks to the University for creating such a fabulous course – I have learnt so much and feel ready for the next step in my career.

Fiona Lock, PGCE Science Student Teacher

Each student´s subject knowledge will be assessed diagnostically in order to arrange appropriate support through University taught sessions that are designed to enhance their subject knowledge together with their pedagogic content knowledge. This work is complemented by sessions to support student teacher's subject specialisms at KS3, 4 and post 16. Physics with Mathematics student teachers will work principally with fellow science student teachers, but will have sessions based with Mathematics PGDE students as well. In all University-based sessions student teachers are expected to be active participants.

After Christmas there will be an opportunity to revisit key issues. There is scope for University tutors and students to negotiate learning priorities in the light of students´ recent School Experience before they undertake their second school placement. Recent policy developments are addressed and there is scope for further subject enhancement in Earth science, astronomy and the teaching and learning of science outdoors.

In addition, PGDE Science coursework also prepares student teachers for cross-curricular themes and issues, including:

Equitable approaches in science education
Use of diagnostic teaching methods
Additionally for Physics with Mathematics students the issues concerned with teaching in two subject areas and the relationship between Physics and Mathematics
Coursework is practically oriented and closely related to teaching and learning.

What are we looking for?

It is usual to have a first degree which had at least half of its content in your science specialist subject (Biology, Chemistry or Physics). We do accept graduates of other science related disciplines, such as Engineering, Earth science, Materials Science, Clinical disciplines and Psychology and in such cases tutors can advise whether a subject knowledge enhancement course would be necessary prior to commencement of the course. Physics with Mathematics applicants would usually be expected to have a Physics, Mathematics or Engineering based degree, along with an A level in Physics. All PGDE science student teachers, irrespective of degree subject, have curriculum `gaps´ to fill during the course. Because of this, a capacity for disciplined self-study is a characteristic of student teachers who do well. Other key personal characteristics are curiosity, perseverance and organisation. If you are a graduate with these qualities in abundance you should thrive on the course!

Applicants will also need relevant experience of at least 3-5 days in a British secondary school before interview.

Sheffield´s PGCE has prepared me fantastically for my first job as a teacher. The year has flown by and I have so many happy memories, I just wish I could do it all again because I've enjoyed it so much. I have been supported and stretched the whole way through allowing me to reach my full potential. I feel confident and secure that I have a firm basis to begin a long, happy and successful career.

Claire Bouch, Balanced Science PGCE