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10 Ways to Handle PGCE Stress


Kiesha is a consultant in our Uxbridge office. Like many of us, she has friends who are teachers, particularly NQTs, and she has been concerned about the challenges and stresses they have expressed. Kiesha is also concerned about how this impacts the teachers she works with at Protocol Education on a daily basis and for future positions. 

‘I have never experienced stress, tiredness and a workload as extreme as a PGCE year. Is it Easter yet?’ Debbie, Facebook, Dec 2014

After completing my first few terms as a Protocol Education consultant, I caught up with a friend studying her PGCE year. Her Facebook status would indicate it was not all fun and games! So if I am to be placing NQTs for September, I wanted to know all about the PGCE experience; the challenges, the rewards and how to stay motivated to ensure you get that all important qualification to embark on a fulfilling career as a teacher.

‘The biggest stress in the workload’ I was told.

As a student teacher working in your placement school, you are tasked with the workload of a teacher. This includes planning and delivering lessons (in which you are observed and assessed), marking students work, managing behaviour, attending meetings, the list goes on.

On top of this, you have uni work to complete. Daily reports and self evaluation which can take up to 3 hours each evening on top of your working day.

It is balancing these two workloads that is often difficult and can cause great stress, sleep deprivation and if not managed properly can result in a backlog of work which becomes intimidating and more daunting than it needs to be.

With your training involving a mixture of lectures at University and practical experience in your placement school, it is easy for communication issues to arise. You may feel that your school expect one thing while your Lecturer expects another and this too can be stressful if you are uncertain of the details of your task or your deadline.

And lastly, a stress that is not limited to the PGCE student but shared by students countrywide; a stress that I myself experienced when studying for my degree. You guessed it – financial stress.

No matter how careful you are (especially with constant spending on resources, travel not to mention Mother’s Day gifts and Easter eggs!) you will always be tight for money. This means you will worry about money. You will probably stress and panic and maybe even get upset about your financial situation and don’t even mention the debt you have looming over you.

So what can you do to deal with these stresses? Debbie helped me compile a list of stress combating tips for all those studying or thinking of studying for their PGCE.

  1. Get into a routine – if you are organised and consistent in completing your work, you are less likely to put it off and end up with a backlog of incomplete tasks.
  2. Prioritise – give yourself to-do-list which is achievable in the time you have, anything else needs to be completed another time, so decide what tasks are most urgent.
  3. Make friends on the course – being able to share your ups and downs with someone who is going through the same thing as you can be great and you can also share your thoughts on the work and advise each other on deadlines. If your placement schools are close together or even the same school you could car share and save money on petrol.
  4. Do not be overly critical – you are not going to walk into your first placement and be at the standard that you want to be in by the end, you are there to learn
  5. Use your mentor – they have been where you are and have come out the other side! Don’t be afraid to ask questions, they are there to help you.
  6. Get to know the staff – in the instance that your mentor can’t help, it is useful to know who can. Get to know the Safeguarding Officer and the Subject Leaders so you know where to direct your questions.
  7. Give yourself a break – maintain some sort of social life, interact with friends who are not on the course, go home for a weekend if you are studying away from home. Just make sure you take time to switch off from your studies.
  8. Enjoy it – no matter how stressful your day, often a student will say something or write something or grasp something that they were having trouble getting their head around, and you will remember why you are there. Enjoy these moments.
  9. Remember the rewards – once you are qualified, you have a rewarding and fruitful career in Education ahead of you. You will teach and inspire your own classes. You will finally be financially stable with the potential to progress into more senior roles.
  10. And of course, you will enjoy 6 long weeks of holiday every summer.

Are you studying or thinking of studying for your PGCE? Protocol Education has a number of opportunities for NQTs. If you work in the Uxbridge area you can contact Kiesha by calling 01895 451 960 or by email or for anywhere else see our contact page 

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