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    A postgraduate qualification in Education.

Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)

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Made up of
60 credits


The PGCE (in all nations and all subject areas offered) will be presented for the final time in May 2014 and applications are therefore no longer being accepted for places on the PGCE directly with The Open University. 

We continue to offer School Direct places for 2014/2015 with the following schools:

Barnfield West Academy (Luton, Bedfordshire)
Chellaston Academy (Derby)
Comberton Village College (Comberton, Cambridge)
Skipton Girls High School (Skipton, West Yorkshire)
The Earls High School (Halesowen, West Midlands)
Two Mile Ash/Hazeley Academy (Milton Keynes)

Applications for these places should be made directly through the UCAS Teacher Training system, by searching for the school name at: UCAS search and apply

The following information describes the PGCE as it is offered to School Direct students.

The OU PGCE – graded ‘outstanding’ in recent inspections – will normally be completed by School Direct students as a 1-year full-time course. You’ll study the theory of teaching and learning through supported open learning, which you’ll apply in practice during sustained periods of teaching in schools within the Lead School or Academy's alliance.

We offer the following PGCE subjects at secondary level:

  • design and technology (with options in food; textiles; resistant materials; systems and control)
  • geography
  • mathematics
  • modern foreign languages (French, German and Spanish)
  • music
  • science (biology, chemistry or physics).

Please check the UCAS-TT website to find out which subjects are available in which of our partner School Direct schools.

Planning your studies

The full PGCE training programme is a progression through three levels. Each level consists of school experience, supported by web-based, print and audio-visual study materials. You will spend up to 120 hours of study time in preparation for each school experience, and will submit an assessment portfolio at the end of the level that draws on your school experience and study.

The three levels are:

  • Familiarisation, including a five-week secondary school placement, focused on working in school with individuals and small groups of children, teaching sections and single lessons.
  • Consolidation, including seven weeks in a different partner secondary school and one week in a linked primary school. In the secondary school you will focus on closely supported teaching of whole classes and sequences of lessons.
  • Autonomy, including ten weeks in your original partner school, which will comprise solo, supported teaching of whole classes, in extended sequences of lessons.

You will also complete five days additional experience in an educational context (for example, a Field Study Centre; as a community musician; a sixth form college and so on).

You may be able to claim exemption from level 1 or levels 1 and 2, depending on your previous experience gained through employment in educational establishments. Thus, a Route 1 student will complete all three levels; a Route 2 student, only Levels 2 and 3; and a Route 3 student, only Level 3. Full guidance on claiming exemption can be found in the route exemption guidance document.

Course structure

The OU PGCE will help you to challenge your own preconceptions and develop as an informed and reflective teacher. Our aim is to ensure that – by the end of the course – you can teach your subject confidently and successfully, by developing your skills as a problem solver, and by encouraging you to explore theoretical ideas and apply them to the practicalities of the classroom.

In each subject, the course is centered around the following strands:

  • developing subject knowledge
  • your subject, schools and the wider context
  • understanding pupil learning
  • planning and evaluation for teaching and learning
  • classroom strategies for teaching and learning
  • assessment, recording and reporting
  • the wider professional role.

You will be supported throughout by an individual tutor, and by a school-based mentor during your placements. Your tutor will take the lead in training, supporting and assessing you through the open-learning dimensions of the course, and will be responsible for monitoring your progress across the course. Your mentor will work with you to develop your professional knowledge, understanding and teaching skills in line with your individual training plan.

Initially, you will complete web-based audits and devise your plan. Then you will follow the study pattern indicated in the plan.

During the course there will be 2 Open University-run day schools, where you’ll have the opportunity to meet and work with other students in your subject area.

Entry requirements

Please be aware that there are a number of entry requirements. These may change as a result of government decisions, but at present you must:

  • be resident in England.
  • have a degree from a UK university or an equivalent qualification that is clearly and substantially relevant to one of the six secondary PGCE subjects. This means that at least half and preferably two-thirds of your degree (at least 180 credits) should comprise studies relevant to the subject you intend to teach.
  • have a GCSE grade A–C (or equivalent), in English language and in mathematics.
  • show evidence in your application and at interview that you can communicate clearly and grammatically in written and spoken standard English.
  • demonstrate at interview specific knowledge or skills related to the teaching of the subject.

If you are applying for a place in modern foreign languages, please note that we will accept applications from those who can only offer French, but those offering Spanish or German as their main language must also be able to offer French (at a lower level).

Career relevance and employability

The Postgraduate Certificate in Education is a programme of initial teacher education (ITE) that complies with relevant nation-state requirements. It leads directly to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) conferred by the Department for Education in England. 

This PGCE course equips you with the skills, knowledge and understanding to become an effective secondary school teacher. It fosters a reflective approach to classroom teaching – bringing together learning from academic study with the practice learning that takes place during school placements; enabling you to establish links and relationships between them; and encouraging you to reflect on how they shape your learning and professional development.

If you live in England, and are considering whether a career in teaching is for you, the Department for Education’s School Experience Programme (SEP) offers 1 to 10 days’ classroom experience in a secondary school. For details, please check:

Learning outcomes

The learning outcomes of this qualification are described in four areas:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Cognitive skills
  • Practical and professional skills
  • Key skills

Read more detailed information about the learning outcomes, and how they are acquired through teaching, learning and assessment methods.

Credit for previous study elsewhere

For this qualification, we do not allow you to count credit for study you have already done elsewhere.

On completion

Most students will complete the PGCE with 60 credits at masters-level, awarded as the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (K20). It is also possible for students to complete the PGCE with 120 credits at undergraduate level, awarded as the Professional Graduate Certificate in Education (S16).

In either case, you will also be recommended for the award of Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) conferred by the Department for Education in England. You will also be entitled to use the letters PGCE (Open) after your name.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the following regulations:

These regulations are also available on our Essential Documents website.

Fees and financial support

For details of fees and information on financial support, training grants and bursaries, please click here. Alternatively, please contact the ITE Support Centre on 01908 652564 or email