Breaking Down the Application | Initial Teacher Training

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I got away from blogging during December to focus on my PGCE application. I’m determined as ever to chronicle the process, but when you find yourself writing more about the application than applying, there’s a problem. You can read all about that, as well as the recent changes made to my blog, here. In the meantime, heed my warning: put the application first, then create all the content you like about it when you’re done. If not, you might find yourself missing out on the course providers you so desperately wanted to study with.

Before you read this Hardly Teaching update, have you caught up on my preamble? What about the advice I offered on picking the perfect pathway to QTS?

First thoughts: why should you bother reading about what a PGCE application looks like? Chances are, you’ve probably already gone through UCAS for an undergrad degree, so you’re an expert, right? Wrong. With no visible deadlines in sight (compared to undergrad applications, which close in just four days), you need a hearty amount of self-motivation and know-how to get everything in on-time. That also means knowing which sections of the application to prioritise, as some need more time spent on them than others.

With that in mind, here’s the order in which your PGCE application should be tackled



UCAS won’t let you get in touch with references using their systems until the rest of your application is done and dusted, but that won’t stop you from circumventing them. Referees typically take too long to write references due to their own commitments (who’d have thought working full-time and caring for a family would be difficult?), so if you wait to contact them until your application is good to go, it could be too late. Your ideal Uni could be full.

Work experience

Institutions won’t want intimate details on your part-time job. Your shelf-stacking skills won’t go very far here – unless you can explain how these skills apply to classroom management. How have your interactions with customers at work built a strong basis for interacting with kids? Complete this section before your personal statement to get you in the writing mood. I cannot reiterate enough how many times I suffered writer’s block because I started with the personal statement. If you begin by noting your experience, it’ll set you in the right frame of mind for bringing out your inner ego in the subsequent section.

The Personal Statement

Do not underestimate the personal statement. If you thought it would take a while to write, then be prepared to spend even longer editing it down to the coveted 4,000-character and 47-line benchmark. You should start writing this – even if only in note-form – as soon as the previous sections are complete. Don’t convince yourself that a good one can be knocked-up in a day.

When writing, remember to think about how your experiences in life and teaching environments (this could be time spent volunteering in schools, during seminars at Uni or when enjoying hobbies) have influenced your understanding of what it means to be a good teacher. Critically analysing your skills are a very important part of the personal statement.

Choosing Choices

Try as you might, you can’t put this off forever. Sooner or later, the time will come when you must pick up to three institutions that you’ll be happy with spending the next year at studying. Spend time researching the universities, while thinking about what’s important to you. Do you mind travelling way up north? Would you rather remain closer to home? How much time would you rather in placement?

I recommend going for the Uni of your dreams, one you’d be happy with, and one in your home town. That might not actually be so bad; you’d save an absolute fortune on rent.


The simplest step, but perhaps also the longest due to the amount of time you’ll be spending in the loft hunting down exam certificates. There’s no scanning and uploading required, but this section is straight-up tedious. It asks for the results, exam board and date sat for all your GCSE and A-Level exams.

Get ready to spend hours at your laptop correcting tiny mistakes – including, but not limited to:

  • Incorrect exam board
  • Correct exam board but wrong exam-type
  • Incorrect grade-type (turns out AS levels are called ‘advanced subsidiary levels’. Who knew?)

That’s the gist of the application process. Join me over the next 8 weeks as I talk in detail about nailing these stages.

Next week, I’ll be coaching you through any PGCE’s most important first step: picking the right referees. Before then, I’ll catch you all on Monday for a look back at my 2018, at 5PM GMT. Read them the minute they go live by subscribing to my socials all over the web:

Don’t forget to follow me on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest to know whenever a post goes live. You can read them an hour and a half early by subscribing to my email updates via WordPress.


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