What to expect from your PGCE - the mentor's perspective

A student teacher and teaching assistant in class

The mentor's role is to guide trainee teachers' progress towards their goal of achieving Qualified Teaching Status (QTS) and ultimately becoming part of the dynamic and professional teaching community.

Rob Wilson was a subject mentor for 10 years before becoming the senior mentor at Llanishen High School. He urges student-teachers to ensure that they enter the course "with their eyes wide open" or "it can come as a big shock to the system." he believes that it is vital to gain some experience in a school environment before beginning the PGCE course.  

Student-teachers undertake two school placements during the PGCE and the issues that they will have to deal with are varied, reflecting the different stages of development as a teacher.  

The mentor's duties during these placements include assisting student-teachers with their planning, especially relating to time management, "to guide them on how to work smarter as opposed to harder," Rob says. "A good mentor will develop any student and this is completed by giving open and honest reflections and evaluations of progress.  Especially in the first placement careful guidance and mentoring is essential for development."  

Rob describes the first placement as "a very steep learning curve", adding that the "biggest challenge is to put theory into practice. Most students can cope with the academic element of the placement... the aspect of discipline and building rapport with both students and staff can be the issue. Getting into effective and correct procedures are crucial in the first placement." 

By the second placement, which takes place in the second half of the course, the challenges are very different. "Student-teachers have obviously had more experience and therefore come better prepared and aware of the standards required for teaching. They tend to have developed better coping strategies and effective working patterns and structures. Most students have realised if the profession is for them or not by now and this means that in the second placement high standards have been met by the student-teacher and you are then challenging them using the QTS guidelines."