PGCE Personal Statement
Updated 8 October 2020
A PGCE personal statement is written as part of the application process for teacher training and gives candidates an opportunity to showcase their skills and attributes.
PGCE candidates will only write one personal statement, which is used to apply for all of their preferred choices. Students upload their personal statement to the UCAS Teacher Training system, and it is submitted for all choices in both phases of the application process (‘Apply 1’ and ‘Apply 2’). No changes can be made once it is submitted.
The personal statement is often used as the deciding factor for choosing whom to invite to interview. This piece of writing should explain the experience you have and how this translates into your abilities in the classroom.
It should also present what you might be like as a teacher – how will your personality and interests help engage students and get them enthused about the subject?
A lot is riding on your personal statement and writing it can be a daunting task. This guide will outline what your PGCE personal statement should contain and how to structure it for the best chance of success.
The admissions team will want to know about the skills, experience and personal qualities you have that would make you perfect for a teaching career. They need to see you have the dedication and passion to complete your PGCE and have a successful future.
Simply saying, “I would be good at this role and am well suited to it” isn’t enough. The PGCE provider needs to read real examples that demonstrate your skills and abilities and meet their requirements.
Here are some details you may want to include in your personal statement:
1. About You
A teacher’s personality and personal experience will be highly influential, therefore your own experiences are relevant to your application.
Before you start writing, it’s a good idea to spend a few minutes jotting down some key facts that are relevant to teaching. These might include:
- Your interests
- What motivates you
- Your upbringing
- Relevant skills
Remember to include examples in your list. Coaching a sports team in your spare time suggests you are experienced in motivating young people and getting the best out of them. Maybe you play an instrument and use music in class. Including qualities like these will make your application stand out.
2. Why You Want to Teach
A key element of your application is explaining why you have chosen teaching as your future career. Show an awareness of how teachers can inspire individuals and also the benefits you might see in yourself.
Try to broaden your answer further than simply saying you are passionate about teaching or children. Every applicant will say they are passionate.
Give details of experiences that moved you towards this career or, perhaps, even the moment you realised this was what you were born to do. By using genuine examples, your passion and excitement will shine through.
3. Why You Are the Best Candidate
Try not to pull out a cliché like “I am passionate, dedicated and reliable” – make your application stand out by using a paragraph that the provider won’t see in any other application that day.
Think about what makes you different from any other candidate. Other applicants may say they can take charge of a class and have experience dealing with challenging children, but will they sing an entire lesson just to get the pupils to engage with them, like you did in your work experience? Or will they bring in a structure made out of Lego to demonstrate osmosis, like you did on your degree placement? Think of what makes you, you.
4. Why a PGCE?
Include details of why you have chosen to go down the route of a PGCE rather than doing a full teaching degree. Perhaps you dipped your toe into teaching while travelling after your degree and realised how much you love it, or maybe you are passionate about biology and wanted to decide at a later date whether to go into teaching or industry.
Show that you have done your research and understand the structure of the PGCE and what will be required.
5. Teaching-Related Experience
Include details of any experience you have gained working in schools or with children in another environment. This might include:
- Work experience
- Visits to schools
- Teaching assistant roles
- Voluntary teaching/supervision roles (like helping out at a scout hut, etc.)
- Experience via the Get School Experience service
- Classroom observations
With every experience you discuss, note the skills you gained and how they will benefit you as a teacher and how they have improved your understanding of the education system.
6. Other Professional Experience
Teaching demands a range of different skills – it’s not simply a case of delivering information.
Talk about past positions you have held:
- Did you manage people?
- Did you work within a team?
- Did you negotiate?
- Have you trained or coached others?
- When have you communicated information to different audiences?
The skills you have gained throughout your education, work and personal life can be highly relevant to your application. Be sure to include details of why these skills will make you excel as a teacher.
7. What You Learnt During Your Degree
Whether your degree was in the subject you intend to teach or not, it’s important to talk about the skills you developed throughout your learning and how they will benefit you as a teacher.
If you’re struggling to find transferable skills, here are some ideas:
- Think about how you communicated (presentations, critiquing the work of your peers, etc.)
- Give examples of how you organised yourself
- Describe times you helped others with their learning
Remember to talk about the benefits your initial degree will bring when studying for your PGCE and how your interest in it has inspired your desire to teach.
8. Your Knowledge of What Training to Be/Being a Teacher Entails
It’s important to stress your commitment to your training. To do this, you should demonstrate that you have done your research and are fully aware of what is to come.
Although teaching is a highly rewarding career, no one applying for teacher training will do so without being aware of the challenging nature of the profession.
There is no need to ignore these challenges in your application; actually, it will work in your favour if you show that you have thought about these challenges and are sufficiently prepared.
Talk about the positives and negatives that you expect to experience in your training and within your career, and how your core strengths will help you deal with them.
9. Your Future Plans
Discuss your plans beyond the PGCE:
- Do you have the ambition to be a headteacher?
- Do you plan to take on pastoral responsibilities?
Show a keenness to immerse yourself in the school system and be open to opportunities that come your way.
10. Extenuating Circumstances
Your personal statement is the place to openly discuss any extenuating circumstances, such as low grades or large gaps in employment/education. Make sure you show how you have overcome these challenges and what you learnt from them.
Write your personal statement in Word (or equivalent) and make sure you are happy with it before copying and pasting it into your application on the UCAS system.
You need to keep your personal statement to no more than 4,000 characters across a maximum of 47 lines of text. The UCAS Teacher Training system may differ slightly to your word processor, so be prepared to amend slightly once you have copied it into the UCAS page.
To keep to the character limit and cover all the suggested material above, you will need to be succinct. Make sure you only talk about topics that are relevant and delete any waffle.
Your opening statement should be strong and memorable – a good idea is to state why you have decided to get into teaching. Back up all details with examples and be sure to say what you learned from the experience or how you can bring the skills you developed into the classroom.
Split your statement into three sections:
- Introduction – Introduce yourself and talk about why you want to do a PGCE
- Middle – Use the notes above to cover the key details
- Conclusion – Tell the reader why you are the best person for the place they are offering
Avoid using bold, underlining or italics, and write in English (or Welsh if applying for Welsh PGCEs). The UCAS system will strip all special formatting out of the personal statement (except paragraph breaks) so ensure you keep it simple.
When you are happy with the content, make sure you ask someone to check your work. Spelling and grammar in personal statements should be accurate. Make sure you have not copied anyone else’s work at all – UCAS screens all applications for plagiarism.
Below is an example personal statement which covers all of the key points you should include in this piece of writing:
“A teacher at my secondary school single-handedly transformed my passion and ability for maths; I was predicted an ‘F’ at GCSE and in a matter of months, she helped me achieve a ‘B’ and start to enjoy the subject. I can’t think of a more satisfying job than one in which you can inspire young people in the way my teacher inspired me.
“After achieving a ‘B’ in maths at A-Level, I went on to study the subject at University College London and graduated in 2018 with a 2.1. It was in the final year of my degree that I had my first taste of teaching the subject, as several of the modules involved presenting topics to large groups of first-year students. I was thrilled when students asked to see me afterwards to share their observations of what I had been discussing – it was clear my enthusiasm had rubbed off on them and they were excited by maths, which is exactly why I want to teach.
“I currently work as a teaching assistant at St Andrew’s School, where I have been for six months. This position has given me a great insight into the skills needed to be a fantastic teacher; the school has several SEN pupils and I have been exposed to the more challenging side of the profession. Being trusted to run activities with the entire class has helped me build confidence and learn how important it is to adapt lesson plans to engage students who have different abilities. I have gained valuable skills in implementing strategies such as gentle competitiveness between pupils, and tactical seating plans to get the best out of each student.
“Before working at St Andrew’s, I completed a work experience placement at Bell Lane Academy where I shadowed teachers working across the five different year groups. This experience helped hone my skills in addressing different age groups in different ways. My ability to get the best out of students is further strengthened by the experience I am currently gaining in the position of assistant coach at my local netball team. Having worked with the girls for the last 18 months, I have developed different ways of motivating individuals, helping push them outside of their comfort zones and encouraging them to take on new challenges.
“In my spare time, I enjoy playing netball and rugby and would be keen to take on extra responsibilities at a school in the form of after school clubs or teams. I also have a keen interest in management styles and personality types. The knowledge I gain from books on these topics helps me understand pupils and their differing learning styles – what works for them and what doesn’t. It also helps me look inwardly, analysing my own leadership style and methods of teaching.
“I have chosen to do a PGCE because I am passionate about maths, and I wanted to spend three years of a degree course exploring the subject further, rather than embarking on teacher training straight from school. My degree course has helped me with my confidence and my ability to speak in front of large groups of people. Teaching first-year students during my degree course helped me think about how to deliver the subject in an exciting and creative way.
“The experience I have had so far has clearly shown that teaching is an extremely challenging profession, but one which I believe is undeniably my calling in life. I adore maths and I want to bring the subject alive, helping children learn in an exciting, rewarding environment. A few weeks ago, I took it upon myself to ask the headteacher for permission to get the whole year group involved in a human percentages exercise – the children loved it. I believe I should be offered a place on your PGCE programme because I can commit to dedicating myself to a role in which I will strive to inspire and excite every pupil I teach.”
The personal statement is your one opportunity to capture the attention of the PGCE provider and set yourself apart from other candidates. Teaching is about bringing your personality into the classroom and inspiring students, so avoid a formulaic application and speak from the heart, giving a full picture of who you are.
Your answers should convey enthusiasm for inspiring young people, a passion for teaching, creativity, excellent organisational skills and energy.
Demonstrate an awareness of this challenging profession but conclude with excitement and enthusiasm for your chosen career path.