Postgraduate Diploma Secondary Education (QTS) - Science: Biology

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This Science: Biology one-year PGDipEd (QTS) course prepares you for life as a science teacher, with a specialism in biology. The course develops your skills and abilities in understanding the complexities which surround the teaching and learning of science; the subject knowledge and the pedagogy. We hope to develop you as a reflective teacher who considers carefully the choices in how to teach Science: Biology and makes informed decisions about how you work best with students. For those students who are eligible, bursaries of £26,000 may be available for this subject.

At the University of Birmingham we believe we should provide student teachers with the highest level of teacher training possible, and this is why we offer a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDipEd also known as a PGDE) rather than a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). Both qualifications lead to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) but the PGDipEd also offers the equivalent of 120 credits towards a Masters (out of 180 credits), which makes it a highly rewarding course by combining both theory and practice.

Following satisfactory completion of this course, plus a successful induction year in school and references, you can return to complete an MA in Teaching Studies (data collection and a 15,000 word dissertation). Additionally, the School also offers a number of specialised Professional Development programmes which will enable you to further develop your career.

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The 2013 Ofsted report

“Such is the confidence of schools that trainees from the University of Birmingham are of high quality, employment rates for both primary and secondary phases exceed national averages by some margin.”

The School of Education at the University of Birmingham has a long tradition of delivering teacher training courses. Its teaching has been graded as 'outstanding' for the third consecutive time by Ofsted inspectors which reaffirms the University’s status as one of the UK’s leading institutions for excellence in teacher training. 

The Initial Teacher Education course

The PGDipEd course lasts 36 weeks, of which 24 are spent in our partnership schools.

Teaching practice will take several forms: school placements and also team teaching while at the University. You will also get involved in small scale research projects for your assignments so that you can evaluate the theory in practice and integrate this learning into your own teaching.

The course is essentially one of professional training combined with academic study appropriate to a course at Masters’ level. Much of the work of the first term is a direct attempt to prepare you for teaching situations that you may face on school placements. It should give you opportunities for developing your own thinking which can be trialled when practising those facets of teaching which are most directly related to the classroom and the laboratory situation. Time will be given to, for example: the preparation of: lesson materials; the organisation of laboratory work; and the use of demonstrations. These are only a sample of the techniques to manage and engage classes. Some are general skills that all teachers must develop regardless of their subject; others will be specific to the sciences.

The curriculum work is also concerned with broader and longer term aims. Students will wish to familiarise themselves with current developments arising from and linked to the National Curriculum and various government initiatives. It is impossible to isolate the teaching of science from broader educational issues such as increasing awareness of the need for education to be connected to the remainder of pupils’ lives, to the concerns of society as a whole and to the world of work and leisure beyond school.

So, on this course you will find that we have tried to integrate the theory and the practice and to ensure that you have a sound theoretical understanding on which your practice is based. We aim then to prepare you to become a science teacher by helping you to develop both personally and professionally. We believe that an education through science should generate a sense of curiosity, promote creative thinking and enable pupils to develop into reflective citizens ready to play a full part in a democratic society.

The School of Education collaborates with the University of Birmingham School to offer a number of activities designed to enhance pupil experiences of learning Biology and your experience of learning to teach Biology.  Examples of these activities include field trips, master classes and small group teaching.

Ask our students a question

The following are experienced postgraduates who have previously studied, or are currently studying, at the University of Birmingham, and they will offer help and advice from a student perspective.

You may also be interested in our other two PGDipEd Science courses:

Equal Opportunities

The School of Education is committed to equal opportunities in the access to and provision of education. For more information please see the following documents:

Information on all our PGDipEd (QTS) secondary subjects may be found on the Postgraduate Diploma Secondary Education (QTS) course page. 

Find out more about all our teacher training programmes.

Fees and funding

This course attracts government bursaries of up to £26,000 (depending on qualifications) in line with the government’s priority to attract more well qualified biology teachers.

Fees for 2019-2020 are: £9,250 (UK/EU full-time), £16,995 (overseas full-time).

When you apply for this course, it is important that you also take into account living costs and should ensure that you will have sufficient funds to finance the full duration of your studies. Our PGDipEd programmes include a significant amount of time spent on placements in a variety of schools at different locations, and so when budgeting to study you should also allow for travel to and from placements, as well as textbooks, printing, photocopying and stationery that you may need.

More information about the tuition fee and maintenance loans is available here: https://getintoteaching.education.gov.uk/funding-and-salary/overview/postgraduate-loans.

For further information contact the School directly or visit the Funding, Graduation & Awards Office via online enquiries. 

Entry requirements

All applicants to the Secondary PGDipEd (QTS) Science: Biology course must hold a degree or equivalent qualification from a UK Higher Education Institution. Your degree content must be at least 50% biology relevant to the National Curriculum. You should also have 2 science A levels or the equivalent. 

All candidates also have to:

  • have a GCSE in Maths and English (grade 4 or above) or an equivalent qualification must be attained before making your application. 
  • have passed Professional Skills Tests in numeracy and literacy by the date stated in any offer; please see the Professional Skills Tests section of the Department for Education web site for more information on the core skills required by trainee teachers. The University of Birmingham has produced a resource list  which you may find helpful.
  • complete an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.
  • complete relevant checks to ensure you have the health and physical capacity to teach.
  • agree to abide by the University of Birmingham Code of Professional Conduct and Fitness to Practise.

Additional information:

New GCSE grades

How to apply

Apply online through the UCAS Teacher Training portal

UCAS code: C1X1

The Interview process 

Selection is rigorous and designed to identify candidates with the strongest aptitude. Candidates selected for interview will be invited to the School of Education to:

  • meet course tutors
  • find out more about the course
  • complete a written task
  • have a one to one interview
  • show GCSE and Degree certificates (where these are available).

We work closely with partner schools to select candidates and applicants will often have the opportunity to meet senior colleagues from partner schools when they join us for interview day. 

Course Structure

A variety of teaching styles and approaches to learning are used in the presentation of the themes. These include University-based lectures, small group seminars and workshops, school-based work with pupils and teachers, and work undertaken individually or with other groups of students.

The course includes the following areas of study: 

  • Subject-based teaching methods 
  • School-based work 
  • Whole-school issues

Subject-based teaching methods

You follow your specialist programme, working with your tutor and with peers in your subject, during University days which make up 12 weeks in total across the year. Assessment is based on coursework undertaken during the year.  

School-based work  

School-based work is an important part of the programme, with students normally spending a total of 24 weeks in schools. During the programme you benefit from both carefully supported introductory work in different schools and the experience of spending a significant length of time in two schools.

The final assessment of teaching is based on the spring/summer term school placement. Assessment is shared between University tutors, staff responsible for students in schools, and external examiners. All aspects of your contribution to the life of the school are taken into account, in particular the teaching of your main subject.

During the course supervised experience and practice are arranged in schools of various kinds across the 11–18 age range. We are fortunate in being able to work with a wide range of partnership schools, including mixed comprehensives, single-sex schools, sixth-form colleges and our own University Training School (www.uobschool.org.uk). Many of the schools offer opportunities to work with pupils from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds.  

Whole-school issues

This area of study is concerned with aspects of education that are of importance to all intending teachers, irrespective of their particular teaching subjects. It is designed to provide you with a breadth of awareness, depth of insight and development of skills through a range of themes studied by all students. Themes currently include Safeguarding, Mental Health, Relationships and Sex education, PSHE, Pastoral Care and Inclusion.

Tutoring and support

You will personally be allocated a university tutor who will guide and support you throughout your PGDipEd (QTS), along with a dedicated school mentor when on placements.

Progression

Once you have completed your PGDipEd (QTS) and successfully passed your induction year you may return to study with us on a part-time basis to complete a 60 credit dissertation and obtain an MA in Teaching Studies

Assessment methods

All students have to complete six modules, five of which require a written assignment. In addition all students complete two teaching placements and have to meet the Teachers' Standards for the Award of Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

Local schools have a high regard for Birmingham Science:Biology PGDipEd (QTS) students. For 2013-2014 the employabilty rate was 100% and all graduates obtained employment in a teaching role. Many of our former students hold promoted posts in our partnership schools.

Waqar Yousaf now teaches biology at the University of Birmingham School after completing his PGDipEd course at the University of Birmingham. Read his full profile https://www.theguardian.com/get-into-teaching/2017/mar/31/im-very-happy-as-a-teacher-every-day-is-different