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The Classics PGCE at Cambridge University

This course takes around 18 trainees.

The Classics course prepares all students to teach Latin and Classical Civilization in all types of secondary schools in the UK. It also provides opportunities for students to learn how to teach Ancient Greek and Ancient History.

The school and university-based elements of the course are closely integrated so as to provide a coherent and unified experience which is suitable for the individual needs of the trainee. The emphasis in the Faculty Subject Studies sessions is on the development of practical skills and strategies which are necessary for teaching Classics. Trainees are usually placed in both State and Independent schools, under the guidance of experienced mentors. This is to allow them to gain as wide an experience as can be provided of the different educational circumstances of Classics teaching at present.

The result will be that you can use your enthusiasm and knowledge about the Classical World to inform, motivate and inspire your pupils and develop their own understanding about the Romans and the Greeks.

What will I study?

The emphasis in the subject studies sessions is on the development of practical skills and strategies which are necessary for teaching Classics. Most of the sessions are organized in a practical, workshop atmosphere, with the intention of blending theory with practice. Some sessions are taught by serving Classics teachers from partnership schools, as well as by educational practitioners from beyond the classroom. A weekly language revision class is held for those who wish to brush up their Latin knowledge.

The school placements play a key role in the development of trainees. The programme encourages trainees to transfer their thinking and planning in subject studies into practical activities carried out in the classroom, with the opportunity to feed back to everyone at the end of the week.

In the Autumn term trainees are usually placed in pairs in schools in Cambridge or within a reasonable commuting distance. This term’s work concentrates mostly on preparation for the basic elements of classroom teaching, and introduces trainees to the range of resources and teaching strategies available to Classics teachers. It also considers the nature of the subject itself and its place within the National Curriculum.

Current sessions in Cambridge include:​

  • The National Curriculum and Classics

  • Public examinations in Classics

  • Assessment  and AFL for Classics

  • Principles of teaching an ancient language: traditional, reading-comprehension and Living Latin approaches

  • Teaching literature in the original language and in translation

  • Teaching Classical Civilization and Ancient History

  • Classics and adaptive teaching

  • Classics and SEN / EAL

  • Classics and ICT

In the Spring and Summer terms trainees are placed in their second schools. Because a few of these schools are located some distance from Cambridge, we do not recommend that trainees enter into extended accommodation contracts until they know which schools they have been allocated. We try to make arrangements for school placements to match individual needs as far as possible. In the Spring term in the Faculty there is a focus on the role of museums and educational visits, the use of drama in the classroom, and the promotion of Classics.

Trainees work with a local Comprehensive school in Cambridge and organize a day long Classics event. Trainees have the opportunity to undertake a wide variety of activities focused on their individual interests and broader professional development. The local branch of the Classical Association is very active, and trainees are encouraged to participate in the reading and drama competitions which are held locally. Extra funding is usually available for trainees who wish to undertake study trips abroad or attend conferences.

All trainees complete a portfolio of three written assignments based on their teaching experience. Individual supervisions are provided to enable trainees to fulfil this part of the course. The Roman Society awards a prize to the trainee who produces the best research assignment on the Classics PGCE at Cambridge. Trainees have in the past given papers at the Cambridge Schools Classics Project (CSCP) conference, held in Cambridge each year, and have contributed to the Journal of Classics Teaching (JCT).

Who will support me?

Support at Cambridge

The Classics course is run by Steven Hunt, Lecturer in Classics Education at the University, and by a Seconded Mentor drawn from one of the partnership schools (teaching and research). Individual supervisions or tutorials can always be arranged with the Subject Lecturer. While on the second school placement, the trainee is officially observed by the Subject Lecturer or Seconded Mentor. In addition, a selection of experienced Mentors and guest speakers contribute to the course throughout the year.

Support in school

During the school placements, the Mentor is the first port of call for trainees. Mentors are all experienced Classics teachers, from a variety of backgrounds, who are enthusiastic about the teaching of Classics, training and learning. The Mentor Panel, comprising four Mentors and the Seconded Mentor, meet several times a year to plan Subject Studies programmes and Mentor Days. Twice a year all the Mentors meet to discuss and plan training for the course.

In the early days of the Autumn term, trainees work closely with their Mentors and the school Classics department. They observe good practice and learn the basics of lesson-planning, assessment and classroom management with experienced teachers. Every week the Mentor meets with the trainee for about one hour to discuss progress, planning and targets. In each school, a Professional Tutor also arranges a series of seminars focused on whole-school issues, such as the pastoral curriculum. In the first term, most trainees will be placed in Partnership schools, where there will be trainees from several other disciplines. In these cases the Professional Tutor will arrange the seminars so that everyone can attend together. In the second and third terms, most Classics trainees will be the only Cambridge trainees in the school. In these cases the Professional Tutor and the Mentor is sometimes the same person.

The second school placement starts in Spring, and is usually in a contrasting school to the first. After a short period of observation, trainees should start taking segments of lessons, or team-teach with the Mentor. The trainee is expected to be given increasing responsibility for classes across the age range and given pastoral experience, by being allocated a tutor group, for example. The Mentor should observe lessons regularly, provide written feedback, and continue the weekly meetings with the trainee. Trainees should have the chance to broaden their experience within the department and the school as a whole. In the past, trainees have taken part in trips at home and abroad, assisted at open days, attended parents’ meetings, run extra-curricular Greek or Classics clubs, observed and undertaken lessons in subjects other than Classics, and taken part in a range of sporting, musical and dramatic activities. We recommend that trainees are open-minded about the experiences they want to gain from this second placement. Increasingly Classics teachers who are able to offer other subjects or skills make themselves more attractive when they start to apply for employment.

As several of the second school placements are some distance from Cambridge, many teaching and learning resources for the Classics PGCE are downloadable from the PGCE Classics Moodle site. Trainees and the Subject lecturer are in frequent email or telephone contact, and the Subject Lecturer is always prepared to visit trainees if the occasion requires it. We arrange schools in cluster groups? and encourage trainees from these schools to visit each other’s schools, observe lessons, and share resources.

Who comes on the course?

Trainee teachers at Cambridge come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some come straight from Universities all over the country; others want to move into teaching from industry or the commercial sectors; others again have some teaching experience, but wish to gain a teaching qualification; others have been teaching abroad and wish to work as teachers in the UK. You may have specialist knowledge of the ancient languages or Ancient History. However, all the trainees share a desire to pass on their own enjoyment of Classics and to share their enthusiasm with young people.

How does this fit in with the MEd?

Students who successfully complete all examined elements of the PGCE course (without failing any element at the point of examination) are able to register for the second year of the Faculty’s MEd course. For such students the Cambridge PGCE year is equivalent to 50% of the Cambridge Masters course and trainees will have the option of completing the second year of the Masters (on a part-time basis) within three years of qualifying.

Do you have any advice for my application?

Entry onto the Classics PGCE course is very competitive and so early applications are encouraged. We can only offer sixteen positions altogether each year, and so recommend that you apply around October in the year preceding entry onto the course. Interviews are held from November in Cambridge. All applications are made through the UCAS Teacher Training website.

In your application your personal statement should include reasons why you have chosen this course, why you want to teach, and any relevant teaching experience or work with young people.

You must have undertaken observation of several days, in a state secondary school, before you come for interview. If it is impossible for you to arrange to see any Classics teaching in your local school, you should at least see some History or English or Modern Foreign Languages being taught instead. For a list of contacts of teachers in and around Cambridge who are happy for potential applicants to observe them, please get in touch with the Subject Lecturer. The observation will be discussed in the interview.

Applicants are expected to have a 2.1 degree in Classics or a Classics-related subject such as Ancient History or Classical Civilization. If you have not studied Latin to degree standard, the minimum entry requirement for Latin is A level grade A or equivalent (see the OCR exam board’s specifications for the language and literature requirements of A level). Please contact the Subject Lecturer if you need further advice. It is preferred that you will have studied Latin as a significant part of your degree in order to be able to become a Classics PGCE trainee. Ancient Greek would be an advantage, but is not essential. A Latin language revision course is offered to all trainees in the Autumn term. However, it has to be pointed out that placement schools will expect you to be able to teach Latin to A level standard. The language revision course is precisely that: it is not designed to teach you from the beginning. There will be a Latin language test as part of the interview process.

Please ensure that the first referee on the UCAS form is written by an academic who knows you well from your University course (unless you left more than five years ago). It is helpful if they comment on your attributes as a student rather than on precise marks or grades achieved.

When called for interview, please bring with you originals and photocopies of your GCSE Maths and English Language examination certificates, your Degree certificate (if you have already graduated) and your birth certificate or passport.

Some applicants might be required to attend a summer school in Latin as a condition for acceptance on the PGCE Classics course.

For full application details to the Cambridge PGCE, visit the PGCE admissions page.

For further details about the PGCE in Classics at Cambridge, visit the PGCE Classics page.

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