While many have come to regard the school placements as the most critical part of the PGCE, it is impossible for anyone to ignore the academic assignments involved. The credits of your PGCE are typically divided into two or three separate assignments, with each one comprising around 4,000 words, with a 10 percent above/below allowance (3600-4400).

To use the University of York’s PGCE as an example, the submission dates you can expect to be around November for the first assignment, March for the second assignment and May for the final one. Today’s article, the fourth in our eight-part series on surviving and thriving in the PGCE, is advising you to get each of these assignments completed at the earliest-possible opportunity, without compromising on quality, of course.

What are the assignments typically about?

While specific content may differ from course to course, the general content is broadly similar across the country. The three assignments are designed as follows:

· Assignment 1: “Key aspects of teaching” --- you’ll investigate and write about a particular issue in a school setting.

· Assignment 2: “Reflection on your professional development” --- reflecting on your half year so far; thinking about what students can achieve and how we can help them make better progress, for example

· Assignment 3: “Case study” --- you’ll delve deeper into a specialist area such as special needs, or a case study of a specific child.

Of course, if you’re already on your PGCE, you’ll know about the assignment content. So, why do we advise you to finish them as efficiently as possible?

Why should you complete assignments quickly?

The PGCE assignments, if left undone for protracted periods, will grow into stressful albatrosses around your academic neck. The hardest part is just getting started on the research and the writing. If you show some discipline and get started on the assignments early, you can finish faster and then focus your attention back to the more urgent day-to-day activities of your school placement.

Below are some advantages of this approach in more detail:

1. More time to focus on and improve your teaching work

You can never lose sight of the fact that your primary goal in the PGCE is to learn how to be an effective teacher. The academics provide you with crucial knowledge to make you an expert in your field, it’s true, but it’s the practical experience that you gain that will form the most lasting and formative impression in your development.

Finishing your assignments efficiently allows you to dedicate more of your time to planning lessons, reflecting on your school day, reviewing your class notes and communicating with your colleagues and mentors.

2. More time for feedback and improvements to the assignments

Finishing assignments early allows you to gain critical feedback and make changes in a timely manner. When you complete things at the last minute, there’s no time to review or improve on the work because you’ve denied yourself the opportunity of that process.

Let’s say you and a fellow PGCE candidate agree to a level of collaboration. Obviously, you can’t write each other’s assignments, but bouncing your drafts off a pair of fresh eyes who understand what you need to achieve can prove invaluable. Once again, you can’t have that if you procrastinate on the academic assignments.

3. More opportunity to apply your knowledge to your real-life work

As we mentioned in the first point above, the academic side to the PGCE is designed to give you a solid foundation of knowledge; to make you an authority in your given field. If you complete your assignments early and efficiently, then you also furnish yourself with the knowledge you need more efficiently. You can then directly apply that knowledge to your working life, helping you to grow and develop professionally.

Each assignment is a milestone

Your assignments are like waypoints in the year-long journey to complete your PGCE. As each deadline passes, you are taking one great stride closer to that all-important final goal of gaining NQT status. You may firmly believe that they play second fiddle to your practical experience, but you have to complete them, regardless of how you feel. There’s no way to pass the PGCE without them.

Don’t miss the next part in our series, where we start to look more at your school placement, and specifically about how getting more involved in school life can be a huge help to your PGCE progress.