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The very best of times, created through a robust academic and practical PGCE Physical Education course. The course allows and actively supports every student teacher to achieve the very best they can. Not only do you get the very best support from tutors and staff, but also from your peers. They embrace the nature and spirit of the course, which is of a collaborative culture, underpinned by a caring atmosphere by all. I have received the best teacher education, from the very best educationalists at the University of Exeter.

Matthew Sullivan, Ted Wragg award winner, Secondary Physical Education

PGCE Secondary with Physical Education (PE)

Study with us and fulfil your dream of becoming a PE teacher. We offer education, training and support of the very highest standard, delivered by a team of experienced and inspirational tutors who are experts in their field. We provide excellent opportunities for students to further their sport specialism in one of the finest universities for sport in the UK (Exeter is ranked 5th in the UK for British Universities & Colleges Sport).

Physical Education (PE) at Exeter is widely recognised as a leading PE course nationally. The PE cohort is an academically able group and employability rates are exceptionally high. Within the first 5 years of teaching, the majority of our trainees take on leadership roles, such as Head of Department or Head of Year and complete their Master’s Degree in Education.

The PE course is constantly evolving and changing to take account of: (a) the latest empirical research and government policy initiatives in teacher education both in PE and the wider educational landscape, (b) internal quality assurance measures such as trainee evaluations, school-based teachers' evaluations, peer reviews and, (c) external quality assurance health checks, such as recent Ofsted inspection findings, external examiner's reports to keep the course vital, stimulating and moving forward.

Supported by a team of highly-qualified and experienced university and school-based tutors, the PE course places considerable importance on trainees collaboratively planning, teaching and reflecting critically on their teaching both in university and in schools. The PE course includes university taught lectures, practical/workshop-based sessions, directed study tasks, assignments and school experience to prepare to inform, inspire and engage the diverse needs of young people in the 21st century and withstand the demands of the modern day PE teacher.

The course is constantly evolving and changing to take account of: (a) the latest research both in PE and the wider educational landscape, (b) internal quality assurance mechanisms such as student teacher evaluations, school-based teachers' evaluations, peer reviews and, (c) external quality assurance mechanisms such as recent Ofsted inspection findings, external examiner's reports to keep the course vital, stimualting and moving forward.

Trainees will develop a secure knowledge and understanding of:

(a) Content: a wide variety of physical activities comprising the National Curriculum for PE (i.e. athletics, dance, games, gymnastics, outdoor & adventurous activities & swimming), including fitness, health, BTEC and GCSE and A level theory and practice.

(b) Pedagogy: how to transform this knowledge of activities and topics in ways that makes them comprehensible to learners

(c) Learners: different types of learners (e.g. gifted & talented, SEN/D, obese, reluctant/disengaged, EAL)

(d) Learning: theories of how learners learn (e.g. Vygotsky’s Social Constructivist theory)

(e) Curriculum: the National Curriculum for PE in England.

The course is informed by research in the Centre for Research in Professional Learning, giving you access to the latest research on professional learning in the classroom.

Timetable overview

Term 1 Term 1 begins with two weeks of observation (preliminary school experience). This leads into the University based course which focuses on professional development, specialist subject knowledge, pedagogy and teaching skills.
Two weeks of this term will be spent in your first placement school as part of the Beginning Practice phase of your training.
Term 2 Term 2 is spent in your first school placement with three seminar days held at the University.
At the end of the term, you visit your second school placement for a short induction period.
Term 3 Term 3 is spent in your second school placement with two seminar days held at the University.

We are leaders in Initial Teacher Education. Our unique approach to teaching PGCE is praised by OFSTED and cited as an example of best practice.

We provide unrivalled opportunities for trainees to achieve through our highly original Exeter Teaching Model. The programme runs over three terms with each term providing progressively more school-based work training.

By learning on campus for most of the first term you access the tools to rapidly build professional knowledge to underpin your work in school placements.

Our unique approach gives you opportunities to learn and become part of a community of trainees and teachers who are passionate about education, and will support you during your course and beyond. We carry out a detailed skills audit with every trainee so we understand your particular development needs and can personalise elements of training to strengthen the skills you need to excel as a teacher.

During placements Exeter trainees benefit from the focused support of two School-based Tutors: a Lead Mentor who works as an expert partner, and a Reflective Mentor who develops and challenges your thinking about teaching in ways that can be used to enhance performance.

You will be supported in developing the full range of teaching skills and effective reflection that you will need in your first teaching post as a Early Career Teacher (ECT).

The PGCE is a Masters level programme and once you have achieved QTS, you can continue your studies during your first year of teaching and work towards achieving a Masters in Education.

How am I assessed?

There are two principal strands to the assessment of the Exeter PGCE course. The first is the written component and the second, the practical component. During the year, PE trainees complete two Written Assignments, each one directly linking the university and school-based aspects of the PGCE course.

  1. Unit of Work and Critical Analysis:  inviting you to plan a unit of work and justify and evaluate the planning decisions you have made, with reference to your academic reading about teaching and learning in PE.
  2. Case Study Research: inviting you to investigate and assess one aspect of learning in PE, linking your academic reading directly to your own classroom-based practice and the impact that it has on pupil learning.

The practical assessment of teaching is to ensure that all trainees meet the requirements set by the DfE for all Initial Teacher Training courses in England.

A strong underlying principle of both the written and practical assessments is that students are always in control of their own learning. Clear guidance is given for all assignments and assessment criteria are detailed in the PGCE Physical Education ‘Study Guide’. The Exeter PGCE Individual Development Portfolio (IDP) allows you to monitor and track your own progress and to set achievable targets for improvement.

Academically, the University of Exeter PGCE is a postgraduate qualification, and the Physical Education assignments are set at Masters level. The course is intellectually rigorous, and you are introduced to recent research in Physical Education teaching, including the research of the course tutors themselves. Many of our trainees go on to become Heads of Physical Education Department and are creative, critical and reflective individuals who can make connections between theory and practice. We do not see the course as a one year course which ends in July, but as the beginning of your career as an able and highly competent professional - we aim to give you knowledge, skills, both practical and intellectual, which enable you to change and develop as you teaching career progresses.

We set high standards and have high expectations of our trainees. Invariably these standards are met - with enthusiasm and commitment. Prospective trainees can be assured of plenty of support: assessment should not be something to fear!

The programme has three fully integrated components:

Secondary Education and Professional Studies Module

The Professional Studies component introduces you to key educational ideas and principles within a range of educational contexts. The module is followed throughout the year with both University and school-based elements and is concerned with classroom issues, whole school issues and the role of education in the wider society.

Secondary Professional Learning Module

Central to school-based work is the development of your ability to meet the standards of professional competence which trainees must demonstrate in order to meet national standards for the award of QTS.

Secondary Physical Education Subject Knowledge and Pedagogy Module

The principal aims of the module are to equip student teachers with a comprehensive understanding of the background issues and practice of the current teaching of Physical Education in the secondary school, and to enable them to achieve QTS. In addition, the module seeks to nurture reflective and autonomous professional practitioners who are able to identify strengths and areas for development in content, pedagogy, learning, learners and the curriculum through evaluating critically current professional practice in relationship to developments in research and educational theory.

What are we looking for in an applicant?

As entry onto the course is highly competitive, we will be looking for applicants with the following strengths:

1. Personal qualities: Successful applicants will have a strong academic track record and will be able to demonstrate a passion for teaching PE. You will possess strong organisational skills, enthusiasm and resilience alongside a commitment to becoming a reflective practitioner. In addition, you will be able to build strong and effective relationships with students and professional colleagues and will have good interpersonal skills. 

2. Academic qualifications: (a) C grade or above (or equivalent) in PE at GCSE and/or A level, (b) 2:1 Honours degree (or higher) in a sport-related undergraduate degree.

3. Health and Safety qualifications: (a) valid and current one-day first aid certificate (i.e. Emergency First Aid at Work Certificate) and, (b) valid and current pool lifeguard qualification (i.e. National Pool Lifeguard Qualification).

4. National Governing Body (NGB) coaching award qualifications: At least one coaching course successfully completed in a game which you are weak/deficient in (e.g. Basketball: UKCC Level 1 Basketball Award).

5. Recent and relevant teaching experience: We advise all applicants to gain some school-based experience in a state school prior to interview.  Although this is not essential it would be an advantage to be able to reflect on any school-based experience or experience working with young people in another context at interview.

(NB: You are strongly encouraged to apply as soon as possible after the DfE Apply system opens in October as places on the PE programme fill up very quickly!)

While as standard we normally only accept applicants who meet this criteria, if you have a 2:2 or equivalent, or are coming from a different academic background which is equivalent to degree level, you are welcome to make an application through the DfE Apply system for consideration or contact our PGCE Admissions team for more information.  Diverse teachers enrich schools and pupils' experiences and we value diversity in schools and encourage potential teachers from a range of backgrounds to consider applying.

Further information

Read more about entry requirements and how to apply.

All applications for entry to our PGCE programmes must be made through the DfE's Apply service at

An academic reference is required from any institution of Higher Education that you have attended within the last five years. Please note: if an academic reference is not submitted then this will cause a delay in the processing of your application.

For further details on the application process, please see our Interview Pages.

We recommend you: 

  • apply as early as possible
  • choose your referees early and explain to them that a promptly returned  DfE Apply Teacher Training reference could make all the difference

Deferred entry

We do not consider requests for deferred entry either at application stage or after an offer has been made. Any applicant who can no longer take up a place offered to them will need to reapply in the following year and will need to go through the full interview process again.

Applicants who will be overseas during the recruitment cycle

If you will be outside the UK during the recruitment cycle for your proposed year of entry, you should make contact with the Admissions Office to discuss this.

Academic staff

  • All our tutors have real-world experience as teachers, senior managers or OFSTED inspectors. They also lead and innovate, developing the latest ideas in teacher education, leading research, writing textbooks, leading subject networks and advising government.
  • Our unique approach gives you opportunities to learn and become part of a community of trainees and teachers who are passionate about education, and will support you during your course and beyond.

Course leaders

The course leader is Will Katene. The full teaching team bring substantial experience of teaching secondary PE in schools, of leading professional developmentfor practising teachers and conducting research in PE teaching; including collaborative learning and subject knowledge in PE.

Will Katene  has been teaching since the early 1990s, Will has extensive experience in teaching PE to young people at secondary school level and lecturing in PE, Sport Sciences and Education to students at undergraduate and postgraduate level. His area of research focuses on how trainees learn to teach (eg improving trainees’ subject content knowledge through collaborative learning). In 2011, Will was presented a National Teaching Fellowship Award, by the Higher Education Academy.This Award recognises individuals who are judged to be excellent in teaching and learning in Higher Education in the UK. In 2012, Will carried the Olympic flame/torch in recognition of his work as an inspirational leader in PE in the UK since the early 1990s, both in schools and higher education. He said 'This is a wonderful opportunity to take part in the greatest sporting event on the planet. I have dedicated my life to encouraging young people to take part in PE and school sport, and inspiring future teachers to enthuse the benefits of keeping active, and so the Olympic Games and the idea of the UK coming together to prepare for them is something I wholeheartedly support.' In 2013, Will was elected to the Board of the Association for PE (UK) and, in the same year, invited by the DfE to join a National PE Expert Group of leading stakeholders in PE drawn from universities, schools, associations and sporting bodies.

2022/23 tuition fees

  • UK: £9,250 full-time
  • International: £20,000 full-time

A variety of attractive financial support packages are available.  Find out more here