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Catherine Bourke

Science Teacher, St Ursula’s Convent

Degree subject BSc in Applied Ecology, PGCE
Job title Science Teacher
Employer St Ursula’s Convent

Wanting to study for the HDip in Ireland, I soon discovered I lacked the finances to make that happen. That’s when I came across the PGCE Programme in Edge Hill University, which is a popular destination for Irish Students.

My hope originally, once I completed my PGCE, was to get a post in Ireland but I was a little slow about looking. I heard through the college during my second term that a position that had become available at an all-girl’s catholic school in Greenwich, London called St Ursula’s. I applied and thankfully got the position six months ago; I’ve since been made permanent and even garnered a promotion.

It is only recently that I’ve started to feel a little bit more comfortable about living in Britain. I train twice a week with a ladies GAA team and being around other Irish girls has helped so much in settling me.

My target is to get a job in Ireland in about three years’ time. I want to be as experienced as I can by the time I move back to Ireland and I wouldn’t want to drop down in pay scale. I still visit Ireland regularly – in fact, I was back five times in only three months (not exactly ideal for saving money). My family are all in Ireland, of course, as is my partner.

I really like teaching in St Ursula’s – it is different from the other school’s I’ve had placements in. The girls actually want to learn and are very responsible about it. I’m living with another Irish person teaching in a school in England, and they spend a great deal of their time in behaviour management.

There are many things we could certainly adapt from the UK system for Ireland. There is an emphasis on independent learning – teaching the kids how to answer questions rather than the answers to questions. The way I teach a lesson is more practical in England, with an emphasis on developing numeracy and literacy all the time.

Advice for graduates

I’d highly recommend people who have done a postgrad to consider doing the PGCE course in England. From my experience, it is easier to get a job teaching in the UK than in Ireland. There are challenges, but there are more opportunities for advancement too.

Catherine was interviewed for gradireland Teaching & Education 2013.