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Education - Early Years

The PGCE (Early Years) course that is offered by Stranmillis University College is a one-year postgraduate course that recognizes the importance of early years education and the need for professionals who are highly committed to working with young children. Successful completion of the PGCE (Early Years) will lead to 'Eligibility to Teach' status which is granted by the Department of Education (DE).

Course Structure
The course is offered on a full-time basis. It is of approximately thirty-six weeks' duration, beginning in early September and lasting until late June of the following year. At least eighteen weeks are spent obtaining practical teaching experience. The initial placement is spent in a nursery setting towards the end of October, lasting for a period of five weeks. An additional five weeks in January/February is spent in a Foundation Stage classroom (i.e. Year 1 or 2 in a primary school) and a further 5 weeks spent in a Key Stage 1 classroom (i.e. Year 3 or 4 of a primary school) in April/May. Students will then get the opportunity to spend 2 weeks in an additional educational setting of their choice in a Northern Ireland and a small number of students will be selected to complete their final placement in a European context e.g. Norway at the beginning of June. Students will spend most Mondays in schools for observation purposes.

During the eighteen weeks on campus, students will experience a variety of teaching and learning methods such as seminars, work-shops, peer group discussions and debates, presentations and individual consultation opportunities. In addition, students will explore the role of media enhanced learning in education (e.g. podcasting for pedagogical purposes).

There will also be a number of off-site visits, including visits to a Nursery setting, a Foundation Stage classroom and a visit to an outdoor education centre.

Entry requirements

Admission Requirements
In keeping with all courses of initial teacher education, entrants are required to have achieved Grade C in GCSE (or equivalent) Mathematics, English Language and a single or combined Science subject. GCSE qualifications must have been gained at the time of application. Entrants to the PGCE (Early Years) will also be required to possess an upper second class honours degree in the area of Early Years. Substantial and recent experience of working with children in the 3-8 age range will also be required. This must be obtained at the time of application. Entry to the PGCE (Early Years) will be based on qualifications, reference, relevant experience and an interview. Due to the competition for places, admission requirements may be enhanced at the short-listing stage, and applicants who are short listed will be called for interview, which will include a short presentation by the candidate.

In line with government policy it is a requirement that all entrants to the course must undertake a criminal record check through AccessNI.

Credit Transfer
Effective June 2006 all students who successfully complete a PGCE at Masters Level will be eligible to claim 30 M level credit points towards a Master's qualification.

Careers or further progression

Career Opportunities

This PGCE course will lead to 'Eligibility to Teach' status which is granted by the Department of Education. With this qualification students will be able to seek employment in nursery schools and/or primary schools in a Foundation (Years 1 and 2) or Key Stage 1 (Years 3 and 4) class. All students who successfully complete a PGCE at Stranmillis University College will be eligible to claim 30 M-Level credit points towards a Master's qualilfication.

Further enquiries

For Further Information Contact:
Academic Registry
Stranmillis University College
Tel: 028 90384 263
Web Site:

Subjects taught

The course consists of 4 modules:

1. Implementing a Play-based Curriculum
2. Teaching the Key Stage 1 Primary Curriculum
3. Professional Experience 1
4. Professional Experience 2

Implementing a Play-based Curriculum
With the increased value on play as a medium for teaching and learning, both at pre-school and foundation stage levels, this module aims to provide students with an in-depth knowledge and understanding of how a play-based curriculum can be effectively implemented. Guidance on the use of themes as a means of ensuring an integrated approach to children's learning will be provided.

Students will critically examine relevant theory and research in this field and the appropriate role of the teacher will be discussed and debated. Much emphasis will be placed on preparing students to offer children a developmentally appropriate curriculum which builds on children's needs and interests and practical guidance on observation, planning and assessment through play will be provided.

Teaching the Key Stage 1 Primary Curriculum
Aims to enhance students' understanding of the integrated nature of children's learning. It focuses on how the six key areas of learning at Key Stage 1 can be taught, principally through the use of themes, and practical guidance of how this can be done effectively will be provided. The content of the Revised Northern Ireland Curriculum for Key Stage 1 will be examined and the transition from play–based to more formal activities will be addressed. Emphasis will also be placed on practical teaching skills and competences such as observation, planning and assessment at Key Stage 1.

The Professional Experience
These modules comprise both practical School Based Work place-ments and teaching studies classes in College. Students undertake periods of observation and practice in Nursery, Foundation and Key Stage 1. In these modules students continue to develop the General Teaching Council for NI's Teaching Competences. There is a strong emphasis on self-reflection. Students will have opportunities to undertake additional professional courses/qualifications during their period of study.

Application date

Admission Procedures
Application should be made on the appropriate form which can be obtained from Academic Registry from early December. Completed application forms should be returned (together with a £10 administration fee) not later than the 1st February 2016.

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