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Honest advice needed - Employability

Discussion in 'English' started by Desdemona1991, Aug 12, 2020.

  1. Desdemona1991

    Desdemona1991 New commenter

    Hi all,

    I’m a career changer thinking of doing an English PGCE however I don’t have an English degree.

    I have a 2.1 in Media, Communications and Cultural Studies from a Russell Group university, a B in English Language and a D in English Literature A Level (awful grade I know but I was young, stupid and went through a bad personal stage at the time).

    It’s my plan to do an English PGCE and teach both English and Media Studies. I would imagine I would be allowed to teach English up to GCSE and Media Studies up to A Level with time and experience.

    I’ve been in touch with some training providers for the PGCE - some have said I couldn’t get on the course as they require at least 50% English Lit degree, some have said I’d get onto the course with an SKE, however I worry about employability afterwards.

    I’m looking for honest opinions of how desirable I would be to schools given I don’t have an English degree as I really worry that I would struggle to find jobs and schools would always prefer an English graduate.

    ACOYEAR8 Star commenter

    Unfortunately, there are a few people out there who do have degrees in English. My advice would be to follow the Media Studies line. You might ' pick up' some English on a time table in some schools....
    Desdemona1991 likes this.
  3. pianopete

    pianopete Occasional commenter

    Lots of PGCE or school-based routes will accept a non-English degree if you can demonstrate decent subject knowledge, willingness to do an SKE, knowledge at interview etc. Many of my team do not have full lit degrees. My school offers language and media at A level so welcome a range of knowledge. Keep trying and speak directly to providers where you can.
    rachelsays likes this.
  4. rachelsays

    rachelsays New commenter

    I think you've got a good chance of being employed, actually. English is not just about teaching literature, and yet most English teachers, myself included, are only Literature specialists. Once you get to A Level, English departments can potentially be offering several English related qualifications, not all of which will have any Literature element at all. As such, many departments would welcome a Media specialist with an A Level in English Language with open arms - in my last school, we struggled massively with finding people willing and able to teach those specialisms at A Level. I actually lost out on a job at a very prestigious London independent because the other candidate had the qualifications to teach English Language A Level and I didn't. So you have absolutely no reason to worry you'd be unemployable with your qualifications.

    However, are you aware that you can actually do a specific PGCE in Media Studies? Several universities offer it. You could then be a specialist Media Studies teacher and employed as such - you might need to do a bit of KS3 English teaching, but the majority of your timetable would be GCSE and A Level Media. You wouldn't have any problem getting onto a Media PGCE with your degree.

    Good luck!
    jarndyce likes this.
  5. CaptGrimesRetd

    CaptGrimesRetd Occasional commenter

    At the risk of stating the obvious, it's about what skills and expertise the rest of the team have. When I taught we would usually have an expert in language, a couple with Lit Crit canonical credentials, a Media specialist and me. When someone left we tried to find a person with similar skills and expertise. We didn't always manage this but we did try. If a Lit Crit wanted to try Media then that was good - they would have a mentor. And vice versa. The hope was that eventually everyone would experience everythig.

    All of which probably doesn't answer your question.
  6. Desdemona1991

    Desdemona1991 New commenter

    Hi Rachel, thank you so much for taking the time to write such a positive and encouraging response.

    Yes I’ve seen that there are both Media and English & Media PGCE however as it stands I believe that only ‘pure’ English has a bursary without which I couldn’t afford to make the move.

    Furthermore, I feel as though doing the English PGCE (if I am accepted onto one) would fortify my weak spot of not having an English degree - therefore I’d be a little more qualified to teach both English and Media - or that’s my thinking anyway :)
  7. Desdemona1991

    Desdemona1991 New commenter

    Thank you for taking the time to answer my post! I really appreciate your response because it shows that English departments are a lot more diversified than when I was at school (perhaps this shows my lack of school experience, which I have to thank coronavirus for! - but that’s another hurdle).

    What I am interpreting from your anecdotal experience is that while I do not have the qualifications or credentials to teach English Lit that doesn’t mean I won’t be wanted for my own skills and knowledge in English Language and Media - I just need to find the right department/role.
  8. roamingteacher

    roamingteacher Established commenter Forum guide

    When I started teaching, my cohort had people with media degrees. It's up to individual heads. I reckon you do what you wanna do and you'll find a way.
    tall tales and Desdemona1991 like this.
  9. Desdemona1991

    Desdemona1991 New commenter

    Thanks for your reply! That’s very good advice :)
  10. CaptGrimesRetd

    CaptGrimesRetd Occasional commenter

    You might not get A level Lit to begin with but GCSE Lit is very straightforward and should be no problem.
    Desdemona1991 likes this.
  11. Desdemona1991

    Desdemona1991 New commenter

    Thanks for commenting again. Yeah I would imagine that I need to build up my subject knowledge from the bottom up with Literature. Like roamingteacher said above, I’ll find a way to make it work - perhaps I could apply to English PGCE to start September 2021 and see what the provider has to say about my Subject Knowledge. Maybe they want me to do an SKE or maybe I could self-fund an AS in English Lit through distance learning and complete it before September 2021 - I would hope this would demonstrate to a Head my commitment and willingness to work on my weak spots. Thanks for positive encouragement :)
  12. Clive_Candy

    Clive_Candy Occasional commenter

    And it seems to me that teaching English, more than many other subjects perhaps, is as much about how you convey things as it is about what you are conveying.

    Make sure you're reading some contemporary literature - I shouldn't worry too much about reading the texts you might end up teaching, you can cross those bridges when you come to them.

    Enthusiasm is the thing a head of department will be looking for in employing someone. Everything else will follow.
    Desdemona1991 likes this.
  13. CaptGrimesRetd

    CaptGrimesRetd Occasional commenter

    Major-General Clive Wynne-Candy is, as ever, entirely right.
  14. Clive_Candy

    Clive_Candy Occasional commenter

    You embarrass me Grimes.

    At least you didn't mention the VC...
  15. CaptGrimesRetd

    CaptGrimesRetd Occasional commenter

    There are some things one just assumes that everybody knows.
    Clive_Candy likes this.
  16. tollolo

    tollolo New commenter

    I'll give you some honest advice:

    Any school that has candidates with straight As at A-Level in that subject and an English literature degree will trump you.

    The schools that will take you on will be those willing to take on a body. That can be a very worthy job and fulfilling, especially if you did not achieve in English literature in the past.

    Finally, elite schools like Brighton College do not provide English language because (rightly or otherwise) it is seen as an easier gig than English literature. Check their website. Linguistics at HE is very difficult though.

    Good luck.
  17. Desdemona1991

    Desdemona1991 New commenter

    Hi and thanks for replying to my message. I really do appreciate your honesty and time - especially since it’s not what I want to hear but it’s probably what I need to hear. What advice would you give me given my plan below?

    “It’s my plan to do an English PGCE and teach both English and Media Studies. I would imagine I would be allowed to teach English up to GCSE and Media Studies up to A Level with time and experience.”

    Should I abandon the idea of doing a PGCE altogether? Should I defer the PGCE and retake my A Level in English Lit first? Should I try to get a distance PGCert or PGDip in English under my belt?

    “The schools that will take you on will be those willing to take on a body. That can be a very worthy job and fulfilling“

    So I would have a chance at being employed here?

    Finally, elite schools like Brighton College do not provide English language because (rightly or otherwise) it is seen as an easier gig than English literature

    I don’t expect elite schools to ever employ me at all (I did Media Studies!!!) so I understand these are a no-go for me.

    I just don't know what the job market is like for English Teachers. I’m scared to make this massive change and find it difficult to find myself a job afterwards. I know of plenty of people admitted into the English PGCE with degrees in Law, PR, Business, German, Dance, Psychology - but I always wonder do these people actually get jobs??
  18. cheekyme01

    cheekyme01 New commenter


    As a specialist of English, there used to be various jobs for English. It seems now long gone are the days, especially this year all jobs have been oversubscribed due to the unemployment/covid. If the situation improves then you may end up a better job markets next year.

    As for subjects, some teachers do end up teaching other subjects. It is a more difficult pathways. I would stick to media and see if placements allow the extra option for you to look at English, so you can test the waters first.
  19. jarndyce

    jarndyce Occasional commenter

    "Elite school". If by "elite", however, you mean "headmaster constantly writing in the papers to promote his school/himself", then it's certainly in the top 3 nationally, I'd say.

    @Desdemona1991 Actually, I think you'll be fine. 2:i from a Russell Group university proves you're bright. The challenge will be actually getting onto the PGCE, judging by what you've described. Yes, the D in A Level Lit looks bad, but a decent headteacher will see that in the context of your CV/references and realise "there's a story behind that".

    The last candidate I appointed when I was a HoD - now, I don't actually think his degree was in English either. But he came to us on his PGCE placement, was a great teacher, had good references from the other placement, so we snapped him up!

    Oh the absolute horror stories I could tell. There were two interview days where the candidate with the most impressive CV taught not only the worst lesson of the day, but one of the worst lessons I had ever had to sit through.
  20. cwilson1983

    cwilson1983 Occasional commenter

    When I qualified in 2010 as an English teacher there were few jobs and a lot of competition (north west). I had to do a few years on temporary/maternity contracts plus supply work until a permanent position came up (that I was successful in applying for too). Having mentored several PGCE students over recent years, I'd say the situation is largely the same: some get jobs fairly quickly whilst some have to follow a similar path on supply initially.

    On reflection, whilst I was qualified on paper and had experience, my interview technique was an area for improvement. So, even if you don't have the specialist degree, if you can nail it at interview, you stand a good chance of getting employed.

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