Dear John: Should I switch from Law to PGCE Primary?


I am going to start my third year of my law degree next month and I am in the process of starting my personal statement for the PGCE. But I’m so confused as to which one to apply for. When I reflect on my experiences at schools - I find primary school more engaging and appealing to me. During my open schools visit, the head teacher told me that the primary sector is calling out for males and ethnic minorities and they would prefer a male candidate over a female (if they both had the same qualifications and experiences).

Thus I’m thinking like a businessman in the sense that I would be more secure at a primary school. Citizenship PGCE is oversubscribed, is not taught overtly in the majority of schools and from my experience the students find it boring. But I have heard that there is a shortage of primary jobs at the moment.

I feel that I would be valued more at a primary school, but I would be throwing my law degree in the bin in a way, since law isn’t taught at primary school.

Any words of advice? I was thinking of applying to both secondary and primary - but I was advised not to because it shows a lack of commitment to Citizenship and indecisiveness. I heard that once you have your QTS, you are qualified to teach all across the board. So if I was to go for PGCE Primary, I could then apply for citizenship posts provided I can convince the head that I have the subject knowledge to teach the subject - which my law degree does. And I have heard that the transition between primary to secondary teaching is a lot smoother that secondary to primary.


The answer to most of your questions is’ yes’. QTS is transferrable, and from primary to secondary is often easier than going the other way. There are few jobs in citizenship and not enough for everyone doing the PGCE each year. As an ethnic minority male, you should find primary courses inviting you for interview and the fact that you have been in primary schools will definitely help. You are no more throwing your law degree away than if you did anything other than became a barrister or solicitor. When you become a head, the understanding of jurisprudence will stand you in good stead and even as a classroom teacher you will have to make judgements between individuals and assess the evidence just as a judge has to do; although, normally you won’t be required to give written reasons for your judgement.

I wouldn’t apply for both primary and secondary for the reason you state. I am sorry that young children think citizenship is boring, one of my favourite books from my last year at primary schools was called ‘Vote for Richard’ and it helped convince me of the importance of political life. In my experience, young children have firm views on right and wrong and how we should live together. It should be fun to teach. Here is one example. A notice appears in a park - ‘wheeled vehicles not allowed’. Give children cards to argue for refuse collectors to be exempt, and buggies and prams, a tank monument and so on. Helps with clarity of thought and how laws work and who drafts them. If you decide to apply for a primary PGCE, do so soon at as places fill quickly. The increase in the birth rate means the demand for primary teachers will increase over the next decade.


John Howson worked as a secondary school teacher in London for seven years before moving into teacher training and consultancy,including a brief period as a chief government advisor. John is now a recruitment analyst, visiting professor of education atOxfordBrookes University and hosts our Career Clinic where you can post questions to him.