September 24, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

The Imperial College Outreach Office tells us how their programme will help inspire the future generations of scientists ...


The Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) is a short-term course that helps train postgraduate students to become teachers. Imperial College London, in conjunction with Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU), has been running a bespoke PGCE training scheme since 2007 and since then over 40 postgraduate students have gone on to become physics or chemistry teachers at schools across the Greater London area.

What makes INSPIRE (the Innovative Scheme for Postgraduates In Research and Education) stand out from other courses is that the PGCE students are either at PhD or Masters-level in physics or chemistry, and that they can bring a range of extracurricular ‘Inspire Activities’ to the schools enrolled on the scheme. Many of the schools have been a part of INSPIRE since the beginning, having seen first-hand how their pupils become engaged and excited by these notoriously difficult science subjects.

The PGCE students grow in confidence over their nine-and-a-half-month programme and quickly pick up the teaching reins after just a few weeks, much sooner than on a traditional PGCE programme. Under careful observation from their school mentors and CCCU tutors, their progress is monitored and the students devote their non-teaching time to working on essays and reflective journals. Incorporated into the programme are educational trips to Kew Gardens, the Royal Institution and Centre of the Cell. These visits are an engaging and informative way for the students to develop their lesson plans, and are also a good opportunity to get new ideas to enrich the curriculum.

The annual INSPIRE cohort is small – no more than 14 students at any one time – but this means that they bond quickly and are extremely supportive of each other. Andrew Guerriero, one of the students from 2012’s cohort, explained his views on the course: “The INSPIRE programme is a unique teacher training course, characterised by its small cohort of students, holding doctorates or masters from leading universities. The tutors from CCCU offer an exceptional level of assistance, guidance, and a tailored, personalised support package.”

“The training component is exceptionally rigorous. The contribution from Imperial College is via overall project management and the delivery of fun science lessons, so-called ‘Inspire Activities’, to all partnership schools on the programme. My experience has been challenging, but very rewarding. I wholeheartedly recommend this programme, because of its uniqueness, over other more conventional PGCE programmes. I know that the INSPIRE programme will continue to translate a very high calibre of research scientist, into dynamic and charismatic teachers.”

The scheme would not be able to run without the support and teaching expertise of Canterbury Christ Church University or the input and management of Imperial College London. INSPIRE also receives funding from the Foyle Foundation to provide the PGCE students with attractive bursaries, while the Ogden Trust supports INSPIRE in bringing Physics alive in state secondary schools in particular. INSPIRE continues to grow in strength and we hope to continue training and producing exceptional physics and chemistry teachers to inspire the next generation of budding young scientists.