When Daniel Simonsen began an MPhil in Human Evolution at Darwin in 2020, he was already toying with the idea of teaching. Living in Frank Young House with trainee teachers, far from putting him off the idea, only confirmed that this was an ambition he wanted to pursue.
“I was really intrigued by their routine, and reassured that seeing what the course entailed only made me feel more positive about it.”
Having previously studied Biology as an undergraduate at Oxford, before working in science communications in London for a year, Daniel took on the MPhil with an open mind as to where it might lead.
“It’s a partially taught course, and it gives you a taste of what continuing into further academia might be like, but it’s really just an interesting year of study for its own sake.”
Once he completed the MPhil, Daniel took the plunge and signed up for the PGCE in Biology, staying on at Darwin for a further year.
“I wasn’t living in College, but I still felt very much a part of it, even though you obviously have quite an intense relationship with the Faculty of Education. I came to Formals and played for the football team, and was made to feel very welcome.”
The course combines thorough practical training and placements with educational theory, a demanding balance which Daniel enjoyed.
“I liked the fact that, while the placements and the practical elements are really important, you’re still writing in-depth essays too – it still feels like a Cambridge degree. That balance of short-term deadlines for lesson planning etc, and longer-term deadlines for written assessments really suited me.”
After placements in Saffron Walden and Haverhill, Daniel is now in his first term as a teacher of Biology at Chesterton Community College.
“It’s great so far. It’s the first year that they’ve offered A Levels, so they’re not letting us newly qualified teachers loose on the precious new A Level cohort but I’m teaching up to GCSE. And I’m still playing football for Darwin, when they’ll have me, to keep up with my friends still there doing PhDs.”