In order to qualify to teach in a state school in England and Wales, you must have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). Some training routes lead only to QTS, others lead to QTS and an academic qualification such as a PGCE, PGDE and Masters credits. If you are considering teaching outside England or Wales ultimately, then you may find both QTS and an academic qualification is required – in Scotland for example you will also need to have a PGCE (or PGDE) or equivalent (e.g. 60 credits at Masters level).
Government regulations state that applicants must have a degree and passes at Grade 4 (C) or above in GCSE Maths and English (or equivalent). For early years and primary courses applicants must also have a science GCSE at Grade 4 (C) or above. Beyond that, each initial teacher training provider is responsible for its recruitment and admissions policy, so it may be possible, for example, for somebody who has studied Development to teach Geography, or a Classicist to teach English. Some teacher training providers such as Teach First may allow you to teach a different subject to your degree if you have an A level in the subject you want to teach. You should contact training providers directly with queries about the suitability of your degree course for the subject you wish to teach. Subject knowledge enhancement courses are available in some shortage subjects for graduates needing to develop or refresh their subject knowledge prior to a course of teacher training.
Legislation does not specify that teachers must have a degree in a particular discipline in order to teach that subject in secondary schools. Similarly, there is no statutory requirement for primary trainee teachers to have a degree in a national curriculum subject. In order to acheive QTS trainees do need to meet standards that relate to subject and curriculum knowledge by the end of their training. This means that it is possible to train to teach a subject other than your degree subject as long as you can demonstrate sufficient subject knowledge to meet the requirements of QTS. In practice most teacher training providers expect the majority share of your degree to be in a relevant subject, but it is possible to make a case for teaching say mathematics from a science or engineering degree, or history from a law degree if you have a strong A level or equivalent in the subject you wish to teach.
Routes into Teaching
Get into teaching provides a clear overview of the various teacher training routes in England. Similar advice also exists for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
PGCE courses led by universities
Many graduates training to teach do so by taking a one-year, full-time PGCE at a university or other higher education provider. Some two-year, flexible, part-time courses are also available. In addition to substantial classroom experience in two, or more, different schools, the PGCE offers time in university focusing on topics such as the national curriculum, principles and practice of teaching your subject, the professional role of the teacher and aspects of teaching which are relevant to the whole school. Some courses include Masters-level modules, and all lead to the same QTS. QTS is awarded on successful completion of the first year in post in a school as a Newly-Qualified Teacher (NQT). Search for courses and apply via the government portal.
Similar to the university-based PGCE, School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) is delivered by a local consortium of colleges or schools rather than a university, and applications follow the same route as that for PGCE. Search for courses and apply via the Government portal.
School Direct places are offered by a school or group of schools in partnership with an accredited teacher training institution, often the local university or SCITT. This allows schools to train graduates as teachers in the subjects and age ranges they need and in the way they want them trained. In return for this the schools will be expected (though not guaranteed) to find a job for the trainee once they finish training. School Direct leads to qualified teacher status (QTS) and many, though not all, will also award a PGCE or even PGDE. Funding for School Direct attracts the same level of tuition fees and the same bursaries as PGCE and, in common with university-led courses. Search for courses and apply via the government portal.
School Direct (salaried)
Limited numbers of salaried version of School Direct is open to graduates with three or more years’ career experience. It is worth talking to providers about your own circumstances and attending open days to find out more about this route. On this scheme trainees will be employed initially as an unqualified teacher while they train in school. Despite the focus on training as you teach, many ‘school direct (salaried)’ courses award a PGCE or PGDE (an academic qualification) in addition to QTS. Search for courses and apply via the government portal.
Teach First is a two-year programme combining training, qualifying and working as a teacher, with opportunities to develop leadership and management skills, and a wide range of networking and summer project options.
The aim of Teach First is to address educational disadvantage by placing high-calibre graduates to teach in challenging secondary and primary schools, while acquiring QTS and a PGDE. Many Teach First participants have remained in teaching at the end of their two years and all become ambassadors for Teach First with continued support to address educational disadvantage.
Teach First applications are open year-round. You are advised to apply early (during the preceding summer or autumn) particularly for non-shortage subjects such as history, also for primary places. A-levels at grade B or above in maths, science or English can qualify you to teach that subject with Teach First regardless of your degree subject.
Teacher Training in the post-compulsory sector (FE)
Many enter the FE sector with no teaching qualification and work towards relevant qualifications part time while in post. Alternatively it is possible to do a full-time PGCE specialising in the FE sector. The average FE college has thousands of students covering a wide spectrum of vocational and academic courses. There are some 300+ colleges employing 100,000+ teaching staff, many of whom work part time. Work-based learning, Adult & Community Learning and Offender Learning all fall under the umbrella of FE teaching. FE Advice provide comprehensive information about training in the FE sector, and operate a very helpful information line (0300 303 1877) for queries.
Early Years Teacher Training (EYTT)
Early years refers to children up to the age of compulsory schooling (age 5). Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS) has recently been introduced, and now has equivalent standing to QTS. Four training routes are available that focus on Early Years, including School Direct and employment-based options. This route is usually separate to the application routes for PGCE and School Direct so you will need to contact the training provider directly. In some instances the training providers will expect you to already be working in an early years setting (such as a nursery or pre-school) but there are also routes available full time for those not in these settings already. Find out more on the Get into Teaching website.
Independent School Sector
You are not obliged to have QTS in order to teach in independent schools. But in practice, even within the independent sector, many head teachers or principals prefer applicants who are qualified. Some offer schemes similar to the salaried School Direct route to promising candidates. In some instances independent schools will sponsor visas but this is on a case by case basis. Other options include:
- Teaching vacancies for those without a teaching qualification are occasionally advertised on CareerConnect, and in the TES. For example, Magdalen College School in Oxford often look for graduates to join their Waynflete Certificate of Teacher Training.
- Also consider writing speculatively to schools to enquire whether opportunities are available. Read our tips for making speculative applications for more information. The Independent Schools Council keeps a database of independent schools.
- Graduate assistantships are offered by some independent schools, where you may have a pastoral role, or assist with music, drama or sporting activities, in return for board, lodging and a stipend for an academic year. These are most common in boarding schools.
Academies are publicly-funded schools which have freedom from local authority control, the ability to set their own pay and conditions for staff, freedoms around the delivery of the curriculum and the ability to change the lengths of terms and school days. Some academies recruit graduates to train as teachers, and many offer the School Direct programme or work alongside universities by offering teaching placements for PGCE students.
Alternative classroom roles
There are several roles that can immerse you in a classroom environment, perhaps to help you to decide whether teaching is for you. These include Teaching Assistant, Cover Supervisor, Learning Mentor and Learning Support Assistant. These roles can provide you with invaluable experience which may be particularly helpful when applying for popular teaching subjects such as history. Vacancies are usually advertised locally, in particular on local authority websites. The Local Government careers website has a useful overview of the various roles. A number of Teaching Assistants, for example, go on to undertake the School Direct programme in the school they have been working in as they gain a good understanding of the nature and structure of the school. In addition, the department training them may feel more confident about offering them a full time job upon completion of the course.
Applying for school- and university-led courses
Search for courses and apply via the government portal.
- Applications open in October every year.
- Candidates can apply to three different training providers – these can be a mix of PGCE and School Direct providers. There is no order of preference, applications are sent out to all three choices simultaneously.
- Institutions have 20 working days to review applications, interview candidates and make an offer or reject them.
- Once candidates have received decisions from all of the training providers they have applied to, they will have 10 working days to reply to their offers.
- From January each year unsuccessful applicants can apply for any course that still has vacancies (one at a time).
- Course quality
Ofsted inspects initial teacher training courses and publishes reports. The Centre for Education and Employment Research (CEER) also produces annual ‘league tables’ (including SCITTs) based on a combination of Ofsted inspection results, entry qualifications and how many trainees enter the teaching profession. This is published as the Good Teacher Training Guide.
- Other factors
As well as the quality of the individual course you should also consider: geographic proximity to where you would like to teach afterwards, nature of school’s intake (e.g. rural/urban) in the light of future preferences, proximity of partner schools to the training provider, and your likely accommodation.
The application consists of:
- Application form
Personal details, details of qualifications, a breakdown of the subject content of your degree (important if you want to teach a subject not directly related to your degree course), details of relevant work experience and a…
- Personal statement
The most important part of your application – you will submit one statement that will be sent out to all three of your chosen institutions. Explain why you want to be a teacher, reflect on the relevant experience you already have and your commitment to your chosen subject and age range. You might also like a Careers Adviser to give you feedback on your statement before you submit it. We also run a session on writing statements at the Careers Service during Michaelmas Term.
You can’t submit the form until these are completed online by your referees so make sure you leave plenty of time for this.
- Application fee (unknown in August 2021)
Funding for university-led courses & School Direct
There are significant differences between the levels of support for trainee teachers in England, Wales and Scotland and in the support available to UK, EU and overseas students. The following applies to home students undertaking full-time courses in England. EU and overseas students will need to check eligibility carefully.
Funding for training in Scotland is administered by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS). There are no government-funded training bursaries for teacher training in Scotland, but you can apply to SAAS for a loan and supplementary grants which are dependent on your household income and individual circumstances.
In England and Wales, three main sources of funding are available:
- Training bursaries and scholarships (higher for priority subjects for secondary school trainees)
- Tuition fee and maintenance loans;
- PGCE and (non-salaried) School Direct students will need to pay a tuition fee for their course. The amount varies between institutions. Eligible students can receive a tuition fee loan to cover this cost. Maintenance loans are also available to eligible students. The level of loan available depends on household income, but all qualify for at least the minimum loan regardless of household income.
- Extra financial support
- Depending on household income, or special circumstances, you may be able to apply for grants or loans from the local authority or government, for example if you have a disability or have dependent children. Visit the UK Government: Student Finance website for details.
Detailed information on fees and funding is provided by the Department for Education.
Teaching in Scotland
The education system in Scotland is different from the system in the rest of the UK. Compulsory education begins in primary schools at the age of 5 and the move to secondary school takes place at age 12. Compulsory education ends at age 16, although most stay in education until the age of 18. The school year begins in August rather than September. Pupils take Standards and Highers rather than GCSEs and A-Levels.
The only postgraduate route into teaching is the Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) which follows the same basic format as PGCE courses in the rest of the UK. Teach in Scotland provides information about the different routes into training to teach in Scotland.
Teaching in Northern Ireland
If you want to teach in Northern Ireland make use of the guidance provided by The General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland and the Prospects advice about how to train and qualify to teach in Northern Ireland.
Teaching outside the UK
The opportunities for UK teachers abroad are hugely varied, ranging from small schools for the children of expatriate employees of a single company to English-medium schools for over 2,000 pupils, many of whom may be nationals of the country concerned. Each country will have its own requirements and many require 2 years experience post-qualification to be eligible to teach in an international school setting. These can be competitive teaching jobs so think strategically about building your international teaching profile and what you can bring to the role. Teaching English in China or teaching in Kuwait, for example, are less competitive generally than teaching jobs in international schools in Singapore or Hong Kong. Local schools will have different approaches and expectations to English-speaking international schools so do your research carefully and discuss with a Careers Adviser to make a plan. Read more on the Edvectus site about teaching abroad
Occasional vacancies are posted on CareerConnect, others can be found in the TES. Note that required teaching qualifications vary enormously between countries and even between states within a single country. Please also read our information on Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).