How do you train to become a teacher?

Our overview of how to train to become a teacher explains the different options open to you, including the PGCE and the School Direct training programme.
How do you train to become a teacher?
For university or college-led PGCEs, SCITTs and School Direct programmes throughout England and Wales you apply through UCAS Teacher Training.

You need to have professional qualified teacher status (QTS) in order to work as a teacher in state maintained schools (excluding academies and free schools) in England and Wales.

To be awarded QTS you must complete a period of initial teacher training (ITT). Newly qualified teachers (NQTs) then complete a period of induction, which is the first year of employment as a teacher in a school. Teachers in independent schools aren't required to have QTS, but most do.

Your teacher training options

There are several types of postgraduate teacher training programmes available, all of which lead to qualified teacher status (QTS).

These are:

  • University-led Postgraduate or Professional Certificate in Education (PGCE): full-time courses usually last one academic year but part-time and flexible learning options are also available. You will attend classes at the university or college, but will also spend a minimum of 24 weeks on placements in at least two schools.
  • School-centred initial teacher training (SCITT): provides training run by a consortium of schools and colleges. The majority of the training is delivered by experienced teachers in the school setting. Most SCITTs also offer a PGCE, with training provided by university staff. Courses typically last one academic year full time. You will usually spend most of the time in one school, with further placements in other schools in the consortium.
  • School Direct training programme: provides school-led training run by a lead school in partnership with a university or SCITT and other schools, mostly on a one-year full-time basis. You may be employed within the school or partnership once qualified. Many programmes also lead to a PGCE.
  • School Direct training programme (salaried): as above, but the salaried programme is for graduates with three or more years' career experience. The trainee is employed as an unqualified teacher by the school and schools receive funding which they can use to subsidise the trainee’s salary and/or training.
  • Teach First: a two-year school-based programme which is carried out in schools that experience high levels of poverty or underachievement amongst their pupils. Candidates are employed as unqualified teachers and a PGCE is gained in the first year and an NQT induction year is completed in the second. This route also offers the chance to gain a masters qualification.
  • Researchers in Schools: a programme for researchers who have completed, or are finishing, their doctorate. Trainees are placed in a non-selective state school and supported to achieve QTS in their first year and NQT status in their second year. On completion of the programme, teachers can choose to stay in schools or return to work in higher education.
  • Assessment Only route: this route allows you to gain QTS while employed in a school. Your teaching is assessed by an accredited teacher training provider and you must present a detailed portfolio of evidence from your work in school to show that you meet all the standards for QTS. Though designed for experienced unqualified teachers, there may be opportunities for graduates entering teaching via academies and independent schools.

Find out more about your postgraduate teacher training options from TARGETpostgrad.

When do you need to apply?

For university/college-led PGCEs, SCITTs and School Direct programmes throughout England and Wales you apply through UCAS Teacher Training. Applications for PGDEs in Scotland are made through the main UCAS undergraduate application system.

UCAS Teacher Training operates in two phases:

  • Apply 1: opens in late October 2014 for training courses starting in 2015 and it's possible to make applications right up to the beginning of the academic year. Each training provider, however, can decide when to open and close their programme for applications, so the course you want may not be available when applications first open and many providers will fill their places well in advance of the start of the course.
  • Apply 2: begins in early January in the year the training programme begins. If you don't hold any offers from the Apply 1 phase, you can make further applications. They have to be made one at a time but you can keep applying until you're offered a place.

Teach First applications open in June for the programme starting in the summer of the following year. Vacancies are filled as soon as suitable candidates are found so it's best to apply as early as possible.

Find out more about how to apply for teacher training from TARGETpostgrad.

Funding for teacher training

Loans to cover tuition fees may be available to home and EU students on full and part-time courses. The loan won't have to be repaid until you're working and earning over £21,000 a year.

Home students may also be able to apply for a student maintenance loan to help with accommodation and living costs. Some may also qualify for a non-repayable maintenance grant that will be means tested.

Non-repayable scholarships and bursaries are available for trainee teachers on some full and part-time primary and secondary PGCE courses, SCITT schemes and School Direct programmes. The amount you receive depends on the subject you plan to teach and degree class. For those who train in 2015/16, the scholarships and bursaries available are:

  • Graduates with a 2.1 or above who are training to teach maths, physics, chemistry or computing can apply for scholarships of £25,000. Graduates who do not have a 2.1 or above may still be considered if they have additional experience and qualifications that can be taken into account. For the students selected, scholarships are paid instead of bursaries.
  • Graduates training to teach physics can access bursaries of £25,000 if they have a first, 2.1, masters or PhD, and £15,000 if they have a 2.2.
  • Graduates training to teach maths, chemistry, computing or languages can access bursaries of £25,000 if they have a first or PhD, £20,000 if they have a 2.1 or masters and £15,000 if they have a 2.2.
  • Bursaries of £9,000 are available to other maths and physics trainees with a relevant degree and a good A-level in the subject (a B or higher). 
  • Primary maths specialists can get bursaries of £12,000 if they have a masters, PhD or 2.2 or above, or £9,000 if they have a B or above at A-level in maths or physics, along with a relevant degree.
  • Graduates training to teach biology can get bursaries of £15,000 if they have a first or PhD, £12,000 if they have a 2.1 or masters and £10,000 if they have a 2.2. 
  • Graduates training to teach design and technology or geography can get bursaries of £12,000 if they have a first or PhD, £9,000 if they have a 2.1 or masters or £4,000 if they have a 2.2.
  • Graduates training to teach music can get bursaries of £9,000 if they have a first or PhD or £4,000 if they have a masters, 2.1 or 2.2.
  • Graduates training to teach English, history, RE or in primary schools can get bursaries of £9,000 if they have a first or PhD or £4,000 if they have a 2.1 or masters. 

Find out more about funding for teacher training from TARGETpostgrad.

Margaret Evans, Northumbria University, 2014

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