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How do you train to become a teacher?

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.
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. For training in other parts of the UK, see our advice on training to teach in Scotland and training to teach in Northern Ireland.

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 in England, all of which lead to qualified teacher status (QTS). Training options can vary in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

These are:

  • University-led Postgraduate or Professional Graduate Certificate/Diploma in Education (PGCE/PGDE): 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 an alliance 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 alliance.
  • 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 with a preference for applicants with three or more years' experience in any career since graduation. 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.
  • Postgraduate Teaching Apprenticeship: similar to the salaried School Direct programme, this route allows you to gain classroom experience while earning a salary. You will work towards QTS and will spend 20% of your time in off-the-job training.
  • Teach First: runs a two-year employment-based Leadership Development Programme completed in primary and secondary schools that are in challenging circumstances. Successful candidates start as unqualified teachers and work towards a postgraduate diploma in education (PGDE) qualification that integrates teacher training and leadership development, and which includes credits at masters level, over two years. The programme leads to QTS after the first year, and all participants have the option to work towards a full masters qualification.
  • Researchers in Schools (RIS): a salaried 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. An optional third year offers the opportunity to join the Subject Leader Programme to work towards the RIS Research Leader in Education (RLE) Award.
  • HMC Teacher Training: a two-year school-based programme, offering a PGCE, QTS and induction year, in which trainees are employed by HMC senior schools in the independent sector. HMC (the Headmasters' & Headmistresses' Conference) is a professional association representing a group of heads of independent schools.
  • 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.

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 the Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) in Wales are made directly through one of the three regional centres for teacher training. See Discover Teaching for more information. Applications for PGDEs in Scotland are made through the main UCAS undergraduate application system. Applications for PGCE courses in Northern Ireland are made directly to the institution.

UCAS Teacher Training operates in two phases:

  • Apply 1: open from 1 October 2019 for you to search for training courses that start the following autumn and you can apply from 8 October 2019. You should apply as soon as possible to maximise your chance of getting the training place you want.
  • Apply 2: generally opens in mid-November. If you don't hold any offers from the Apply 1 phase, you can make further applications in Apply 2. They have to be made one at a time but you can keep applying until you're offered a place.

Teach First releases new places in June and then recruitment is carried out on a rolling basis with vacancies being filled as soon as suitable candidates are found. It's therefore best to apply as early as possible.

Find out more about how to apply for teacher training.

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 £25,000 a year. Student maintenance grants have been replaced by loans of up to £8,700 a year (£10,702 in London) that will have to be paid back. 

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. 

The bursaries for teacher training courses starting in 2019/2020 are as follows:

  • Graduates with a 1st, 2.1, 2.2, PhD or masters who are training to teach maths can apply for scholarships of £22,000 or for a bursary of £20,000, plus an early-career payment of £10,000 (two payments of £5,000 in your third and fifth year of teaching).

  • Graduates with a 2.1 or above who are training to teach physics, chemistry, computing, geography or languages (French, German or Spanish) with a 2.1 or above can apply for scholarships of £28,000. Graduates who do not have a 2.1 or above may still be considered if they have significant relevant experience. For the students selected, scholarships are paid instead of bursaries.

  • Graduates training to teach physics, biology, computing, chemistry, geography, or languages (includes other modern or community languages in addition to French, German and Spanish) or classics (where the course is an ancient language - Latin or Ancient Greek) can access bursaries of £26,000 with a 2.2 or higher.

  • Graduates training to teach English can get bursaries of £15,000 with a 2.2 or higher.

  • Graduates training to teach design and technology or history can access bursaries of £12,000 with a 2.2 or higher.

  • Graduates training to teach music or RE can get bursaries of £9,000 with a 2.2 or higher.

  • Graduates training on a primary maths specialist course or primary general (with maths) course can get bursaries of £6,000 if they have a 2.2 or higher. In all cases at least a B in A level maths (or equivalent) is also needed.

Find out more about funding for teacher training.

Paul Barnes, University of Portsmouth

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