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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.

The Department for Education is setting up a new application service for postgraduate teacher training, which will eventually replace UCAS Teacher Training. This new service, called Apply for teacher training, will be rolled out slowly, starting with just a few training providers. For 2020 entry, there will, therefore, be two postgraduate teacher training application services running side by side. 

The deadlines for Apply 1 and Apply 2, timeframes and how providers process your application are the same for both services.

For more information on which service to use for your application, and for support, information and advice on applying for a teacher training programme, see the Get into Teaching website.

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 2020/2021 are as follows:

  • Graduates who are training to teach chemistry, computing, languages, maths or physics can apply for scholarships of £28,000 or for bursaries of £26,000. Languages scholarships are only available if you train to teach French, German or Spanish, whereas bursaries are also open to graduates who are training to teach other modern or community languages.

  • Trainees in chemistrylanguagesmaths and physics will receive three additional early-career payments of £2,000 or £3,000 each (after tax) in their second, third and fourth year of teaching, if they have taught in a state-funded school in England since completing their training. The payments will vary depending on the area where they have been teaching.

  • Graduates training to teach biology or classics are not eligible for a scholarship, but can apply for a bursary of £26,000. The bursary is available for trainees on classics courses that are about an ancient language (Latin or Ancient Greek).

  • Graduates training to teach geography can access a scholarship of £17,000 or a bursary of £15,000.

  • Graduates training to teach design and technology are not eligible for a scholarship, but can get bursaries of £15,000.

  • Graduates training to teach English are not eligible for a scholarship but can access bursaries of £12,000.

  • Graduates training to teach art and design, business studies, history, music or RE are not eligible for scholarships, but can get bursaries of £9,000.

  • Graduates training on primary maths courses are not eligible for scholarships, but can get bursaries of £6,000 if they have at least a B in A level maths (or equivalent).

Find out more about funding for teacher training.

Paul Barnes, University of Portsmouth

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