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Training to teach in Scotland

Training to teach in Scotland

Suzanne Agnew from the University of Edinburgh explains the Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE), which is the main graduate entry route into teaching in Scotland. Check out the entry requirements and how to apply.

The Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) is the main graduate entry route into teaching in Scotland. You'll follow a university-led programme of initial teacher education (ITE) – referred to as initial teacher training (ITT) in the rest of the UK. The minimum entry requirements for a PGDE course are set by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) but universities have the freedom to select applicants based on their own admissions policies and selection criteria. For some programmes, universities may ask applicants to have more than the minimum requirements.

Universities will also be looking for commitment to the profession, experience of working with children and young people (in the classroom or otherwise) and the necessary skills and attributes to be a good teacher. During the Covid-19 pandemic, you may need to be more creative about how you gain relevant experience. It’s important that you speak to training providers about what they expect in terms of classroom experience.

All students on ITE courses are required to be a member of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme run by Disclosure Scotland.

Teachers qualified in Scotland should be able to apply for qualified teacher status in England and Wales. Contact the Teaching Regulation Agency for more information.

Although new initiatives to qualify have been introduced to increase diversity and flexibility in the profession, the PGDE currently remains the most common graduate route. Contact individual institutions directly about possible alternative routes to qualification, which often represent a particular need in a local area.

What qualifications do you need to train as a teacher in Scotland?

The minimum entry requirements for a PGDE course are published in the memorandum on entry requirements to programmes of initial teacher education in Scotland. Some institutions will have higher entry requirements and you should check with them before making an application.

Primary teaching

The minimum entry requirements for a PGDE for primary education are:

  • an undergraduate degree validated by a UK higher education institution or an undergraduate degree of equivalent standard from an institution outside the UK
  • a national qualification in English at SCQF level 6 (eg higher grade) or an accepted equivalent
  • a national qualification in mathematics at SCQF level 5 (eg national 5) or an accepted equivalent.

Secondary teaching

The minimum entry requirements for a PGDE for secondary education are:

  • an undergraduate degree validated by a UK university or an undergraduate degree of equivalent standard from an institution outside the UK. The degree should normally contain 80 SCQF credit points relevant to the subject area. Forty credit points must be at SCQF level 8 or above. Credit from a masters degree may be considered but universities must be convinced of the relevance of the credits to teaching the subject. To qualify to teach more than one subject, appropriate credit points can be counted for entry to both subjects
  • a national qualification in English at SCQF level 6 (eg higher grade) or an accepted equivalent
  • a national qualification in mathematics at SCQF level 5 (eg national 5) or an accepted equivalent.

Remember that some secondary subjects will have additional specific entry requirements.

The Scottish universities that offer initial teacher education

While Scotland has many institutions that provide ITE, not all offer every possible PGDE course. Make sure you research education providers thoroughly before applying. You might take a look at:

How and when do you apply?

UCAS is the central online applications system for postgraduate education courses in Scotland. Applicants for Scottish PGDEs must use the main UCAS undergraduate system (not UCAS Teacher Training) and can therefore apply to up to five options. You don’t need to rank your choices in order of preference on the application form or use all five options. You can apply to both PGDE primary and PGDE secondary programmes – but remember that you will only have one personal statement to explain your motivations for teaching and your choice of teaching programme. It is more difficult to ensure a focused and meaningful explanation of your choices within your personal statement with a mix of programmes, so you need to think hard about your reasons for choosing both. See UCAS for more information.

Applications to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland for the PGDE Music should be made through UCAS Conservatoires.

Personal statement

A significant part of the application is the personal statement. This is your opportunity to provide evidence of why you want to teach, what school experience you have and why you are suitable for your chosen programme. Within the personal statement you should:

  • be clear about your motivations to teach
  • show your understanding of the role of a teacher
  • reflect on your classroom experience
  • provide evidence that you have the necessary skills to teach
  • describe the relevance of your degree
  • demonstrate your understanding of the Sottish education system and Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence (see below).

For equal consideration, the deadline for applications is 15 January 2021. Some courses will be unable to accept applications after this date. To ensure you are considered for your preferred programmes, submit your application before this deadline.

Funding teacher training in Scotland

For eligibility, information and advice on funding visit the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) website.

Qualifying to teach in further education in Scotland

Students in Scottish further education (FE) institutions are aged 16 and over. Currently, FE lecturers are not required to be registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS). However, if you want to be considered for registration you must have been awarded a teaching qualification (further education), also known as a TQFE, or a comparable teaching qualification. City and guilds qualifications are not acceptable equivalents.

Three universities in Scotland currently offer the TQFE:

Candidates apply directly to the institution. A full list of FE colleges in Scotland can be found on the Colleges Scotland website. Vacancies can be found at myjobscotland and jobs.ac.uk. The TQFE does not qualify you to teach in a primary or secondary school.

Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence

Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) applies to all young people aged 3–18 in any educational setting. The cornerstones of the curriculum are the four capacities of successful learner, confident individual, responsible citizen and effective contributor. The CfE's purpose is to offer learners a coherent curriculum with more choice and flexibility in how they learn, and to support learners in gaining more in-depth skills, knowledge and understanding. The aim is also to integrate more diverse ways of learning into the curriculum, such as outdoor and interdisciplinary learning.

For more information about the Curriculum for Excellence see Education Scotland.

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