Training and progression

Become a teacher

9 Oct 2023, 09:38

Get the key information to help you decide if teaching is for you, including what QTS is and the subjects taught at primary and secondary level.

How to become a teacher

Getting qualified | All about induction | Choosing which age to teach | Primary subjects | Secondary subjects

In England and Wales, to work as a primary or secondary school teacher, with children aged five to sixteen in maintained schools (excluding academies and free schools) you need to have professional qualified teacher status (QTS). To be awarded QTS by the Teaching Regulation Agency (England) or the Education Workforce Council (Wales) you must complete a period of training.

The training can be a one year Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), the Professional/Postgraduate Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) or school-centred training; which recommends you for QTS. This is known as initial teacher training (ITT).

Early career teachers (ECTs) then complete a period of induction - which is the first two years of employment as a teacher in a school. ECTs are encouraged to start their induction as soon as possible after gaining QTS, but there's no set time limit for starting or completing the induction.

What to expect during your induction

All teachers in the UK are required to complete an induction. In England this is a two-year induction period as part of the early career framework. In Scotland and Wales it is a one year induction. The early career framework entitles early career teachers in England to a fully funded two year package of structured training and support for professional development. The support package includes:

  • 10% extra time away from the classroom in the first year of teaching and 5% extra time away from the classroom in the second year.
  • Training and continuing professional development (CPD) for ECTs.
  • The support of a designated mentor.

The early career framework can be completed through supply teaching (and also part time pro-rata), but the duration of each temporary role must be at least one term.

See Hwb for specific information about the Welsh induction year and The General Teaching Council for Scotland about the Scottish probationary service. Information on induction in Northern Ireland can be found at Education Authority Northern Ireland.

Usually the induction period is completed within a maintained school. However, it can be completed within an academy or free school, an independent school, nursery school, pupil referral unit, further education college or one of the British Schools Overseas (BSOs) – subject to compliance with the regulations.

Teachers with early years teacher status (EYTS) working with children from birth to five years old do not complete the statutory ECT induction.

Teachers in independent schools aren't required to have QTS, but most do. Many independent schools don't offer an ECT induction year.

It is possible to teach within further education without a teaching qualification, but career prospects are improved with one.

For further information on teaching in other areas of the UK see our advice on training to teach in Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland .

What age range do you want to teach?

Primary and secondary school teachers in England with QTS are trained to teach within one of the following phases:

Primary (ages 4-11):

  • Reception/final stage of Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) – ages 4-5
  • Key Stage 1 (KS1) – ages 5-7 (Years 1-2)
  • Key Stage 2 (KS2) – ages 7-11 (Years 3-6)

Secondary (ages 11 – 18)

  • Key Stage 3 (KS3) – ages 11-14 (Years 7-9)
  • Key Stage 4 (KS4) – ages 14-16 (Years 10-11)
  • Key Stage 5 (KS5) – ages 16-18 (Years 12-13) – within schools that have a sixth form or in colleges

Once you have achieved QTS, it’s legal for you to teach any age range from primary to secondary. However, if you want to change to a different age to that in which you trained, you’ll typically need to build up some supporting evidence to persuade the school that you have the required skills and knowledge.

If you would like to teach children aged 0-5, you can pursue a course of early years initial teacher training; leading to early years teacher status (EYTS). Teachers with EYTS specialise in early childhood development and may be employed in any early years setting. This includes private, voluntary, maintained and independent establishments; as well as primary and nursery schools, free schools and academies in England that deliver the early years foundation stage.

What subjects can you teach at primary level?

The national curriculum sets out the subjects taught in maintained schools in England. Primary schools cover key stage 1 (5-7 year olds) and key stage 2 (7-11 year olds). In general, you'll need to feel confident about teaching the wide range of national curriculum subjects, which include the following compulsory subjects:

  • English
  • maths
  • science
  • design and technology
  • history
  • geography
  • art and design
  • music
  • physical education (PE), including swimming
  • computing
  • ancient and modern foreign languages (at key stage 2)

In addition to these national curriculum subjects, primary schools must also teach religious education and relationships and health education. Schools often also teach personal, social and health education (PSHE), citizenship, modern foreign language (at key stage 1) and sex education. Primary ITT courses are available with specialisms in a range of subjects, most commonly maths, science or foreign languages.

What subjects can you teach at secondary level?

ITT in secondary teaching entails a specialist subject, but once you've gained QTS, you're legally qualified to teach any subject. It's common to find teachers in schools teaching subjects other than those they specialised in during their teacher training.

Secondary schools cover key stage 3 (11-14 year olds), key stage 4 (14-16 year olds) and sometimes key stage 5 (16-18 year olds).

Compulsory national curriculum subjects in England are:

  • English
  • maths
  • science
  • history (at key stage 3)
  • geography (at key stage 3)
  • modern foreign languages (at key stage 3)
  • design and technology (at key stage 3)
  • art and design (at key stage 3)
  • music (at key stage 3)
  • physical education
  • citizenship
  • computing

Schools must also provide religious education (RE) and relationships, sex and health education (RSHE).

Schools also offer subjects outside this core list, for example, drama, dance and media studies and ITT courses exist to accommodate them.

Technical awards, in subjects such as child development and graphic design, can be taken alongside at least five GCSEs by 14–16 year olds. Many schools and colleges offer A levels and a range of vocational courses for 16–19 year olds.

Find out more about becoming a primary school teacher and secondary school teacher .

Written by Gill Kilvington, University of Hull, July 2023


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