How do you apply for postgraduate initial teacher education and training?

The application process for teacher training varies depending on the programme you want to carry out. Paul Barnes from the University of Portsmouth fills you in on how to apply for PGCEs, PGDEs, early years initial teacher training, School Direct and other routes.


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Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, training providers may have changed their recruitment process in the short to medium term. Check with individual providers to see what they have planned in relation to applications, interviews and deadlines.

Most initial teacher training programmes in England will recruit, or continue recruiting, using the Department for Education's ‘Apply’ system from the autumn.

If you are applying to institutions in Scotland, then for applications from the autumn onwards continue to use UCAS Undergraduate. For other programmes, you may need to apply directly to the provider.

The Department for Education (DfE) provides a search tool for all teacher training programmes in England. See Get into Teaching for details. This will help you search for training courses starting in the following autumn.

What is the application process?

For most university or college-led PGCEs, PGDEs, SCITTs and School Direct programmes throughout England, you apply either through UCAS or the new Department for Education system until autumn 2021, after which the new Department for Education system, known as ‘Apply’, will replace the UCAS postgraduate teacher training application system for providers in England.

Under the new ‘Apply’ system, applicants can choose up to three choices from a variety and combination of teacher training programmes, including institution based and school based. Applicants will need to complete personal statements and find referees to support their application. Dates will be published later in the year so it is important to check regularly. Providers in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are not currently planning to use the Department for Education ‘Apply’ system. Applicants using ‘Apply’ can make an initial application, ideally soon after applications open and then, if necessary, make a second application later on in the year.

Applications for most PGDE courses in Scotland and PGCE courses in Wales are made through the undergraduate UCAS system which opens in the autumn. Applications for PGCE courses in Northern Ireland are made directly to the institution. In Wales, if you want to take the new salaried PGCE route, which is available for both primary and secondary schools, you should apply directly to the Open University.

How do you apply to the Postgraduate Teaching Apprenticeship?

You can apply from the autumn - usually October - and should follow the steps above for applying for School Direct places. It is intended that applications for apprenticeships will be made using the ‘Apply’ system. This will be confirmed later in 2021.

How do you apply to Teach First?

Applications are made online through the Teach First site. Recruitment is carried out on a rolling basis, with vacancies being filled as soon as suitable candidates are found. It's best to apply early as the participating schools' requirements in some subjects will be met quickly. If you're successful at the online application stage, you will then be asked to attend an assessment centre, or virtual assessment centre. Activities could include group activities, individual interviews and possibly a practical activity such as a sample lesson.

How do you apply for early years initial teacher training?

Applications to the main graduate entry route are usually made directly to higher education institutions that provide early years initial teacher training. Contact the institution for information on how to apply. The Department for Education has a list of accredited providers.

If you wish to follow the employment-based route, you'll need to speak to your employer in the early years setting and get their agreement.

If you are interested in the School Direct (early years) route you will need to contact one of the lead organisations that deliver the course. Details are available from the Department for Education.

How do you apply for the Assessment Only (AO) route?

Initially, you should talk to your current employer about this option and establish their willingness to support your progress to qualified teacher status (QTS). They may have already taken staff through this route and will be able to advise you on the options. You will then need to apply directly to an approved provider; details of these are available from the Department for Education.

How do you choose a course?

Research your options thoroughly, including looking at the institutions' own websites and visiting if possible. Some providers may be offering virtual open days. You may want to discuss your ideas with a careers adviser, to help work out what best suits your own preferences and circumstances.

Things you might consider when deciding where to apply include:

  • Do you need to gain a PGCE? QTS alone qualifies you to teach in England but may not be sufficient elsewhere. Many PGCEs enable you to gain credits at masters degree level, which you may be able to use toward a full masters degree after you have completed your training.
  • Are you restricting your choice to a particular geographical area? If so, there may not be courses of all types available for your subject or age range.
  • Would you like to be fully immersed in the life of one school right from the start of your training or would you prefer more progressive placements in several schools?
  • If you're considering a school-based route, it's important to find out as much as you can about the school or group of schools, their partner training provider(s) and the nature of the programme they offer as they do differ.
  • Competition for places can be intense. Consider the balance of applicants to number of places available. Some school-based providers may only have one place available in the subject you wish to teach. Higher education institutions vary widely in the number of places they have to offer, and may have many applicants for some courses.

International students

Non-EU and EU students will generally apply for training opportunities in the same way as home students, and as described above. If you’re an applicant from overseas you will need to prove you have adequate language skills for teaching at the relevant standard in schools or colleges and ensure that you have the right to live and work in the UK. You will usually also have to be able to provide proof of qualifications, possibly with details of equivalence to UK qualifications. Visa and immigration rules have changed recently and the latest situation will need to be checked in advance of applying.

This article was last updated August 2021.

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