How do you train to become a teacher?

Paul Barnes from the University of Portsmouth provides an overview of how to train to become a teacher and explains the different options open to you, including the PGCE and the School Direct training programme.


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This article has been written in partnership with AGCAS.

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). 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 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): 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. Some providers may recommend having some form of work history (in any area).
  • 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 training 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.
  • 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?

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.

For most university and college led PGCEs, SCITTs and School Direct programmes throughout England you apply through the Department for Education's new 'Apply' system. 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.

Applications for most PGDEs in Scotland and PGCEs in Wales are made through the main UCAS undergraduate application system. Applications for the new salaried PGCE route in Wales, which is available for both primary and secondary schools, are made directly to the Open University. Applications for PGCE courses in Northern Ireland are made directly to the institution.

Teach First releases new places periodically throughout the year, so check their website regularly. 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.

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.

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 the current threshold. Student maintenance grants have been replaced by loans that will have to be paid back.

Within England non-repayable scholarships and bursaries are available for trainee teachers on some non-salaried training programmes. The amount you receive depends on the subject you plan to teach and degree class.

The bursaries for teacher training courses starting in 2022/2023 are as follows:

  • Graduates who are training to teach chemistry , computing , maths or physics can apply for scholarships of £26,000 or for bursaries of £24,000 . The scholarships are awarded by the relevant professional body and you need to apply directly to them.

  • Graduates training to teach design and technology , geography and languages (including ancient languages ) can apply for a bursary of £15,000 .

  • Graduates training to teach biology can access a bursary of £10,000 .

For any other subjects you can receive funding through loans and grants, which you will need to repay. Find out more about funding for teacher training .

This article was last updated August 2021.

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