Training and progression

Overview of your postgraduate teacher training options

10 Oct 2023, 10:36

Are you considering a PGCE, PGDE, SCITT, School Direct or Teach First programme? Do you want to teach children in the early years? Find out about the different types of teacher training programmes that lead to qualified teacher status and how to apply.

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Overview | PGCE/PGDE | School-centred initial training | School Direct programmes | Postgraduate Teaching Apprenticeship | Teach First | Early years initial teacher training | Assessment Only

There are several types of teacher training programme available that lead to qualified teacher status (QTS). Whichever route you take, the training will be specific to the age group and/or subject that you want to teach. All involve learning the principles of teaching and gaining practical experience in schools or colleges, but there are significant differences in the way this is delivered.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, all teacher training programmes are based in higher education institutions (apart from the Royal Conservatoire in Scotland). In Wales, most courses are university based, but there are some school-based places available on the salaried PGCE route. See the advice on training to teach in Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland for details.

University-led postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) or the postgraduate diploma in education (PGDE)

Higher education institutions (HEIs) throughout the UK offer courses leading to a PGCE or PGDE. The courses usually last one academic year if completed full-time, but part-time and flexible learning options are also available. You will attend classes at the university or college where you're based. You will also spend a minimum of 24 weeks for both primary and secondary courses on placement in a school environment. Placements are arranged by the HEI with their partner schools. During your studies for the PGCE you can gain up to 60 masters-level credits (depending on your course) while for the PGDE you can gain up to 120 credits at masters level. These credits can be used towards a full Masters qualification in Education that you could complete later on as part of your professional development. The PGDE is offered by a small number of institutions with the same duration and fees as PGCE courses.

School-centred initial teacher training (SCITT)

SCITT programmes provide school-led training run by a consortium of schools and colleges. They're offered throughout England and most of the training is delivered by experienced teachers in the school setting. Usually you'll do the majority of your training within one school with further placements in other schools in the alliance. In addition to QTS, most SCITTs will also offer a PGCE validated by a higher education institution; with training provided by university staff. Full-time courses typically last for one academic year.

School Direct

School Direct programmes provide 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. School Direct programmes allow schools to select trainees and decide on the focus of training - based on the needs of the school and the trainee. There is an expectation (but no guarantee) that you will be employed in the school partnership once qualified. Most School Direct programmes offer the option to undertake a PGCE in addition to QTS.

There are two training programmes. Both are funded differently:

  • The School Direct training programme: open to all graduates and funded in the same way as a university based PGCE or SCITT. Trainees pay tuition fees and may be eligible for a bursary and/or loans for fees and maintenance.
  • The School Direct training programme (salaried): the trainee is employed with a salary 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).

Applying for PGCE, PGDE, SCITT and School Direct programmes

For all university or college-led PGCEs, PGDEs, SCITTs and School Direct programmes throughout England, you apply through the Department for Education’s Apply for Teacher Training service. Through the Apply for Teacher Training service, you can choose up to four choices from a variety of teacher training programmes, including institution based and school based. You will need to complete a personal statement and find referees to support your application. You can make an initial application, ideally soon after the Apply for Teacher Training service opens, which is usually in October for entry to the following year and then, if necessary, make subsequent applications later on in the year. Teacher training providers allocate places as people apply throughout the year, so it’s better to apply as soon as you can to help secure a place on your chosen course.

If you are applying to university-based courses in Scotland and Wales applications are accepted from autumn through the UCAS Undergraduate system. For the school-based route in Wales, apply through the Open University . Apply directly to universities for the PGCE in Northern Ireland.

Providers in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are not currently planning to use the Department for Education’s Apply for Teacher Training service.

Postgraduate Teaching Apprenticeship

Similar to the salaried School Direct programme, this route allows you to gain classroom experience while earning a salary as an unqualified teacher. You will work towards QTS and will spend 20% of your time in off-the-job training. An end point assessment (EPA) is taken in the final term to make sure you’re ready to start work as a qualified teacher. There is the possibility of employment within your training school at the end of your course.

How do you apply to the Postgraduate Teaching Apprenticeship scheme?

You can apply from the autumn (usually October) via the Department for Education’s Apply for teacher training service. Use the filter in the search results to select ‘only show courses that come with a salary’ to help find apprenticeships.

Teach First

The Teach First training programme is an employment based two-year programme. It is completed in early years, primary and secondary schools that are in challenging circumstances. These are schools that experience high levels of pupil underachievement and disadvantage. It is also possible to specialise in early years teaching through Teach First. The programme is primarily aimed at graduates with a 2.1 or above; however graduates with a 2.2 may also be considered.

Successful candidates start as unqualified teachers and work towards a 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.

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 a Development Centre.

Early years initial teacher training

If you want to teach children up to the age of compulsory education (age five), you can follow a course of early years initial teacher training. This leads to early years teacher status (EYTS) which allows you to work in a nursery or early years setting. If you want to work in the reception year of a primary school you’ll need to have qualified teacher status (QTS) instead of EYTS.

Early years initial teacher training programmes are available in the following forms:

  • Graduate entry: a 12-month full-time academic course that includes one or more school placements.
  • Employment-based graduate entry: a part-time 12-month programme for those already employed in an early years setting.
  • School Direct (early years): a number of places are available with groups of schools or nurseries with the expectation of employment after gaining EYTS.

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.

Assessment Only (AO) route into teaching

The AO route is primarily for experienced teaching assistants or unqualified teachers, who wish to attain QTS, and have relevant experience or are currently working in a school. It allows you to show that you already meet all of the standards for QTS without having to do any further training. You'll need to provide detailed evidence and will be assessed in a school by an accredited and approved provider. The programme can also provide an employment-based training route for graduates entering teaching via independent schools or academies. You will have to demonstrate that you meet the teachers’ standards and have worked in two or more schools.

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. Find out more about the Assessment Only route.

How do you choose a course?

Research your options thoroughly; including looking at institutions' own websites and visiting in person if possible. Some providers may offer 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. 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 and the latest information can be found at UKCISA .

Written by Gill Kilvington, University of Hull, July 2023


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Occasionally targetjobs will work with another organisation to provide impartial careers content. This is to provide you with the most relevant information to make the best decisions about your future. As such, ‘in partnership’ content has been written or sourced by the partner organisation and edited by targetjobs as part of a content partnership.

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