Overview of your postgraduate teacher training options

Are you considering a PGCE, PGDE, SCITT, or the School Direct or Teach First programmes? Do you want to teach children in the early years? Paul Barnes from the University of Portsmouth guides you through the different types of teacher training programme that lead to qualified teacher status.


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This article has been written in partnership with AGCAS.

Employers and training providers are planning to offer most training and opportunities for 2022/23 in the normal way. However, issues such as selection processes, key dates, numbers of places and financial support might be affected by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. This could cause unexpected changes, so it is important to check regularly with individual providers for updates.

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 university or college-based. In Wales, most courses are university/college-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, and 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. 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 differently-funded programmes:

  • 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 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 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.

Teach First

The Teach First training programme is an employment-based two-year programme 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.

Early years initial teacher training

Those who want to teach children up to the age of compulsory education (age five), can follow a course of early years initial teacher training. This leads to early years teacher status (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: 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.

Available in most national curriculum subjects, the programme offers enhanced salaries and benefits. On completion, teachers can choose to stay in schools or return to work in higher 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.

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