Write a great application for teacher training

Gill Kilvington from the University of Hull explains the process for applying for teacher training across the UK, including a timetable to fill you in on what to do when.


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This article has been written in partnership with AGCAS.

Postgraduate teacher training applications in England are made through the DfE Apply for teacher training service. The application form is the same for:

  • the university or college-led Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) and Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE)
  • school-centred initial teacher training (SCITT)
  • School Direct, salaried and unsalaried
  • some programmes for further education or post-compulsory teacher training
  • Postgraduate Teaching Apprenticeship programmes.

Apply for teacher training opens on 5 October with the ability to search for training courses that start the following autumn. You can begin making applications through Apply on 12 October. Places are allocated on a first come, first served basis so make sure you have everything ready to apply as soon as possible. This is particularly important for popular courses to maximise your chance of getting the training place you want. You can only apply to a training programme when it's open. You can apply to up to three different training programmes at the same time during Apply.

You can use Apply Again as soon as you have all the decisions back from providers or you have made decisions on your choices (withdrawn/rejected).

Make sure you have two suitable referees ready.

Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

Applications for most Scottish and Welsh courses are made through the UCAS undergraduate application system. If you want to take the new salaried PGCE route available in Wales, you should apply directly to The Open University in Wales.

If you want to teach in Northern Ireland, contact PGCE providers directly for an application form.

See our information on training to teach in Wales , training to teach in Scotland and training to teach in Northern Ireland for information on teacher training in other areas of the UK.

Apply application form

The Apply application form is split up into the following main sections:

Choices - You can apply for up to three training programmes in Apply, from any route, age group or subject.
About you - includes sections for personal details, contact details, work history, unpaid work and volunteering, asking for support if you have a disability and declaring safeguarding issues.
Qualifications - you need to include information on your degree, your GCSEs in English and maths (and science if primary), and other relevant qualifications.
Personal statement - this section comprises two sections with a word limit for each part. The sections are: 'Why do you want to be a teacher?', and 'What do you know about the subject/age range you wish to teach?'.
References - You need to submit two references with your application.


During Apply, you can apply to up to three training programmes, choosing from any route, age group or subject. Select the combination that suits you best. For example, you could choose three different PGCE courses or a variety of routes, such as two PGCE courses and one SCITT. Alternatively, you can make just one choice if you prefer.

You can amend and add to these choices at any time until you submit your application.

If your qualifications are from outside the UK, you'll need to get a statement of comparability from UK ENIC. Make sure you do this early on as it can take some time.

Work experience - paid and unpaid

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, training providers may have changed their requirements in relation to the amount of work experience you must have. Check with individual providers to see what they expect and make sure you address this in the application form. Give details of any school experience you’ve been able to get along with any other work experience, including the average hours per week you've spent in each school or job. Where possible, demonstrate a breadth of experience across different schools and ages. For some programmes, such as School Direct (salaried), you'll need to provide a full work history.

Personal statement

The personal statement is your chance to provide evidence of why you want to teach, what school experience you have and why you are suitable for the programme you have chosen.

Providers will be interested in the range of skills you would bring to teaching, for example, practical experience, managing people, working with or leading a team, and communication skills. Remember you can only have one personal statement for all the choices you make.

The personal statement is divided up into two sections:

Why do you want to teach?

You can include:

  • your interest in the subject or age group
  • the demands and rewards of teaching
  • the personal qualities that would make you a good teacher
  • how you could contribute to a school outside of the classroom
  • any past experience working with children or young people, and what you learnt
  • your thoughts on welfare and education.

Your suitability to teach a subject or age range

Evidence can include:

  • the subject of your undergraduate degree
  • modules you studied as part of your degree
  • postgraduate degrees (for example, a masters or PhD)
  • your A level subjects
  • expertise you’ve gained at work.


This section is divided into two sections: Interview needs and Ask for support if you are disabled

Interview needs

If you need flexibility for your interview, you can tell them about it here. For example, if you have commitments like caring responsibilities or employment. You have up to 200 words to evidence and demonstrate why you have interview needs.

Ask for support if you are disabled

You might benefit from extra support if you’re disabled, have a mental health condition or educational needs. If you choose to tell them you need support, they will let your training provider know. They can then make adjustments so you can attend an interview or do the training.

Examples of support could be:

  • organising equipment such as a hearing loop or an adapted keyboard
  • putting you in touch with support staff if you have a mental health condition
  • making sure classrooms are wheelchair accessible.


You need to provide at least two referees, so ask them well in advance for their permission and make sure they understand your choices, motivations and the application process. Your choice of referees will depend on which training route you follow. For example, if you’ve graduated in the last five years, one of your referees must be someone from your university who can comment on your academic ability. If you’re applying for the School Direct (salaried) programme, one of your referees must be your employer. References should be sent from a professional email address, which will help to verify the referee as a relevant professional.

Referees should not be family members, partners or friends. Referees can be requested before you have completed the application form

Tips for completing the application form

Competition for places on popular training programmes is fierce, so take time over your application, particularly the personal statement. Evidence your commitment to teaching by linking to your school experience as much as possible. Present the information in a clear and easy-to-read style, and check for spelling and grammatical errors.

The online application system

  • You can log in and out of your application, so you don't need to fill in everything at once.
  • Follow the step-by-step instructions.
  • Once you've filled in your form, you can click on the check and submit your application button to check through everything you've written. Make sure you do this carefully as it's your last chance to correct any errors.
  • Once you've done this, you can't make any further changes (except to your choices and referees).
  • Once your references have been received and you're happy with your choices, you can submit your application.

After your form has been submitted

Many providers contact candidates by email so use a professional email address and regularly check your email. Mark emails from Apply for teacher training as 'safe' to ensure you receive all communication from them. If you want to change any of your choices after you've submitted your application form, you can do this once - as long as it's within five days of submission. However, you can't at this point add in any other choices. For example, if you only applied for one training provider you can't add an extra one.

Literacy and numeracy skills

Initial teacher training (ITT) providers are responsible for ensuring that prospective teachers meet the required standards of literacy and numeracy in order to teach. Each provider will offer their own tests to ensure applicants have adequate skills in these areas. You’ll be benchmarked against a defined set of literacy and numeracy skills that you’ll be expected to have by the end of your training. It’s unlikely that this will be covered in your initial application, but you should be aware that it will be addressed further down the line.

Applications for other teaching programmes

Post-compulsory/FE teaching

There are several levels of qualification available if you wish to teach in post-compulsory education. New graduates often enter the profession via a full-time or part-time pre-service level 5 Diploma in Education and Training (DET) or through gaining a teaching role first and then beginning to work on attaining their FE teaching qualifications part time.

If you choose to study at university or an FE college, the course will meet the requirements of the DET but may be called one of a number of different names, including PGCE (in post-compulsory education) and PCET (Post Compulsory Education and Training).

Applications are usually made directly to the FE training provider, but some colleges use the DfE Apply teacher training system.

Depending on the subject you’re teaching, you’ll need a wide range of experience or a 2.2 honours degree (or above), usually in the subject you wish to teach. Providers will have their own application form and your application needs to be tailored to meet their entry criteria. Popular post-compulsory teaching courses fill up quickly so applying early is recommended.

You won’t need to complete a professional skills test for this route. However, providers are likely to conduct their own tests as part of their recruitment process.

If you achieve a recognised teaching qualification at level 5 or above you can apply for qualified teacher learning and skills (QTLS) status with the Society for Education and Training (SET). You also need to have SET membership and literacy and numeracy qualifications at level 2 or higher. Professional formation leading to QTLS involves completing an online workbook providing evidence of your skills. The cost of undertaking professional formation is £490.

Early years initial teacher training

Applicants to early years initial teacher training (EYITT) programmes are subject to the same entry requirements as primary initial teacher training and must satisfy providers that they have adequate numeracy and literacy skills. Applications are usually made directly to the provider. Contact providers for details on how to apply - see Become an early years teacher for a list. Application processes vary but generally include a personal statement section, where you must give details of your previous relevant experiences and explain why you think you'd be suitable for the programme.

Teach First

Applications for the Teach First Training Programme are made online through their website. New places are released in June of the year before you would start your training, and recruitment is carried out on a rolling basis with vacancies being filled as soon as suitable candidates are found. The application form focuses on your academic experience and responses to a series of competency-based questions. As part of the programme, you will undertake a two-year PGDE, which gives double the number of credits of a PGCE.

The Scholars Programme

A university access charity known as The Scholars Programme helps pupils develop the knowledge, skills and confidence to progress to the most competitive universities. The charity trains PhD tutors to deliver seven tutorials in partner schools across the UK, sharing their subject knowledge and passion for learning with small groups of pupils aged 8-18. Unique course titles have included: ‘Bacteria superheroes: can they help us save our environment?’ and ‘Is the internet an artist? Creativity in the digital age’. Pupils also attend two trips to competitive universities to speak with current undergraduates and learn about university life.

Assessment Only (AO)

Experienced but unqualified teachers already working in schools who wish to complete the Assessment Only route to qualified teacher status (QTS) apply directly to an accredited and approved provider. You must have the support of your school before applying and complete an application form giving detailed evidence of your skills, as well as copies of all the required supporting documentation. ITT providers are responsible for ensuring that prospective teachers meet the required standards of literacy and numeracy. This way of achieving QTS is only available to unqualified teachers who have taught in at least two schools, early years and/or further education settings.

Overseas trained teachers (OTTs) will need to attach copies of their teaching qualifications, UK ENIC confirmation of their qualifications, their passport and their work permit. The original versions of these documents will need to be seen at interview.

This article was last updated October 2021.

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