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Postgraduate teacher training

Get teacher training through a university or from a school as a postgraduate student.

Young science students listening to teacher

CONTENTS

  1. Teacher training as a graduate in the UK

  2. University-led teacher training

  3. School-led teacher training (England)

  4. Teach First graduate scheme (England)

  5. Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses (England)

  6. Employment-based routes in Wales and Scotland

  7. Entry requirements

  8. How to apply

  9. How to fund non-salaried teaching training

  10. University PGCE/PGDE qualifiers table

Teacher training as a graduate in the UK

Initial teacher training or education (ITT in England, ITE in the rest of the UK) is required to qualify as a teacher. You’ll need a degree – and it’s far more common to complete teacher training as a postgraduate.

For graduates, courses fall into two categories:

  • you’ll pay tuition fees for your course but can also apply for undergraduate student finance and subject bursaries
  • you’ll be employed and receive a salary as you train, but won’t qualify for student funding or subject incentives

In Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland, all teacher training is provided by universities working in partnership with schools. Employment-based routes in Wales and Scotland are mostly for those working in the sector. England has seen a move towards school-led teacher training, now taken by nearly half of postgraduate teacher trainees. The options are outlined further down this page.

Your choices may depend on what’s on offer in your local area, but all teacher training programmes follow the requirements for teaching in each nation. All routes should give experience of working in at least two contrasting school settings.

Successfully complete your programme and you’ll be awarded Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) in England and Wales. You can also provisionally register with either the Education Workforce Council (EWC) in Wales, General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI) or the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS). 

You’ll then begin an induction period of one to two years, depending on the nation.

University-led teacher training

The PGCE – Postgraduate Certificate in Education (England, Northern Ireland and Wales) – and the PGDE – Postgraduate Diploma in Education (Scotland) – are qualifications offered for graduates who want to become teachers. English universities may also offer a Postgraduate Diploma in Education; this is at a higher level than the Scottish award and runs over two years.

For primary teaching you take a general PGCE/PGDE, and for secondary you take one in your specialist subject. Courses last a year, or two years if studying part-time. This includes university study time and school placements – about two thirds of your time will be spent in school. The university will organise your placements. You’ll complete written assignments and action-based research.

In England and Wales, not all PGCE courses lead to Qualified Teacher Status; some are geared towards Further Education or international teacher training.

In England you may also be able to take a PGCE as part of a school-led route.

School-led teacher training (England)

To open up teacher training opportunities in local areas across England, you may now find the following:

  • School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) providers: these groups of high-achieving schools are approved to run their own courses leading to QTS, and charge tuition fees
  • School Direct programmes: a lead school applies for teacher training places, partnering with a university or SCITT to deliver a course leading to QTS and possibly a PGCE. You may need to pay tuition fees, or you could be employed and paid a salary
  • Teaching apprenticeships: a school employs the apprentice and trains them on the job, with off-site training delivered by a SCITT or university. You’ll be paid a salary
  • Teach First: the government contracts with the charity Teach First to run a programme targeting high-achieving graduates and career changers, partnering them with schools in poorer areas to help raise attainment

The table below shows how they compare. Be aware that the same school may offer more than one route to training, depending on how the training is funded for the school.

ROUTE WHO LEADS THE TRAINING PAY FEES OR GET PAID? WHO ORGANISES THE PLACEMENT
University Uni Tuition fee Uni
SCITT (school-led ITT provider) SCITT Tuition fee SCITT
School Direct (fee funded) School, plus uni or SCITT Tuition fee Trainee selects school
School Direct (salaried) School, plus uni or SCITT Salaried Trainee selects school
Teaching apprenticeship Off-the-job training by uni or SCITT Salaried Employing school – but you'll experience a different school
Teach First Teach First expert and university partners Salaried Teach First

Similarities

All trainees ideally spend time in a minimum of two different school settings; this is part of the requirement to achieve QTS and applies even on salaried/employed routes.

All work to the eight teaching standards for England, with training to give you the knowledge and skills required of a teacher and help you to develop the professional and personal behaviour expected.

All support students with mentoring in schools, to help apply their learning to situations faced in the classroom.

All ITT providers and programmes are inspected by Ofsted or similar inspectorates across the UK. This is generally once every six years unless changes occur, or improvement is required.

With any route you may be able to get a PGCE depending on whether it’s offered by the training provider. This includes routes led by SCITT providers. There may be an additional cost.

Differences

University route: you'll be at uni with a cohort of teacher trainees, benefitting from university life and support. About a third of your time will be spent on academic learning.

School-led routes (SCITT, School Direct, Teaching apprenticeships): you’ll learn how to be a teacher on the job, but you’re not thrown into teaching straight away. You’ll be learning from teachers in practice, with greater insights into the school’s own approach to teaching. Or you could benefit from the academic experience of university-led training. Mentoring could have a closer fit with your training in school-led programmes – but this may vary from one school to another.

School Direct routes: the school will agree with ITT providers the programme of training and how it’ll be delivered, including any areas delivered by the school. These programmes reflect the leading role of the school, which also has a greater say in the recruitment of trainees. There’s an expectation of employment at the end of this programme, but no guarantee.

Teaching apprenticeships: you’ll be employed by the school, with 20% of your time in off-the-job training. You'll need to take an end point assessment to pass the apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are only offered when the employing school has vacancies, which may be at any time during the year.

Teach First: you’ll get extra training and development with Teach First, which aims to develop leadership qualities. For more, see the section on Teach First further down this page. You won’t need prior work experience.

Other than Teach First, most salaried routes are aimed at graduates with over three year’s work experience – however the school has discretion for hard-to-fill subjects. The work experience doesn’t have to be related to teaching. You’ll be paid a salary, but it’ll be that of an unqualified teacher so may be less than you’re used to.

Two teachers conversing in a hallway

Teach First graduate scheme (England)

Teach First operates a leadership development programme that trains high-achieving graduates or career changers to become teachers and leaders. It’s a social enterprise and registered charity that aims to end educational inequality, and partners with schools in low-income areas.

The graduate scheme combines teacher training and a fully-funded two-year PGDE course, with the option to take a master’s. You’ll be trained by a Teach First expert as well. You’re put in schools that need the most help and will support students and staff so they can thrive.

Before you start, there’s a six-week Summer Institute course. You’ll then learn on the job in school and after a year of your PGDE, achieve QTS and be qualified to teach. In the second year, you’ll develop the skills needed to be a leader in the classroom as well as in wider society.

You’ll also have opportunities to do internships, take on additional responsibilities and work towards a master’s qualification. You’re employed, which means you’ll earn a salary.

Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses (England)

If you're keen to train as a teacher but don't have the required subject knowledge, don't let this put you off. If you’re deemed to be a good candidate, your ITT provider may get you to take a Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) course as part of your training. This might be if you have:

  • an A Level in the subject but not a degree
  • a different but related degree, for example Accountancy and you want to teach Maths
  • an unrelated degree but relevant professional experience
  • a Languages degree, but need to improve your knowledge of a second language
  • not used your subject knowledge in a while

SKE courses are available in Biology, Chemistry, Computing, Design and Technology, English, Languages, Maths (including primary-level Maths), Physics and Religious Education. Courses can be full-time or part-time, and taken before or alongside your ITT training.

As an SKE candidate, you’ll have already been accepted onto a teacher training course. This could be a university-led PGCE/PGDE course or a school-led course, with the condition that you attend and pass an SKE course. Entry requirements vary between SKE providers.

Employment-based routes in Wales and Scotland

Wales offers a salaried part-time PGCE through the Open University for primary education or secondary English, Maths, Science or Welsh. You’ll need to work in a school – if you don’t already, the OU can help with this. You’ll also spend time in a second school. You’ll be paid as an unqualified teacher and won’t have to pay for your course, but you won’t qualify for any subject bursaries. It’s a popular route, so you’ll need to apply early. Applications are direct to the OU.

Scotland may have employment-based routes for employees of specific local authorities in areas where there are teacher shortages.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements for teacher training courses vary by subject and provider – however there are minimum standards for each nation.

As a graduate teacher trainee, you’ll need a UK undergraduate degree or equivalent. If you want to teach at secondary level, you’ll need to have covered enough of your chosen subject within your degree – although in England, subject knowledge enhancement courses may be available. You’ll also need the following.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland

  • GCSE grade 4/C or higher in English and Maths (5/B or above in Wales)
  • If you want to teach at primary level, you must also have at least one GCSE grade 4/C or above in Science (5/B or above in Wales) – equivalent qualifications are accepted

In Scotland

  • Highers (SCQF level 6) in at least four areas including English, plus National 5 Maths
  • For primary education, you’ll need to have studied two of the following: Science, Social Studies, Expressive Arts, Religious and Moral Education, Technology and Modern Foreign Languages
  • Institutions are likely to look for at least one National 5 in a Modern Language or Science

In addition to the above you’ll need to pass health checks and be subject to Disclosure and Barring Services (DBS) checks as part of the admissions process (PVG scheme in Scotland).

How to apply

England

Other than Teach First, all postgraduate teacher training courses in England can be found on the GOV.UK postgraduate teacher training course service. This includes university or SCITT-run courses, and School Direct programmes. You apply via DfE Apply.

For Teach First programmes, apply direct on the Teach First website.

You can speak to an adviser on England’s Get into Teaching website if you’re needing further help with making your choice.

Northern Ireland

For postgraduate courses, apply direct to the institution in Northern Ireland. The Department for Education in Northern Ireland has further information on getting into teaching in Northern Ireland.

Scotland

Use UCAS Undergraduate for Scottish postgraduate teacher training courses. For more information on teaching in Scotland, see the Teach in Scotland website.

Wales

For postgraduate courses in Wales, search and apply via UCAS Undergraduate. You can find further information about teaching on the Educators Wales website.

How to fund non-salaried teaching training

All ITT courses are treated the same as an undergraduate course when it comes to student finance. You should be able to apply for an undergraduate tuition fee loan and maintenance support, based on the usual rules of where you normally live. If you support children or family, government grants may be available; some are means-tested.

Depending on where you take your course, there may be incentives for secondary school subjects where there's a shortage of teachers. Amounts are subject to change from year to year.

England

Scholarships are available to high-achieving students training to teach secondary Maths, Physics, Computing and Chemistry. Bursaries are available in a range of subjects, including Maths, Physics, Computing and Chemistry, with a lower level of funding for Classics, Languages and Biology. For those studying in 2022/23 the funding is broadly similar, but available also to teacher trainees in Design and Technology, and Geography.

You cannot get both a scholarship and a bursary, and you'll need to be eligible for student finance.

Once qualified, teachers in Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Computing will also get a salary boost of up to £3,000 tax-free in the first five years of their career.

Northern Ireland

There is no additional funding for teacher training in Northern Ireland.

Scotland

If you've worked for more than three years, you may be eligible for a bursary for a PGDE in secondary Maths, Computing Science, Technical Education, Physics, Chemistry or Home Economics. You must have at least a 2:1 in an undergraduate degree.

Wales

Grants are available for trainees teaching priority subjects at secondary school level, with awards for Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Welsh, Computer Science or Modern Languages. The amount will depend on your degree classification.

There’s funding for secondary courses in Design and Technology, English, History, Religious Education, Art, PE, Music, Drama, Business Studies, Outdoor Studies, General Science or Geography – but only if you got a 1st in an undergraduate degree or have a master’s or doctoral degree.

You can also get up to £5,000 if you’re taking an eligible secondary postgraduate teacher training course that enables you to teach in Welsh or teach Welsh as a subject.

University PGCE/PGDE qualifiers table

Figures below show the number of postgraduates gaining teacher training qualifications in the UK’s universities in 2019/20 (HESA Feb 2021; rounding will affect totals).

Institution F/T qualifiers P/T qualifiers Total
Aberdeen 260 65 320
Aberystwyth 60   60
Bangor 125   125
Bath Spa 385 5 395
Bedfordshire 160   165
Birmingham 350   350
Birmingham City 515 5 520
Bishop Grosseteste 235 5 240
Bolton 60 25 85
Brighton 225 10 235
Bristol 150   150
Brunel University London 170   170
Buckingham 580   580
Buckinghamshire New   40 40
Cambridge 255   255
Canterbury Christ Church 260 55 315
Cardiff 30   30
Cardiff Metropolitan 365   365
Central Lancashire 10 10 20
Chester 345 15 360
Chichester 145   145
Cumbria 485   485
Derby 270 80 350
Dundee 180 105 285
Durham 185 80 265
East Anglia (UEA) 240   240
East London 280 10 290
Edge Hill 580 5 585
Edinburgh 340   340
Edinburgh Napier 30   30
Exeter 400 125 525
Glasgow 390   390
Gloucestershire 110   110
Goldsmiths, University of London 285   285
Greenwich 90 65 155
Hertfordshire 175 5 175
Highlands & Islands 105 25 130
Huddersfield 240 25 265
Hull 170   170
King's College London 165 5 165
Kingston 125 15 135
Leeds Beckett 325 10 335
Leeds Trinity 290   290
Leicester 185   185
Liverpool Hope 435 15 455
Liverpool John Moores 415 5 415
London Metropolitan 125   125
London South Bank 55 10 65
Loughborough 60   60
Manchester 355   355
Manchester Metropolitan 745 15 760
Middlesex 215 45 260
Newcastle 185   185
Newman 235 10 250
Northampton 35   35
Northumbria 175 15 190
Nottingham 230   230
Nottingham Trent 155 5 165
Oxford 170   170
Oxford Brookes 130 40 165
Plymouth 70 15 80
Plymouth Marjon 120 5 125
Portsmouth 105 15 120
Queen Margaret 15   15
Queen's, Belfast 120   120
Reading 290   290
Roehampton 295   295
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland 15   15
Sheffield 120   120
Sheffield Hallam 655   660
South Wales 5   5
Southampton 180 15 195
St Mary's University College, Belfast 20   20
St Mary's, Twickenham 345 10 360
Staffordshire 145 15 160
Stirling 25 30 55
Stranmillis University College 15   15
Strathclyde 775 5 785
Sunderland 350   355
Sussex 285 135 425
Ulster 115   115
University College Birmingham 30   30
University College London 895 20 915
University of Wales Trinity Saint David 245 5 250
Warwick 355   355
West of England, Bristol 245   245
West of Scotland 205   205
Winchester 265 5 270
Wolverhampton 245 25 270
Worcester 350   355
York 100   100
York St John 135   140
TOTAL 21,190 1,270 22,455

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