Overview of your postgraduate teacher training options

Postgraduate teacher training options

There are several types of teacher training programmes available which 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, 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 Graduate Teacher Programme. See the advice on teaching in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for details.

University-led Postgraduate or Professional Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)

Higher education institutions (HEIs) throughout the UK offer courses leading to a PGCE. 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 at least two schools. Placements are arranged by the HEI with their partner schools.

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 consortium. In addition to QTS, most SCITTs will also offer a PGCE validated by an HEI, with training provided by university staff. Courses typically last for one academic year full-time.

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 that you will be employed in the school partnership once qualified. Most School Direct programmes lead to the award of 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): for graduates with usually three or more years' experience in any career since graduation. 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.

Teach First

The Teach First leadership development programme is an employment-based two-year programme completed in primary and secondary schools that are in challenging circumstances. These are schools that experience high levels of poverty or underachievement among their pupils. It is also possible to specialise in early years teaching through Teach First. The programme is aimed at graduates with a 2.1 or above and 300 UCAS points (or equivalent).

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, which has been redesigned for the 2017 intake, 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 5), can follow a course of early years initial teacher training. This leads to early years teacher status (EYTS) which is deemed to be equivalent to QTS.

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

  • Graduate entry: a 12-month full-time academic course that includes 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.

Researchers in Schools

Researchers in Schools (RIS) is a salaried two-year teacher training programme based in non-selective state schools across England for researchers who have completed, or are about to complete their PhD. The aim of the programme is to increase subject expertise, promote research and champion university access within schools. You are supported to achieve QTS in the first year and NQT status in the second year. An optional third year offers the opportunity to join the Subject Leader Programme to work towards the RIS Research Leader in Education (RLE) Award.

Available in most national curriculum subjects, the programme offers enhanced salaries and benefits, with some worth up to £40,000 for those training to teach maths and physics. 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 already working in schools who wish to attain QTS. 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.

HMC Teacher Training

HMC Teacher Training is a two-year training route in HMC independent senior schools across the UK. HMC (the Headmasters' & Headmistresses' Conference) is a professional association representing a group of heads of independent schools. Trainee teachers work in salaried posts and gain a PGCE and QTS.

Written by Pat Carmody, Canterbury Christ Church University