There are a number of pathways into primary and secondary teaching in the UK…

To become a qualified teacher in state maintained schools across the UK you need to undertake Initial Teacher Training (ITT) or Initial Teacher Education Training (ITET). Entry is generally competitive but less so for shortage subjects. This leads to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) in England and Wales and the Teaching Qualification (TQ) in Scotland. You may not require QTS to work in some independent schools, academies and free schools.

Types of teacher training

UK programmes are either school or university led and all include:

  • 24 weeks of practical classroom experience in two schools or more;
  • academic study to give you the knowledge and understanding to teach successfully;
  • experienced professional mentoring and tutoring in classroom management;
  • ongoing assessment of your teaching skills.

Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)

A popular route, the PGCE focuses on developing your teaching skills and underpinning your knowledge. You're therefore expected to have a good understanding of your age range and/or chosen subject before you start training.

If your degree subject doesn't link closely to the subject you intend to teach you may be offered a subject knowledge enhancement course as a part of your application, for some secondary level subjects.

School Direct

Schools recruit and train teachers on the job, in partnership with other schools or a university. School Direct courses lead to QTS, possibly a PGCE and/or Masters-level credits. There is an expectation, but not a guarantee, of employment within the training school at the end. Trainees are based in at least two schools.

The programme, which begins in September, takes one year if studied full time and has two routes:

  • Unsalaried - available for graduates with a 2:2 or above, you may be eligible for a scholarship/bursary of up to £30,000 to support you during your training;
  • Salaried - employment based, if you're already working at a school or have an existing relationship you may want to take the next step as a qualified teacher. You will receive an unqualified teacher's salary from your school, and the cost of your training will be covered but you may be charged for your PGCE fees.

School-centred initial teacher training (SCITT)

Leading to QTS, SCITT courses are delivered across England by groups of neighbouring schools and training providers. Most of the training is delivered in the classroom by experienced, practising teachers, with programmes tailored towards the needs of the local area. Trainees are based in one school, but undertake placements in at least one other within the cluster. Check with individual providers as SCITT may include attending a partner university.

This school-led course particularly suits applicants wanting to gain teaching qualifications who already have a lot of school experience, as you will be based in schools from the beginning. Many SCITT courses also include a PGCE or Masters credits but you'll need to check with individual providers for more information. Programmes usually begin in September.

Find out more about school-led teacher training.

Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP)

Offering primary and secondary teacher training, the GTP is an employment-based teacher training route based in Wales. Take a look at Teacher Training and Education in Wales - GTP to find out more.

Teach First

The Teach First charity (England and Wales) aims to address educational disadvantages by training exceptional teachers to teach in challenging schools.

Applicants need to have 300 UCAS points and a 2:1 or above, but there is some flexibility with this. The two-year scheme offers a Leadership Development Programme (LDP) and management skills training for well-qualified graduates. Both primary and secondary trainees gain a PGCE and QTS during this two-year period while working in the classroom and earning a salary. The programme begins with an intensive, six-week, skill-boosting summer residential.

Applications open in June of the year before you want to start, and early application is recommended especially for popular subjects such as history.

For more information, see TeachFirst - Graduates.

Premier Pathways

A paid two year teacher training programme, Premier Pathways is school-based teacher training for graduates with a 2:1 or above. In the first year trainees work as support staff becoming unqualified teachers in year two. Participants complete the course at a school of their choice, graduating with QTS and a PGCE.

Researchers in Schools

A school-centred, salaried teacher training programme, Researchers in Schools, is available in non-selective state schools. This programme is for researchers who are nearing completion, or who have completed a Doctorate. Trainees gain QTS and NQT status by the end of the two years and can then return to work in a higher education institution or continue to teach in schools. Most national curriculum subjects are available on the programme.

You can apply throughout the year, but the first deadline for autumn assessment centres is in September. Find out more about school-led teacher training.

Early years initial teacher training (EYITT)

Early years teacher status (EYTS) is equivalent to QTS working with 0-5 year olds only. Graduates can apply for university-led early years programmes on either a 12-month full-time course with school placements or a part-time 12-month programme while working in the sector.

Some early years School Direct places may also be offered. There is an assessment only route for experienced graduates who can already demonstrate all of the teaching standards.

Applications are made directly to the training provider. Some PGCE Early Years or Primary/Early Years with QTS courses are available, apply though UTT.

Find out more about EYITT.

Teacher training in the post-compulsory sector

You can apply for a PGCE/Diploma in Education and Training in the post compulsory sector, also known as the further education (FE) or adult learning sector. Some FE institutions will appoint teachers with no teaching qualification provided you are prepared to begin one once employed.

Applications are usually made directly to the institution that you wish to work or study at. It's also possible to do a postgraduate diploma in learning and teaching in higher education, which is suitable for academic staff and is usually studied part time or via distance learning.

Qualified teachers in the FE sector can achieve qualified teacher learning and skills (QTLS) status. This is separate from the qualification and is attained through the Society for Education and Training. QTLS is equivalent to QTS so it can be possible to go on to teach in maintained schools. To find out more about teaching in the FE sector, see FE advice.

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL/TESOL)

Although not an official route into becoming a teacher, the TEFL qualification is an increasingly popular choice for graduates to gain teaching experience while travelling the world.

TEFL courses train you to teach English to students - either in the UK or abroad - whose native language isn't English. Teaching is carried out in the student's own country, in primary and secondary schools, commercial language schools, further education institutions and private companies. Find out more about teaching English as a foreign language.

Choosing a teacher training route

Do as much volunteering in schools as you can to help you decide and support your application. If you're not sure which age or subject would suit you best, contact schools in your area and ask to observe in a classroom. You should also speak to the teaching staff about the challenges and rewards of teaching.

When you've decided, look for a route which gives you experience with the age range and/or subject you want to teach. Then check which regions offer that route. Alternatively, you may want to look at what training's available in the area you want to live. Either way, think about what would work best for you, and fits best with your experience. To find out more about what's on offer search teacher training courses.

Many schools recruit graduates as teaching assistants and this can be a great way to get experience. It may even help you find the school that go on to train you as a teacher. It's sometimes possible to teach in academies, free schools, independent schools and further education colleges without QTS, however it's preferable to have QTS and your career prospects will be greatly improved.

If you haven't already, access the careers and employability service where you're studying or have graduated from. Visit open days of university and training providers or visit the school before applying to a school-led teacher training route.

Find out more