Teacher training - preparing and applying

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Different routes into teaching

The Teacher training options section on the Get into teaching website has information on both the undergraduate and postgraduate routes into teaching, including entry requirements. Different entry requirements may apply for teaching in Scotland.

Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)

The PGCE, or PGDE in Scotland, combines study at a higher education institution with teaching practice. Time spent out on teaching practice varies but is often around two-thirds of the course. It may also possible to study for a PGCE through the SCITT and School Direct training routes, see below. A PGCE in further education is also available for those considering teaching in this sector. A PGCE takes one year (full-time) or two years (part-time).

School-centred initial teacher training (SCITT)

SCITT is a one year programme allowing graduates to complete almost all of their teaching qualification based in a school. Training is provided by a consortium of neighbouring schools and colleges. All successful students will gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) but not all SCITT courses offer a full PGCE.

School Direct

School Direct is a one year programme leading to Qualified Teacher Status and, depending on the training provider, a PGCE. The majority of the training will be classroom based. Available for primary and secondary teaching. Training is provided by individual schools or a consortium of schools in England. There are two training options:

  • School Direct Training Programme - suitable for new graduates.
  • School Direct Training Programme (Salaried) - for graduates with at least three years' work experience.
Teach First

An intensive two year Leadership Development Programme which combines working, training and qualifying as a teacher with leadership development training and internship opportunities.  Participants are based in challenging schools facing problems with pupil underachievement and poverty.  At the end of the programme successful participants will gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), a PGCE and have one years’ teaching experience as a ‘Newly Qualified Teacher'.

Experienced teachers without QTS

Information for teachers from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) and for experienced teachers without QTS.

Come and talk to us if you need help choosing a route into teaching - no appointment necessary.

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Primary or secondary?

Compulsory education in England and Wales starts at age four and ends at age 16. Most local education authorities in England and Wales operate a two-tier system (a small number operate three tiers) of primary education for pupils up to the age of 11 and secondary education from ages 11 to 16. Education beyond the age of 16 is called post-compulsory education.

It is important to research the national curriculum and the key stages into which it is divided before selecting to train for primary (including early years), secondary or post-compulsory teaching. The following websites can help with this research:

National curriculum:

Key stages:

There is more information on key stages in the next section What subjects can I teach?

You need to take time to research all options, and make a definite decision which stage of teaching to apply for, before making an application for training. It is not recommended that you apply for a mix of primary and secondary training courses on the application form, as it suggests indecision and confused thinking to selectors.

Come and talk to us if you need help deciding whether primary, secondary or further education teaching is for you - no appointment needed.

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What subjects can I teach?

Primary teachers teach all subjects in the national curriculum but may additionally specialise in a particular area, such as science, maths and languages. Secondary teachers train in one or two subject areas. Normally you will train to teach two key stages, either at primary or secondary level.

Primary
As a graduate of any degree discipline, you can normally apply to train for primary teaching, assuming that you have the necessary GCSEs and that you can demonstrate that the majority of your degree course has included study of national curriculum subjects like literacy, numeracy, science and IT.

Some degree disciplines, e.g. sociology and psychology, may not be as acceptable to a minority of primary training selectors as some of the more traditional degree disciplines. It is essential to read all the details about entry requirements for individual training options on the UCAS Teacher Training website and, if available, training provider websites. If still in doubt, contact selectors directly.

Secondary
Your degree will usually have to be relevant to the subject in which you want to train to teach. This is to ensure that your knowledge and understanding of the subject are sound enough for you to be able to teach it. Obviously, there are many more degree disciplines than there are subjects in the curriculum, but this doesn't mean that the majority of degree courses are irrelevant.

Most of the links between degree discipline and the national curriculum subjects in which you can train to teach are obvious however, some may be a bit more obscure; e.g. if you are studying for a degree in engineering, you are likely to be eligible to train to teach maths, science or design and technology. If your degree is in religious education (RE), you could train to teach RE, or possibly citizenship.

Teachers for some secondary subjects are in short supply and there may be the possibility of taking a subject knowledge enhancement programmes to train in these disciplines, e.g. chemistry, maths, IT, design & technology, physics and modern foreign languages (you normally need two languages at degree level). If you are interested in teaching a shortage subject, and need advice on whether or not your degree is applicable, contact Teaching Line on 0800 389 2500 or chat online with one of their advisers.

If you don't think your degree is relevant to any subject in the curriculum, don't worry. It doesn't mean that you can never become a teacher; your degree may have more relevance than you think. Try contacting selectors to check this out, or call the Teaching Line for more tailored information and advice.

Post-compulsory
If you would like to teach sixth form in a secondary school, it is appropriate to train as a secondary teacher. You are unlikely to teach at this level only however, and will be expected also to teach your subject further down the school. Remember that when you are seeking a position as a qualified teacher, you will be of more value to a school if you are willing to teach across more than one key stage.

If you make the decision to concentrate totally on teaching in a college environment, you could choose to take one of the post-compulsory training options. This may also mean you could choose to train in a non-national curriculum subject, like sociology, politics or psychology, or perhaps consider a vocational area to train in, such as business or social care.

Remember that you may be able to teach in a post-16 college as a qualified secondary teacher, but you may not be eligible to teach in a secondary school with a post-compulsory teaching qualification as most courses do not provide Qualified Teacher Status.

Come and talk to us if you need help deciding on the subject you would like to teach or if you have any questions about the eligibility of your degree course - no appointment necessary.

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Essential work experience

Before considering making an application for teacher training, getting school-based work experience is essential. You need to be able to reflect upon your observations and experiences in the classroom during the application process, and in particular on the application form itself. Even if it means delaying an application for a year in order to undertake work experience, this is preferable to completing an application without first-hand experience.

Experiencing 'real life' in a school will help you decide if you are ready to enter the profession (you may wish to try something else for a few years) and may also help you to decide on the key stage that you are most suited to.

Usually selectors will be looking for a minimum of two weeks work experience. Ideally this should be in a state school and in a different school to the one you attended.

The 'What makes classroom observation effective' (PDF: 41KB) guidelines produced by the National College for Teaching and Leadership can help you make the most of your classroom experience.

Finding work experience

You will probably have to arrange your own work experience, so if you have any contacts in a school, this might help. It is up to you and the school how much time you can give; perhaps a week in a block, or alternatively half a day a week for a longer period. Ideally you should try to experience both the primary and secondary environments, even if you think you already have a preference.

If you are a student at Newcastle University you may be able to take the Student Tutoring credit module as part of your degree programme.

The School Experience Programme (England only) allows you to spend 1-10 days of observation in a secondary school. The programme is open to those interested in teaching maths, physics, chemistry, computing science and modern foreign languages at secondary level and who are predicted to achieve at least a 2:1 degree.

The Institute of Physics School Experience Programme is open to those interested in teaching physics. Register with the programme to gain access to local schools participating in the programme.

Alternative work experience, such as undertaking community work with young people, can also be extremely valuable but should not be a substitute for school-based experience. A useful source of voluntary opportunities is available through SCAN (Student Community Action Newcastle) or see our Volunteering page.

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Application process

Researching courses

Before completing your application you need to research the courses and training providers available to make sure you choose the right one for you. The following websites can help with this research:

Some PGCE courses state that assessment is undertaken at professional or postgraduate level. If you are unsure which option to choose, call in and speak to a Careers Adviser.

Skills Test

For all teacher training courses that start after 1 July 2013 applicants will need to pass a numeracy and literacy professional skills test before the start of their course. Full details of how to apply for the test is available on the Get into teaching website.

Reference materials available in the Careers Service

How to apply

PGCE, School Direct and SCITT

From 21 November 2013 applications for PGCE, School Direct and SCITT should be made online through UCAS Teacher Training.

Personal statement
It is really important that the personal statement section of your application is relevant and effective. Before submitting your application produce a draft copy of your personal statement and get an adviser to check through it - no appointment necessary.

UCAS recommend that applicants and referees write text (e.g personal statement or references) in Word then cut and paste the text into the online application form rather than work directly online. The personal statement section will allow you to enter 47 lines of text (about 4000 characters). Blank lines and other invisible formatting are included in this line/character count.  To ensure you keep within the line limit and permitted number of characters we recommend that you use Verdana, font size 11 and copy your text onto Notepad, or other simple text editing software, before pasting it into the application form.

The Careers Service runs careers workshops to help you prepare your personal statement - see Events for details.

The following websites provide information on writing your personal statement, plus some examples. Please note that for the 2013/14 academic year changes to the UCAS Teacher Training online application form may not be covered in these resources, particularly around the work experience section. Please see the Filling in your application section of the UCAS Teacher Training website for details.

Get into teaching: Application Form Assistant
University of Liverpool's Careers & Employability Service (PDF: 337KB)
University of Wolverhampton (PDF: 53KB)
University of Kent Careers Service

Teach First
Applications for Teach First can only be made online through the Teach First website. Closing dates vary depending on the subject you want to teach.

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Financial support

The funding available for teacher training depends on a number of factors:

  • where in the UK you live
  • which teacher training route you take
  • the subject and key stage you want to teach
  • your degree classification
  • your own personal circumstances

Funding information resources include:

Teacher training in England

Teacher training in Wales

Teacher training in Scotland

Teacher training in Northern Ireland

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Preparing for a teacher training interview

Interviews normally take place between January and summer but if you have applied early in the cycle you may be interviewed as early as November. The interview process varies from institution to institution, but you are likely to be given a description of what to expect in the letter of invitation. The process is similar whether you are applying for primary or secondary.

The Careers Service has produced a video, with the help of PGCE admission tutors, on hints and tips on preparing for a PGCE interview.

Research

Before the interview you will need to do some research on the education sector, in particular:

  • latest government education legislation.
  • the national curriculum.
  • educational issues.
  • current topical issues that could impact on the classroom.

The following resources will help with this research:

You should also spend time reflecting on:

  • Your relevant work experience, especially in a school.
  • Conversations with teachers.
  • The personal qualities and characteristics that effective teachers display.
  • Why teaching appeals to you.
  • What you can bring to the profession in terms of skills and personal qualities.
The interview

The interview will normally be a panel interview consisting of two or more people. Questions are likely to be based on:

  • Career motivation.
  • Self awareness.
  • Your academic record.
  • Relevant work experience.
  • Knowledge of the course.
  • Educational issues.
  • Classroom management.

The following resources will provide you with examples of typical interview questions:

Exercises

As well as an individual interview you may also be asked to:

  • Undertake subject specific and information and communications technology (ICT) audits in order to ascertain knowledge gaps which can be filled during training.
  • Complete literacy and/or numeracy tests.
  • Participate in a group activity with other applicants designed to illustrate your communication skills, acceptability to others, creative thinking, and knowledge about education issues.
  • Give a presentation on a prepared topic or deliver a 'mini' lesson. You can see an example of a 'mini' lesson on the Careers Service's How to get on to a PGCE video.
After the interview

Following the interview process, if you are not offered a place ask for feedback so you can find out how to improve your performance in future. There is no reason why you cannot apply again the following year, preferably after having undertaken more relevant work experience perhaps as a teaching assistant.

Come and talk to us if you need help preparing for your PGCE interview - no appointment necessary.

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Applying for a teaching job

Before applying for a teaching job it is important that you have done some research into the schools you are considering and, if you are a newly qualified teacher (NQT), that the school is authorised to supervise your induction year. The following websites can help with this research:

Different application processes are in place for anyone wishing to take up a teaching post in Scotland.

Vacancy sources

Preparing your job application
Competition for teaching posts is competitive so you will need to make sure you submit a good CV or application form. For help with applications see Making applications.

Edge Hill University have produced a useful guide on How to Apply for a Teaching Post.

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Key websites

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