Routes Into Teaching Careers
3 April 2023

How to Become a Teacher in the UK

Teaching is one of the most rewarding careers out there. The chance to mould young minds, shape futures, or even just pass on knowledge of a subject that you love, is a calling that many choose to follow. According to Statista, there are around 10.6 million school pupils in the UK, meaning that there are ample employment opportunities for those who want to pursue a career in teaching.

In the UK there are various routes into teaching which can lead to both qualified or unqualified teaching status.

What is Qualified Teacher Status

Qualified Teacher Status, or QTS, means that the individual has trained and qualified as a teacher. Those who hold QTS are therefore eligible to work in schools throughout the country, and can teach in any age-range or type of school (although it is likely that you will specialise in either Primary or Secondary for your training).

How to gain QTS

QTS can be gained through two methods:

  • studying for a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) through an awarding body such as a university
  • gaining a place on a School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) program.

The PGCE has long-been the academic route into teaching, however SCITT programs are becoming very popular because they involve more time working within schools and therefore are seen as more ‘on the job’ training. Some places also come with a salary.

Some SCITT programs also combine elements of a PGCE and allow trainees to achieve the qualification at the end, or gain some credits towards it.


The PGCE is a university-led route into teaching that combines traditional study (lectures and seminars), academic research and placements within schools. Usually, the course begins with classroom introductions to teaching and learning theory, classroom and behaviour management, as well as some age or subject specialist modules.

The course usually takes 1 year to complete if studied full-time, and includes up to 60 credits towards a Master’s degree. Something to be aware of is that not all PGCE courses will automatically lead to QTS (although most do), so be sure to check with the provider before you enrol as you will need QTS to be employed as a teacher.


The Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) is similar to a PGCE in that it combines academic study with some classroom experience. The main difference is that a PGDE awards more Master’s level credits and so will typically contain more assignments. The major benefit is for those who want to eventually gain a Master’s Degree, because they will have up to 120 of the usual 180 credits needed to be awarded a Master’s.

School Direct

School Direct is a SCITT program that allows trainee teachers to spend more time within schools learning their craft.

The School Direct course can be salaried, in which case you will spend most of your time in schools working as an unqualified teacher while you qualify. Alternatively, you may take an unsalaried position that combines time working in schools with some university-led teaching. On either route, you’ll need to complete a placement in at least two schools.

Your progress through the program, and ultimately your awarding of QTS status, will be assessed through observations by experienced teachers, gathering evidence that you have met the eight teaching standards, and assignments / presentations (for the university modules).

Many School Direct courses will include a PGCE, however not all do, so be sure to check with the provider to clarify exactly what qualifications you will receive.

Assessment Only

Assessment only is a method of gaining QTS for experienced teachers who are able to evidence that they meet the eight teacher standards. They will need to be certified by an approved teacher training provider, and have at least two years of teaching experience. Candidates will also require an undergraduate degree, a Grade 4 in Maths and English at GCSE level or equivalent, and those wanting to teach in a primary school must also possess a Grade 4 in a science GCSE (chemistry, physics or biology) or equivalent.

Gaining Experience as a Cover Supervisor

With widely reported teacher shortages throughout the UK, you could be forgiven for thinking that gaining employment will be easy for any prospective teacher. But the reality is more complicated, with almost 29,000 entering ITT in 2022, and demand varying between age ranges and subject specialisms.

A popular way to gain experience and boost the chances of a successful ITT application is to work in supply teaching as a Cover Supervisor. Cover Supervisors are responsible for supervising pupils when their usual teachers are on a short-term absence. It is a great way to gain first-hand experience of working in schools before completing an ITT application, and can often expose candidates to a variety of schools, subjects and age-ranges.

James Ray Recruitment has a number of cover supervisor vacancies available across the country, especially in Hull and the Yorkshire region. If you’d like to know any more, you can contact us using this page.