Do I have the qualifications to be a teacher?

Qualifications required

To become a fully qualified teacher working in a state-maintained school in England or Wales, youíre going to have to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

This will almost certainly mean completing a programme of initial teacher training (ITT). There are various ITT options open to you, depending on your qualifications and experience.

The undergraduate route: qualifications you will need for BEd or BA/BSc with QTS courses

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To become a fully qualified teacher working in a state-maintained school in England or Wales, youíre going to have to gain Qualified Teacher Status.
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Entry requirements vary according to the specific course, although a minimum of two A-levels or equivalent is generally required. You should check with individual course providers for details.

However, to train as a teacher - via any course - you must have achieved a standard equivalent to a grade C in GCSE English language and mathematics. If you were born on or after 1 September 1979, and want to teach primary or key stage 2/3 (ages seven to 14), you must also have achieved a standard equivalent to a grade C in a GCSE science subject.

The postgraduate route: qualifications you will need for a PGCE course

You must have a UK undergraduate degree or a recognised equivalent qualification. If you are an overseas student and you wish to assess the comparability of international qualifications, go to The National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom website.

Your degree should relate to the subject you want to teach (if you want to work in the primary sector, that means the core subjects of the national curriculum - see the national curriculum online website for more information. If it doesn't, you might be able to complete a pre-training course to get your knowledge up to the required level - see the Training and Development Agency for Schools website for more information.   

You must also have achieved a standard equivalent to at least a grade C in GCSE English and mathematics. If you were born on or after 1 September 1979 and want to teach primary or key stage 2/3 (ages seven to 14), you need to have achieved a standard equivalent to a grade C in a GCSE science subject. There are also two-year conversion courses available.

Teach First

Teach First aims to recruit from top graduates who have shown high levels of ability in areas such as leadership and communication. As such, its entry requirements are strict. You must have all of the following:

  • a minimum of a 2.1 undergraduate degree
  • 300 UCAS tariff points (24 points using the old tariff, equivalent to BBB at A-level)
  • grade C or above in GCSE (or equivalent) mathematics and English
  • ability to show high levels of competency in areas such as leadership, teamwork, resilience, critical thinking, communication skills, initiative and creativity, and respect, humility, and empathy.  

The subject you studied at university is not important, provided that at least 40 per cent of your degree relates to a national curriculum subject. 

Qualifications you will need for the Graduate Teacher Programme

For a place on the Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP), you will need qualifications at least equivalent to a UK undergraduate degree and a GCSE grade C or above in mathematics and in English. 

If you intend to teach primary or key stage 2/3 (ages seven to 14) and you were born on or after 1 September 1979, you also need GCSE grade C or above (or an equivalent qualification) in a science subject. 

Qualifications you will need for the Registered Teacher Programme 

To take part in the Registered Teacher Programme (RTP), you first need to be working in a school as an unqualified teacher. This makes the RTP a good option for mature people who want to change to a teaching career but need to continue earning while they train. 

You must have completed the equivalent of two years (240 CATS) of higher education. For example, you may have completed an HND, a DipHE or the first two years of a bachelors degree. The recognition of 240 CATS points is at the discretion of the provider of the RTP. 

In addition, you need qualifications equivalent to GCSE grade C or above in mathematics and in English. If you intend to teach primary or key stage 2/3 (ages seven to 14) and you were born on or after 1 September 1979, you also need GCSE grade C or above (or an equivalent qualification) in a science subject. 

Qualifications you will need to undertake the assessment-only route to QTS

If you already have substantial experience of working in a UK school as an instructor or unqualified teacher, or as a teacher in an independent school or further education institution, you may be able to qualify without undergoing any further teacher training. 

The QTS-only option, or 'assessment only' as it is known, offers you the chance to demonstrate that you the meet the Standards required to achieve QTS by compiling and submitting a portfolio of evidence of your abilities as a classroom teacher. 

The Standards for QTS

The Standards for QTS apply to all trainee teachers. They are a rigorous set of statements that formally state what a trainee teacher is expected to know, understand and be able do in order to be awarded qualified teacher status and ultimately work as an effective teacher.

Standards are organised under three inter-related headings:

Professional values and practice
These outline the attitudes and commitment expected of anyone qualifying to be a teacher: treating pupils and students consistently; communicating sensitively and effectively with parents and carers.

Knowledge and understanding
These require newly qualified teachers to be confident and authoritative in the subjects they teach, and to have a clear understanding of how all pupils should progress and what teachers should expect them to achieve.

Teaching
These relate to the skills involved in actually delivering lessons: planning, monitoring, assessment and class management. They are underpinned by the values and knowledge covered in the first two sections.

The assessment-only process also features a day-long assessment visit to your school and can take up to a year to complete, starting and finishing at any time. The University of Gloucestershire administers this process for England; the scheme is not available in Wales. It is available to teachers of a range of subjects and age groups as follows:

  • Primary
  • mathematics
  • modern languages
  • religious education
  • science
  • art and design
  • geography
  • history
  • physical education.  

To achieve the QTS standards you will also need to pass skills tests in numeracy, literacy and information and communications technology.

Changes to rules for obtaining QTS
For all UK trainee teachers, the current limit of five years in which you can be employed as a teacher without having passed the skills tests and obtained QTS has been replaced by a deadline of 31 August 2008. After this date, no one can be employed as a teacher in a maintained school, non-maintained special school or pupil referral unit in England without having passed the skills tests and obtained QTS

If you don't have the required qualifications to enrol on an ITT course

If you don't have the necessary GCSEs in mathematics, English or science, you may be able to take a pre-entry test set by your ITT provider. Some providers may also accept skills developed through other, related work experience. If in doubt, you should contact your chosen ITT provider to find out what their requirements are.

Personal qualities and experience

Itís important to note that, no matter what qualifications you have, there may be stiff competition for places on ITT courses.

It is therefore very useful to have other things to offer, such as relevant work experience, volunteering within your community, visits to/work in schools, summer projects for children, being a school governor, running or helping out in a youth club or with a group like the Guides or the Scouts. This will convince your potential tutors that you have a strong interest in working with young people.  

Remember that the qualities tutors will look for include an interest in learning, a commitment to the development of children, and a high degree of professionalism, responsibility, respect and trust. 

You should also demonstrate a real interest in your subject/age phase and a strong motivation to teach it to young people. Sound subject knowledge, good communication and interpersonal skills, being good at building working relationships and the ability to work to deadlines are all important elements of this.

Some ITT providers may even require that all their trainees have some previous school-based experience. (You will need to check with individual institutions to find out what their particular admissions policy is.) 

One way of demonstrating that you have the necessary commitment required for teaching - not to mention helping you decide whether teaching is the right career for you - is to get some experience of working with young people. The Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) website offers details of how you might go about getting this experience. The options offered include classroom visits arranged through TDA consultants and three-day taster courses. 

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