Teaching — Consider the options

If you are considering a career in secondary-school teaching, this article is for you. With huge changes in the teacher-training process, the path to a successful teaching career is becoming increasingly complex, and I struggled to find a one-stop-shop with access to all the different options currently available.Therefore, I have compiled the three most popular routes into teaching. Here is my full understanding of the current minefield that is teacher training.

I recently attended some teacher-training open days and discovered that achieving Qualified Teaching Status (QTS) is not a simple a process as one might first imagine. For starters, there are various ways of achieving QTS, and not all of them will be suitable to you.

For example, if you think there is a chance you will want to teach abroad at some point in the future, then you need to make sure you have QTS with a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE); not all QTS training positions award the PGCE. This article focuses solely on the training courses which award QTS and PGCE.

Another example might be life-experience: Someone with three or more years of work experience in another industry would qualify for free training and a training salary (see examples below), as long as they have an undergraduate degree of 2:2 or higher; whereas those graduates straight out of university with less than three years work experience would have to train unsalaried; or possibly even pay for their training.

I can already sense your reading device judder as you tremble with fear over the prospect of dissecting your ideal training path. But, never fear, I am ready to explain each one as simply as possible from the notes I have obtained from school principals and trainers I grilled at the various open days I attended. I have also provided links where necessary.

University-based PGCE

I visited the University of Southampton Open Day for details on a range of teacher-training options on offer. They offer a broad range and all of them award QTS and PGCE on completion of the course. The PGCE is the most recognised teaching qualification due to, among other reasons, the length of time it has been available.

It is renowned around the world, which is imperative for those wishing to have the freedom to travel. In addition, many experienced teachers believe that, regardless how much the teacher training process changes in the future, the PGCE will always be recognised in the education industry as a respected qualification.

As a university-led scheme, most of the training is classroom based. You will, however, be placed in two different secondary schools over three terms to get a feel for the different styles of teaching. The course costs £9,000 for the year and a loan can be obtained through Student Finance England.

Bursaries for living expenses are also available but the amount depends on your subject and level of degree. The sciences tend to offer higher bursaries than arts and humanities, and those with a First-Class honours will get a higher bursary than those with a 2:1 or 2:2.

Here is a link to the various bursaries available:

School-Direct (Salaried)

The School Direct (Salaried) programme is a perfect teacher-training option for those looking for a career change. Teaching is not a profession for those whose primary concern is money, but it can be very rewarding, as well as offering a structured career path for those wishing to progress through the system. Generally, the longer you are in education and the better your teaching results, the more you will earn. Some headteachers can earn in excess of £100,000 a year.

The salaried programme is only available to graduates with at least three years work experience in another industry. Those who have followed the traditional education route — i.e. GCSEs, A-levels, undergraduate degree — and wish to train “on-the-job” will be considered for the unsalaried  or SUPA programmes (the SUPA programme is not discussed in this article as it is still very much in the early stages. Here is a link for further information

The training is free and you will be paid as an unqualified teacher with a training salary ranging from £16,298 (minimum across England & Wales) to £29,970 (maximum inner London). Naturally, training salaries largely depend on previous experience and any other teaching qualifications you may hold.

At the end of the year you will be awarded QTS. You will also be mentored during the year as an Associate Teacher and recommended to your cooperative university for the award of PGCE.

School-Direct (non-Salaried)

The School Direct (non-salaried) programme is designed for students straight out of education. This scheme is the same as the salaried programme above but unpaid. Bursaries are available (see above link). QTS will be awarded and PGCE will be recommended to the cooperative university.

UCAS Application

Once you have decided on the the route/s you wish to follow, it is time for you to apply. UCAS applications for teacher training normally open around the end of October or beginning of November previous to the September in which you wish to begin your training.

It has been pointed out to me that applications should be made as soon as possible because the UCAS system seems to work on a first-come-first-serve basis. This is not definite, but it is what I have been told by more than one trainer/adviser. You can choose three training providers, so make sure you have a couple of backup options at the ready.

As previously discussed, there are new routes into teaching being devised every year. However, “more routes” does not necessarily mean “easier”. It is imperative you find the route best for you. This can depend on where you live, your financial situation, your age and experience, and a number of other factors that might be specific to you.

It is important that you go to some Open Days and get some advice from your local education authorities. Maybe set up a meeting with a local headteacher and pick their brains.

Whatever you decide, best wishes.