So, you’re thinking of becoming a teacher…

Some of the first things you are likely to hear are: “you’re doing it for the holidays aren’t you?”; “you must be mad”; “you’re brave” or simply “why?”. In all likelihood, you won’t be congratulated or told that it will be a fantastic career by friends and family. However, I am here to tell you that teaching is a wonderful, unique and privileged career. That is not to say that it isn’t emotionally and physically draining.

If you do decide to do your teacher training you can expect: tears; exasperation; classroom-based nightmares; late nights; endless amounts of caffeine; large glasses of wine on a Friday night, and for your friends to ask “can you stop talking about school?”. Yet, I would argue that it worth every minute of the ‘bad’ because when a student in your class lets out an ‘oooh’ and says “I get it now”, it makes it so worthwhile.

Chances are you will be reading this as you look into the multitude of initial teacher education/training (ITE/ITT) courses available. I found this one of the most confusing parts of the entire process. The choices that are on offer are fabulous as they offer such a range of experiences. Nevertheless, it is overwhelming and baffling to try and wrap your head around it all. I’m hoping that this guide will give you some clarity.

I should clarify that I did a Schools Direct course through the University of Nottingham and therefore I am slightly biased as I thought it was a fantastic course. However, I hope that this guide is still useful to some of you!


The Basics.


Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). You should receive this (subject to passing the course, of course!) at the end of your training, no matter which route you take. This allows you to teach in schools once you are qualified.


PGCE Qualification

The Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) is a qualification that you can gain through a few different routes. This is not to be confused with a PGCE course. For example, you could do a Schools Direct (SD) course and still gain a PGCE qualification.



Most courses will cost you. £9,000 to be precise. Yes, you can get a loan from student finance. Interestingly, it is one of the few postgraduate courses that they will approve. There are only a few routes into teaching that are salaried and even then they are extremely competitive. There are bursaries available from the Department for Education (click here to see current bursaries available) which are paid in 10 month instalments from the end of October – July which is something to keep in mind if you aren’t going to be working over the summer before you start. The chances of you being able to maintain a part-time job as well as doing your ITE is slim to none. I have a few friends that have managed a couple of hours in a bar here and there but nothing above that.

Personally, I took a student loan out of ~£5,000 and received a DfE bursary of £9,000 (I graduated with a 1st class honours in English). Whilst it isn’t the most amazing amount of money, I managed to get by relatively comfortably and pay my rent.


Different Routes.

PGCE Course – unsalaried

The PGCE course is a 1 year university-based course that will lead to a PGCE certificate. This course is predominantly university-based however, you would do at least two school placements. The length of these would vary from provider to provider. You will receive more support at the beginning of your course before being let loose on the pupils.

Most providers will offer a subject specific course group which means you will only be with other trainees doing your subject. This has both advantages & disadvantages. I found it valuable to be with other trainees across a range of subjects as we could swap ideas – I got lots of fab ideas from Drama, History, P.E and Maths about teaching English. However, it was really useful to have subject-specific sessions so I can see both the benefits & drawbacks of such a decision.


Schools Direct (SD) – unsalaried & salaried.

This is a type of course you can do that is school-based as opposed to university-based. This is the route that I took and feel quite passionately about. I would strongly recommend this route if you are a ‘get stuck in and learn as you go’ type of person.

The 1 year course provides you with support from the beginning. However, you will have more contact with your main placement school than you would with purely a university course. For example, the first week of the academic year, I was in school x4 days & university x1 day. This was the set up for the majority of weeks. You will have a university subject tutor who would come to observe you teach and check how you’re doing but you would also have a mentor within school who is usually a classroom teacher. You should have weekly mentor meetings with them to set targets, discuss your progress and talk through any issues that may arise.

There are salaried and unsalaried options on this route. The salaried option is only available to candidates who are undergoing a career change/have been working for more than 3 years e.g. if you are fresh out of university, you wouldn’t be eligible. Take a look at the finance section above to find out what support could be available for you.


Teach First

This is often the most publicised one within universities at any type of ‘employability’ event. Teach First is a charity that puts the top graduates (2:1 or above) in the most challenging schools with a view to bridge the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. It is also a two-year course which is different to other routes into teaching.

After the first year of the course, you will have QTS which means you will be qualified. They will pay for your training which is a relief to some and then they will give you a salary. The salary in your first year would be that of an unqualified teacher (£16,461 outside of London) before rising to that of a qualified teacher after a year.

Purely anecdotally, I have friends who have gone through this route and felt quite unsupported throughout the process; often being given a full-time teaching timetable after the first few weeks in September. This is not what training is for; you are not just a ‘cheap body’ to be used within a classroom or fill a space.


SCITT (School-Centred Initial Teacher Training)

A SCITT is usually ran by a school; academy chain; or a network of schools. Your training will be provided by classroom teachers and experienced colleagues from within their own school or the network/academy chain. The SCITT is usually one year and generally speaking will give you a PGCE.

A SCITT is quite similar to the Schools Direct course as you get stuck in from day one in September. You will have a school based mentor as well which means you will have support all the way through your training year.

As part of doing a SCITT, you will be in a school nearly all year so do your research! Make sure that you know what type of school you are going into. What is the area like? What reputation does the school have? If you can, go and visit the school for a day or two to get a feel for it!


Things to Remember.

  • You should never be asked to teach a full timetable from day one. You should build up your timetable over the course of the year. Remember that this is your time to learn and craft your teaching – not to be a body in a classroom to supervise students. It is not fair on you; it is not fair on the pupils.
  • Go and look at the school you will be training at (if you take a school-based programme you will know which school this is). Most schools will allow you to come in and observe for a couple of weeks in the summer to get a feel for the place.
  • Speak to current trainees! A great way to get an honest review on any course is to speak to those on it. Go along to open days/evenings and make conversation.
  • You will always hear horror stories about teacher training. You will always read newspaper articles that rubbish the profession. Just remember that these are exceptions rather than the rule.
  • If you aren’t sure whether you want to do primary or secondary, go and visit a school! I thought I wanted to be a primary school teacher but then I went into a primary…suffice to say that I knew secondary would definitely be for me instead.
  • Would you rather get stuck in and learn as you go? Go for a school-based route: Schools Direct; SCITT; Teach First. Would you rather have more support at the beginning? Go for a university-based route such as the PGCE.


I would love to hear your views on different courses! If you have any questions, please leave a comment or tweet me @MissSims4

Useful Websites

All information provided with the best intention – if you find anything that you believe is incorrect or inaccurate, please leave a comment below or tweet me @MissSims4



Thank you to Alan Dewar for the following information:

  • The course you call “Schools Direct” is called “School Direct”. The key difference between SCITT provision and SD provision is the PGCE, postgraduate element; unless they team up with universities they can award QTS but that’s all.
  • Another factual: the PGCE courses – all ITE courses, in fact – are predominantly school-based, and they all always have been.  You spent about 3/4 of your time in school on SD, 2/3 on PGCE – until now at least in UoN, where the time spent in school on each course is identical, but it is still the majority of the time.