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A guide to PGCEs in England and Wales for international postgraduate students

8th October 2016 Posted by: Kate Istead

So you have a degree and now you want to teach? Thinking about going abroad to educate? Here’s what you need to know in order to teach in England and Wales.

Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) is required to work as a teacher in state and special education schools in England and Wales. If you already have a degree in the subject you want to teach, the Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) is just one route leading to QTS, and into primary and secondary school teaching.

What is a PGCE?

The PGCE is a higher education course available in England and Wales, which allows graduates to become qualified to teach in state-funded schools. The specific course you take and the knowledge you gain will be tailored to the specialist subject you want to teach, usually the area you studied in your first degree – for example, music, physics, citizenship or any other core subject. The course provides graduates with the skills required by professional teachers, including literacy and numeracy. You will study key theories and best practice in the field of teaching and you will learn to become a reflective teacher, thinking about the most effective teaching behaviours in a classroom and learn what to avoid! You may also be able to participate in research linked to your specialism. The course will usually include seminars, lectures, tutorials, group work and in-classroom training.  

It is usually a one-year course (9 months full-time) but some institutions may offer part-time or distance learning options. The course, often starting with an academic focus, combines teaching and learning theory with work placements in schools. Though the course may look different depending on where you study, school placements could gradually take up more than 60% of the time spent on the certificate. Graduating with a PGCE will earn credits towards a master’s degree and those who successfully complete the course are recommended for QTS.

Where can I study a PGCE course?

PGCEs are normally taught at a university or other higher education institution, and courses are widely available throughout England and Wales. University College London, University of Wales Trinity Saint David and University of York all offer a number of PGCE courses in a variety of subjects, but there are many other institutions that also offer the certificate. You can use the Prospectus search tool to find PGCE courses.

What do I need to qualify?

  1. In order to qualify for the PGCE route, applicants will need to hold an undergraduate degree in an approved subject. If your degree isn’t closely related to the subject you intend to teach, a subject knowledge enhancement course may be required before you can take the PGCE.

  2. For applications made in England, you’ll need to have achieved grade C or above in the GCSE examinations in English and Mathematics. For applications in Wales, you must have achieved a grade B. If you intend to train for teaching pupils aged 3-11, you must also have a standard equivalent to a grade C or above in a science subject GCSE  examination. If you studied outside the UK, you can check on the National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC) website to find out whether your qualifications are equivalent.

  3. If English is not your first language and you don’t have a grade C in English GCSE, an IELTS with an average score of 6.0 is also needed.

  4. Applicants for training programmes in England will have to pass the professional skills tests, which assesses core skills teachers need to fulfil their professional role in schools.

  5. Most training providers will require at least two weeks’ classroom experience at local schools before you begin teacher training.

  6. Your training provider might require a medical fitness test or health questionnaire. If you have a disability, training providers can often make adjustments to support you.

  7. In order to work with children, you’ll need to have an enhanced criminal record check through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and disclose any criminal convictions.

How do I get started?

Once you’ve decided that the PGCE route  is the right path for you, you need to find the right training programme. There are thousands of teacher training programmes available in England and Wales – use the UCAS Teacher Training search tool to search by a specific training provider, by the subject or age group you’d like to teach, or the qualification you’d like to obtain.

Apply through Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) Teacher Training, an independent institution that manages the higher education application process for British universities. You can apply for up to three training programmes on the same application. The allocation of teacher training places is then the responsibility of The National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL).

What else do I need to know?

Student Finance England currently still offers a number of bursaries and scholarships to EU students. Many training courses fill up fast, and when a sufficient number of trainee teachers have already been recruited for a particular course, the NCTL stops recruitment for these programmes. Check the page listing the training programmes where recruitment has either stopped or has limited spaces remaining. If you have a preferred school, be aware of this and contact them to check they are still considering applications before you apply.

For advice, information and support throughout the application process, register with Get Into Teaching.

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