So, it’s that time of year again when lots of people are starting their PGCE applications. I was in this position two years ago, and it’s a pretty confusing process, so I thought I’d try to put together an FAQ for applicants.
I only applied for PGCE courses, so this may be a bit PGCE specific, but some advice should also apply to SCITT/Schools Direct courses. Teach First is a bit different!
If you’ve been through the process and have tips of your own, please feel free to add them to the thread! Before you apply: How do I choose which route is right for me?
All the routes have different pros and cons.
PGCEs tend to suit people who want the academic side, maybe who are interested in doing a masters in the future. You do get the advantages of being in a uni environment, and access to support through the uni as well, should you need it. They do have disadvantages, in that you can be placed anywhere, and you can feel like just one of a large number of students. There’s often not much flexibility available.
SCITTs are at the opposite end of the spectrum- very school focused and some can be a bit lacking in academic support (although every SCITT is different). SCITTs can be more flexible- often they are available in areas of the country without large teacher training unis, and some are available part time. You don’t always get a choice about exactly where you are placed, but you should know the rough geographic area. SCITTs are often small and can lack the infrastructure to support you that unis have.
Schools Direct is somewhere in the middle and can be the best of both worlds. You get all the support of the partner uni but know where you are going to be placed for most of the year, and your training is more school focused. However, often there are only a few places available per placement school, so this route can be competitive, even for a shortage subject. You are also stuck with your home school for most of the year, whereas PGCE/SCITT students can sometimes move schools if there is a serious problem.
Teach First is a more controversial route- I know some people who love it, and some people who have hated it. You are very much thrown in the deep end and expected to cope. Personally, I have heard too many horror stories to be comfortable recommending it, even though I do know some people have a great experience! How do I choose where to apply?
Unless you have a good reason not to, I’d suggest applying to courses in the area you want to work. Networking is important, and so is having a support network around you.
Some people say the course/uni you apply to doesn’t matter, although I have heard a few teachers say that they feel training at a traditional uni with a well-respected teaching program helped their careers. In general, though, where you train doesn’t have a huge impact on employability. What qualifications do I need?
You need passes at English and Maths GCSE, as well as Science GCSE if you are looking to teach at primary level. There is an equivalency qualification for science, but for English and maths you will need the actual GCSEs.
You’re usually expected to have 3 good A-levels or equivalent. It helps if these are in national curriculum subjects, but this is not essential.
You need a bachelors/undergraduate degree to train to teach in the UK. At the moment, there’s no route for those who don’t have a degree. Most unis will strongly prefer people with 2.2 degree or higher, but it can be possible to train to teach with a third. Can I train to teach X subject with Y degree?
The best thing to do here is to contact unis. Most unis say at least 50% of your degree modules need to be relevant to the national curriculum of your subject, but they will stretch this for a shortage subject. If you don’t quite meet the 50%, you may be offered a place if you do an SKE (more info on SKEs here: https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=5499798
If you’re at all unsure, it’s best to contact unis/providers before applying and they will let you know if your degree is suitable or not. What funding is available for ITT courses?
In England and Wales, for all non-salaried ITT courses, you are entitled to a student loan and tuition fees loan.
If you’re in England and training in a shortage subject, there can be large bursaries available (see here for more details: https://getintoteaching.education.gov.uk/funding-my-teacher-training/bursaries-and-scholarships-for-teacher-training
There are also salaried routes available via schools direct and teach first. Initially, you’re paid an unqualified teacher salary of £17,500 outside London. Don’t forget that you will have to pay tax/national insurance though! Applying for ITT courses How do I apply for ITT courses?
For all courses other than Teach First, you apply via UCAS.
Like an undergrad application, you’ll need to list your qualifications and write a personal statement.
Unlike an undergrad application, you’ll need two references. There are some rules about who these references should be from. If you got your degree within the last 5 years, one of these must be from your university. If you’re applying for schools direct, at least one reference should be from an employer. If your reference is from a school that’s employed you, it should come from the head teacher. There are more details about how references work here: https://getintoteaching.education.gov.uk/funding-my-teacher-training/bursaries-and-scholarships-for-teacher-training When do I apply for ITT courses?
UCAS applications are open now. Applications are done on a rolling basis, so you can apply any time up until the summer (bear in mind you will need to allow time for a DBS to be done before starting the course). Courses close when they are full, so if you are applying for a small SCITT, or schools direct option, it may be best to apply early. What does a good teaching personal statement look like?
ITT courses are vocational, so your personal statement needs to be a bit different to your undergrad personal statement. Admissions tutors explicitly want to hear about why you want to teach. You should explain why you have chosen the stage of education you have chosen (early years/primary/secondary/further ed) and why you’ve chosen your subject (secondary/further ed).
Your PS should refer back to any work experience you have, especially if it’s with children or young people. It’s no longer required that you get experience in a UK state school before you apply, but if you don’t have lots of work experience, this might be a good idea, as it gives you more to talk about in the PS.
Teachers need good written communication skills, so make sure your PS shows this! Interviews What is an ITT interview like?
Normally, you are given a mini-teach task, a discussion task, a written task and you have an individual interview with a university tutor. If the uni wants you to prepare anything in advance, details will be sent with the email inviting you to interview. What do I wear to interview?
People usually wear what they’d wear to a job interview, or at the very least, something they’d wear that would be suitable to teach. All the men I saw wore at least a shirt and tie with smart trousers and footwear, and most women dressed to a similar level of smartness. How do I do a good mini teach?
Usually, your mini teach will be for about 5-10 minutes to an audience of other prospective students. If you’re applying to Schools Direct, you may be asked to teach actual school students. You’re usually told whether to treat your audience as pretend students or adults.
I would say the subject of your mini teach is less important than how you present it- although the subject should always be pitched appropriately. You shouldn’t be trying to teach the finer details of protein structure if you’re asked to pitch to KS3 level, for example. Admissions tutors are looking for someone they can imagine standing in front of the class, engaging the kids and getting the attention of the room.
You’ll usually be asked questions after the mini teach, so choose a subject you’re confident in and be prepared to justify your choices. How do I do well during the discussion task?
Discussion tasks can vary a lot between unis, and not every uni/ITT provider will make you do one. Those who do them say that they are looking for people who actively listen as well as talk. Try to avoid dominating the conversation and try to bring in others who haven’t had much of a chance to speak. Actively respond to the points others are making- even if you disagree, it’s important to show you are being collaborative rather than antagonistic. What are the written tasks like?
Written tasks also vary from provider to provider. Some are very subject specific and IMO definitely testing your subject knowledge. Others are more open, looking at general issues in education/teaching. These are looking at your standard of writing and might be used to judge whether the uni thinks you will cope with the master’s level element of the course. What is the individual interview like?
All my individual interviews were quite different- some were definitely going through a list of questions and didn’t want to deviate much. Others felt more like an informal chat. Some asked subject knowledge questions, others didn’t. Some focused very much on “tell me about a time when” type questions.
To prepare I would say:
-Be familiar with the curriculum for your subject/stage.
-Be aware of any current issues/changes in teaching that might affect you.
-Have some examples ready to talk about that cover things like organisation/time management/resilience/leadership/working with young people.
-Know at least the basics of safeguarding (i.e. always pass on a concern, don’t ask leading questions, don’t keep things secret).
-Be able to reflect on your mini teach and written task. Are there any red flags for interviewers?
Obviously, I don’t interview for ITT courses, so I don’t know all the red flags. However, last year, my tutor did mention a few red flags that might come up in interview.
-Perfectionism. This is something people often mention as a “weakness but not a weakness” in interviews, but for ITT courses, perfectionism can be a real problem. You can’t do everything 100% perfectly all the time, and perfectionism can cause people to burn out.
-A lack of passion for wanting to work with young people. This is the thing that gets a lot of teachers through. If you don’t come across as really wanting to work with your age group, this may be a worry for some admissions tutors.
-Not having much idea of the reality for teachers in the UK at the moment. Teaching is a profession that people are leaving in large numbers. If you don’t come across as being realistic about the demands of the job, ITT tutors may worry about letting you through.
-Lack of resilience/neediness. This might just be my tutor, but resilience is really key for teachers. Getting an offer How will I know I have an offer?
It will appear on UCAS, or sometimes the uni will let you know. When will I get an offer?
Training providers have 40 days from when they first receive your application to make a decision. The 40 days doesn’t include periods when UCAS is closed. What sort of offers will I get?
Unconditional offer: you’ve got a firm offer of a place on this programme. You’ll only get this if you have met at least all the academic requirements in full. You may still have to meet some non-academic requirements, like a Disclosure and Barring Service check.
Conditional offer: you have an offer of a place on this programme, as long as you meet some conditions. The conditions could include completing an SKE course or passing English or Maths GCSE. Unsuccessful:
your application has been unsuccessful. How do I reply to an offer?
Once you have all your offers, you have 10 working days to reply to your offers. You must reply to your offers via UCAS track. You can only accept one offer. What if I don’t get any offers?
It’s pretty rare to be rejected from all your choices when applying to ITT courses, so the first thing to do would be to get feedback from your choices about why they rejected you. If the feedback is something you feel you can fix, and you still want to train to teach, you can apply to other providers one at a time via UCAS. This is known as “apply 2”.