Picking the Perfect Pathway | Initial Teacher Training

If you hadn’t heard, I’ve decided to pursue a career in teaching! Check out my preamble before sinking your teeth into this one.

Now that you’re fully caught-up, you’ll know that my desire to teach is a relatively new one, which I’d only ever considered pursuing after graduating (my degree congregation was ridiculous, by the way). I spent the months after completing University researching the career and had settled on the subject I wanted to teach: History. It formed one half of my joint honours degree (the other being English), and after a summer of unemployment, I had settled on my plan of action:

Inital-Teaching-Plan.jpgI’d return to the University of Birmingham in September 2019, complete a PGCE, and begin my stint as an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) the year after. Because that’s what everyone does, right?


As it would turn out, there’s a whole host of alternate routes into teaching. An overwhelming number of routes, actually; enough to put the average applicant off, really. It was at this point that I had to pause, take a breath, and think. I didn’t know what to do.

So I put on my thinking cap, sat at my laptop, and started my research.

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The post-graduate Uni-based route

The first route seemed the most popular: a PGCE through a University. Graduates possessing degrees in any subject are free to register on UCAS and are required to fill in personal details, including exam grades going back to GCSEs (which means digging out those results certificates you gifted to the loft all those eons ago). You’ve then got to sell yourself to three academic institutions by means akin to the methods you would’ve used during Years 12 and 13, when applying to an undergrad: the dreaded personal statement. There’s a careful balancing act when it comes to a PGCE personal statement, as you’ve got to balance highlighting your experience with demonstrating why you’d make the perfect candidate.

It will have been a long time since you’ve gone anywhere near writing a personal statement, which is why I’ll be expanding on how to craft the killer one which will get you noticed by any institution in a blog post a little ways down the road. Watch this space!

As the personal statement is limited to 4,000 characters or 47 lines (whichever you hit first), it’s with a grateful heart that I can reveal there’s a separate section in which applicants can list in greater details the experiences they’ve had in schools, as well as the transferrable skills they’ve acquired at work. Thankfully, this means there’s little reason to panic.

Or, not yet, at least.

This next part’s important

Before you can pay the £1 fee and submit your application, you’ll need two referees to have submitted their references, so be sure to choose someone who’s prompt and knows you well. There’s a post in the works about picking the right referees coming soon, so you’d better follow me on WordPress to know exactly when that goes live.

Next step: submit. The ball’s in the University’s court, now. That wasn’t too hard, was it?

The undergrad route

This route was never feasible for me, considering that when it came to applying for University courses at age 17, I despised the idea of teaching. However, if your mind is set on shaping the next generation, then studying a BA in Education might not be a bad idea. Like your average degree, it lasts three years. Unlike your average degree, it can sometimes award QTS – but if not, you’ll have to pursue more training. So, depending on how quickly you want to get into schools, it’ll be well worth researching which institutions will negate the need for further study.

You should only ever pursue this route if you’re absolutely certain about going into teaching, as it’s far more specialist than your average degree. If I were to redo University, I’d still favour studying something more general like – oh, I don’t know – a joint honours in English and History, and specialising further down the line. Because why should I do anything now, when I can put that off for Future Josh to worry about?

The Teach First route

There’s no doubt in my mind that, if you’ve studied at Uni recently – heck, if you’ve even attended an open day – you will have seen them. They lurk around the corners from the student union, waiting to ambush students as they walk to the Costa near their lecture theatre: the Teach First ambassadors. My initial encounter with them occurred shortly after a housemate and I completed our lectures for the week and wanted to condense our notes before starting on our essays. We skipped merrily to the library (or as merrily as can be when assignment deadlines are looming), and it’s there where we were attacked.

We weren’t attacked physically or verbally. No, it was far worse. Our sense of smell was violated by the distinct scent of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. The ambassadors were giving them out for free in exchange for access to your bank account details: the long number on your card, PIN and security code.


What they were really after was our email addresses. They wanted to email us updates on the Teach First programme, to encourage us to apply as early as possible. Outrageous, I thought. The nerve of these people, so blatantly breaching the new GDPR laws and trading my email details for doughnuts.

That thought passed just as quickly as it had come when I licked my fingers after having wolfed down the doughnut. I’m weak, okay?

I’ve pieced their emails together and have managed to work out that Teach First is a 2-year training programme, in which candidates are placed into schools centred mainly on kids from less well-off families. Essentially, you’re thrown right into the deep end. High pressure from day one might be perfect for you – that’s how diamonds are made, after all – but I’m not so keen.

The SCITT route

School-Centred Initial Teacher Training and School Direct routes are similar to Teach First, in that graduates undertake training in a school to attain QTS. Some programmes have been known to award a PGCE, which essentially just makes it more academic- rather than solely practical- based.

Personally, I’m all for the academia. The times I thrived when studying for an undergrad were spent in my pursuit of the academic side of my degree, and I’m eager to return; but that mindset doesn’t work for everyone. How are you planning on gaining QTS?

Before you go, get this in your diaries: next week I’m breaking down a year in the life of a PGCE student, to ensure you’ll know exactly what you’re applying for when you hit submit on UCAS.

I’ll be posting updates to my teaching journey every Friday at 5pm GMT. The only chance you’ve got of staying up-to-date with my blog is by subscribing to my socials all over the web:

Don’t forget to follow me on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest to know whenever a post goes live. You can read them an hour and a half early by subscribing to my email updates via WordPress.


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