Deciding whether you want to train to be a primary or a secondary teacher can be tricky. And then you have to decide if you want a PGCE or just qualified teacher status. And then there’s the choice between a university-based route and School Direct. Working out which route to qualified teacher status is right for you can seem mind-boggling. But don’t worry. In this post, we’ll bust a few myths and provide some tips for getting into teaching.

Primary or secondary?

If you’re not sure, go and spend some time in a school. If you went to school locally, it’s worth contacting your old school to see if they’ll let you spend a few hours (or days) in a classroom. If it’s primary teaching you’re interested in, you’ll probably find a few hours in Year 1 (with 5 and 6-year olds) and Year 5 (with 9 and 10-year olds) will give you a good idea whether this is the career for you. If you’re thinking of training to be a secondary teacher, spend time in some classes in the subject you’d like to teach.

It’s worth remembering that to train as a primary teacher any degree subject is acceptable. Your degree doesn’t have to be in a primary curriculum subject like maths or geography. Literally any subject is fine. So, if you have a degree in Dance and Performance or Game Design and Development, Business Management or Visual Effects, you could train as a primary teacher.

To train as a secondary teacher, you will need to show that you have strong knowledge in the subject that you wish to teach. If your degree subject does not link closely to your chosen teaching subject, the course provider will recommend that you do a subject knowledge enhancement course before you start training.

QTS or PGCE?

Qualified teacher status (or QTS) is the licence to teach as a qualified teacher in England. If you complete any teacher training course in England, you’ll be recommended for QTS. The PGCE (or Postgraduate Certificate in Education) is an academic award – you don’t need one of these to be a qualified teacher. However, if you want to train to teach in England but plan to teach abroad in the future, a PGCE is very useful. QTS alone is recognised in England, but outside England your qualification will often only be recognised if it comes with a PGCE. If you do a PGCE, this will usually include 60 credits at Master’s level – that’s a third of an MA.

University-led or School Direct?

If you train to teach at a university you’ll get QTS and a PGCE at the end of the programme. On a university-led programme, you’ll spend a minimum of 24 weeks in school. University input will include training in classroom organisation, behaviour management, working with pupils with a range of abilities… all the things you need to be a successful teacher. University courses will also develop your curriculum knowledge, so if you’re training to be a primary school teacher, that’s everything from algebra to zoology (or at least mathematics to science for 5 to 11-year olds). You will gradually move into the teacher role. To do a PGCE programme at a university you’ll pay £9250. When you search for a teacher training programme, UCAS lists university-based teacher training courses as Higher Education programmes.

School Direct salaried is a school-led programme. You’ll get QTS at the end of the programme, and you might get a PGCE too – but that depends on the provider (and may involve a cost to you). You’ll be paid as an unqualified teacher and you will learn on the job. On some School Direct salaried programmes you will gradually move into the class teacher role – but this may not always be the case. Typically, you will have at least three years’ work experience. If you’re interested in this route you will need to act very quickly – places are limited and are generally all gone by Christmas.

School Direct training is a school-led programme. You’ll get QTS at the end of the programme and you should get a PGCE also, because you’ll pay £9250 for the School Direct training programme. It is likely that this experience will be very similar to a university-based programme, except that you’ll be selected by a school (rather than a university) and your placements will tend to be within the selecting school’s alliance.

What LSBU offers

You can train to be a primary school teacher at London South Bank University, we don’t currently train secondary teachers. We’ve got a great programme (of course) with very high employability rates. It starts in September – there’s no January start. We’re rated good by Ofsted – and good means good. And if you train at LSBU you might be eligible for the Graduate loyalty scheme: last year that meant a 25% Graduate loyalty discount if you achieved a 2:1 or higher (plus a further 5% early payment discount).

What about the entry criteria?

You'll need an undergraduate degree awarded by a higher education provider in England or Wales, or a recognised equivalent qualification. If you’re in your final year, apply now – providers will understand that you will finish your undergraduate studies in time to start the teacher training course.

You’ll need GCSEs in English and mathematics (and science too if you want to train to be a primary teacher). LSBU accepts equivalency test passes awarded by A-star Teachers and Equivalency.com. If you’re applying to LSBU and haven’t got all three of these GCSEs or equivalencies apply now anyway. If we make you an offer and you accept it, we’ll help you to prepare for any outstanding equivalency tests.

You'll also need to pass the professional skills tests in numeracy and literacy before you begin your teacher training. You can’t sit your skills tests until you have submitted your teacher training application, and received your UCAS Teacher Training application welcome letter. Don’t rush into doing the skills tests. You need to be well prepared because you only get three attempts: if you don’t pass after three tries you’re locked out of teacher training for two years! If you’re applying to LSBU and we make you an offer which you accept, we’ll help you to prepare for the professional skills tests.

How to apply

All applications for teacher training go via UCAS. Once you’ve decided whether you want to train to be a primary or secondary teacher, and decided whether you want a university- or a school-led course, you need to search for providers. You have up to three choices.

Use LSBU’s course finder tool to help find the right course teaching for you.