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Training routes: Frequently Asked Questions

Topics on this page:

Is teacher training the same in all parts of the UK? | How much does it cost and who pays? | I can’t decide between primary and secondary. What should I do? | Is it better to be trained by a school or a university? | How can I find out what a training course is really like? | How can I choose between so many training providers?

Is teacher training the same in all parts of the UK?

Some key differences are:

  • Training to teach in Wales is broadly similar to England and the university-based Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) or Postgraduate Diploma of Education (PGDE) route is the same. See details of the different routes into teaching in Wales.
  • In Scotland, the Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) is the graduate entry route into teaching and all courses are university-based. Teachers qualified in Scotland should be able to apply for qualified teacher status in England and Wales. Secondary ITE programmes are 18 weeks in university plus 18 weeks on two professional practice placements (9+9 weeks).
  • In Northern Ireland there are only university-based routes into teaching and trainees must meet the ‘required competences’ of Northern Ireland, rather than the Teaching Standards.
  • If you train in either Scotland or Northern Ireland you must apply for QTS to take up a teaching post in a maintained school in England.

How much does it cost and who pays?

In England you must pay tuition fees for both undergraduate and postgraduate training although bursaries and other forms of funding support are available if you meet the eligibility criteria. 

On the Teach First, Postgraduate Teaching and the school-based (salaried) route, you earn a salary while training.  You will be employed by a school but salaries will differ between employers. Look carefully at the details provided by the DfE and individual providers before you apply. Refer to government websites for information on other parts of the UK.

I can’t decide between primary and secondary. What should I do?

Primary courses usually specialise in the 3-7, 5-11, or 7-11 age ranges, but this can vary between courses. Secondary courses prepare you to teach students aged either 11-16 or 11-18. 

As a primary teacher you will be expected to teach all subjects to your chosen age-range, not just geography. As a secondary teacher you will specialise in teaching geography and be making greater use of your subject knowledge. 

So ask yourself, which you would prefer?  Then consider whether you want to teach younger children, or teenagers and young adults. 

Visit some schools and get experience with different age-ranges before you make up your mind. Read our Applying to teach geography page to find out more about pre-training school experience.

Is it better to be trained by a school or a university?

Firstly, there might not be as great a difference as you might think!  All routes must provide a minimum of 120 days in school. All training must meet the DfE criteria for initial teacher education and train you to meet Teachers’ Standards, and all courses are inspected by Ofsted. 

All geography training includes practical teaching where you are observed and receive feedback and guidance. The training is likely to include a combination of taught sessions, seminars, workshops, tasks and assignments and engagement with academic/professional research.

University-led training means you spend some of your time learning in the university, where you have access to a tutor who is an expert in geography teaching. Days spent with other geographers at the university give you time to reflect, together with your geography tutor, on different school experiences and you share ideas and compare approaches with your fellow geography trainees. 

This is often greatly valued by those in training. Your university tutor arranges contrasting school placements for you that best meet your needs, and visits to support you in school. You also have the possibility to move from a placement if it is really not suited to you.

School-led training immerses you in school life from the start – which is sometimes described as “in at the deep end”! You will, of course, be supported by your geography mentor and other teachers in the school. Some school-led schemes have a geography leader, who acts in a similar role to a university tutor. They may run sessions for you and any other geography trainees, but you may find you spend much of your training alongside trainee teachers in other subjects. 

Every school-led scheme is different, so generalisations are difficult and it is important to find out the details of the type of geography training you can expect before you start.

How can I find out what a training course is really like?

Find out as much as you can from the provider’s website and/or their prospectus. Ofsted publishes reports after inspections and these are available for you to read on the Ofsted website, listed for each provider. However, these reports are about the training programmes generally, and not specifically about the geography training.

If you get an opportunity to talk to those who have completed the training at a provider, this can be very informative. Some providers give you the opportunity to meet current trainees on interview days.

How can I choose between so many training providers?

Avoid being attracted to a training provider just because the location is convenient! It is, of course, easier to undertake training near to home, but make sure that good geography training is being offered.

The quality of the school and in particular the geography department where you will be trained is very important. Ask how placement schools are selected to ensure they will give you good training. If you are going to be spending most of your time in one school, find out about that school and ask to visit and meet the mentor before you start. Perhaps the school holds a Geography Quality Mark in recognition of the high quality of geography teaching there? See map of locations on this page.

Find out how many geography trainees will be following the course, then decide whether you would be happy if you were the sole geography trainee, or would prefer to be training alongside others.

If you are applying for a salaried route, find out what the balance is between training and teaching.

Enquire about the qualifications the course offers on successful completion. Read Teaching qualifications in geography

If you are looking at secondary training, read Choosing your secondary geography training. Find out the answers to the questions it poses, either as you browse the information about the course, when you visit on an open day or at interview.

Training routes: Frequently Asked Questions

Also available from the ITE section