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Pathways into Primary Teaching: a reflection on collaboration in teacher education

By Poppy Gibson, Senior Lecturer, and Deborah Caws, Senior Lecturer Practitioner

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Primary teaching is a career- or some may argue ‘vocation’ – that involves core training, strict qualifications and periods of mentoring and support. But this career is one also that operates within set boundaries, within a hierarchy of power and leadership, and with accountability for outcomes and assessment unlike many others. People can take many different pathways into teaching. Some people know early on that they wish to train to be a teacher and enter into teaching with a degree in education and experience in schools, whilst some people come back to education after careers in other disciplines or following raising a family. As a reader of this article, you may be someone who went quickly into teaching or found it later in life, but either way, you will have probably chosen the pathway that best suited your lifestyle, learning approach, and career ambitions.

This article reflects upon the complexity of the pathways into teaching, focusing on the need for collaboration between partners and organisations, from two senior lecturers who were both previously teaching in the classroom.

The value of QTS

To teach in maintained schools in England, teachers must complete Initial Teacher Training (ITT) and be awarded Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) (DfE, 2021). ITT can be a stand-alone programme (i.e., ‘QTS only’), or form a component of an undergraduate degree (e.g., BEd, BA) or a postgraduate qualification such as a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). In policy, QTS is asserted as ‘essential’ (e.g., see Carter, 2015; DfE, 2018; 2020), yet, as Whitty (2014) notes, Academies and Free Schools can recruit teachers who do not hold QTS, promoting their autonomy over recruitment. Nevertheless, QTS remains sought after in those schools alongside many schools in the private sector (Mutton et al, 2021), suggesting its strength as a minimum professional qualification.

Accelerated pathways, postgraduate study, and traditional routes into teaching

There are many different pathways into teaching; if you are reading this as a potential applicant to teaching, the main message is to choose the pathway that best suits two things: your PASSION and your LIFESTYLE. What kind of timetable will be most sustainable and accessible for you taking into consideration the other commitments you have going on. If you choose a degree that doesn’t hold QTS, we highly recommend using any spare time alongside your studies to set up your own placement volunteering in schools to gain experience and start to get a feel for which year group you might like to teach in the future. Here the role of collaboration is key; taking time to build a bond with a local school may pay dividends later if that school ends up being also a training provider where you could undertake training. You can begin to build your reputation as an enthusiastic and dedicated teacher even during those training years.

International teachers

It is interesting to note that when teachers move from other countries to the UK, the teaching qualification is usually void, meaning that teachers need to retrain so they hold a UK-gained accreditation. However, in response to support teachers who have moved to the UK from Ukraine due to the Russian invasion of 2022 as refugees, from 1 February 2023, qualified teachers from Ukraine who meet the criteria for QTS will be able to apply for QTS in England without paying a fee or undergoing more training. But again, collaboration is key; we must support teachers who move from overseas to help them understand our education system, its structure and curriculum so they can be the best teachers they can be.

Finding support as you travel through your career

In a final note on collaboration, having other teachers around you is invaluable. Use social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and online groups to find other people to relate to, to inspire you, and to support you. It can also be useful to have a profile on LinkedIn to connect with other educators, schools, charities and institutions. Keep reading and learning outside of the classroom, such as through Nexus blogs, that help you digest educational issues in a manageable way.


Being a teacher can be one of the most rewarding yet challenging professions that someone can undertake. If you find people around you to help guide and advise you as you move along your pathway into teaching and beyond, you will hopefully find yourself remaining enthusiastic and feeling supported.


Carter, A., (2015). Carter review of initial teacher training (ITT). [pdf] Available at: [Accessed 8 February 2023].

Department for Education. (2018). Strengthening Qualified Teacher Status and improving career progression for teachers. [pdf] Available at: [Accessed 8 February 2023].

Department for Education. (2020). ITT Core Content Framework. [pdf] Available at: [Accessed 1 February 2023].

Department for Education. (2021). Initial Teacher Training (ITT): criteria and supporting advice. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 10 February 2023]

Mutton, T, Burn, K, Thompson, I and Childs, A. (2021). “The Complex Policy Landscape of Initial Teacher Education in England: What’s the Problem Represented to Be?“. In Mayer, Diane, Teacher Education Policy and Research, 57–71. Singapore: Springer.

Whitty, G. 2014. Recent developments in teacher training and their consequences for the ‘University Project’ in education. Oxford Review of Education. 40(4). pp. 466-481.

Poppy Gibson is a senior lecturer and course lead of the Primary Education Studies degrees at ARU Chelmsford.

Deborah Caws is a Senior Lecturer Practitioner and Course Leader PGCE (without QTS) at ARU.

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The author

Poppy currently leads the innovate Blended Accelerated BA Hons in Primary Education Studies at ARU (Anglia Ruskin University), Essex. Poppy is a senior lecturer in education, and recently graduated with merit on the Masters in Mental Health Science (MSc). Poppy is also a qualified Inside-Out Prison Educator. Poppy previously worked for 4 years as a Senior Lecturer in Primary Education, and Course Lead of the 2-year accelerated Primary Education degree, at the University of Greenwich, moving into Higher Education after over a decade working in London primary schools. Poppy’s primary research interests revolve around mental health and wellbeing, but Poppy also has a passion for edtech in helping students achieve.

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