School Direct: Salaried and Fee-paying routes

By Katharine Burn

School Direct route into teaching

What is the School Direct route into teaching?

The label ‘School Direct’ refers to training places that the government has allocated directly to a group of schools working in partnership to offer teacher training. Each partnership includes at least one school designated as a ‘Teaching School’, which is likely to coordinate the interview process. It is not necessarily the school in which you would actually undertake your main teaching experience.

School Direct routes into teaching vary considerably. One important difference arises from the nature of their relationship with university partners:

  • Some school groups choose to work very closely with a local university and their School Direct programmes are essentially identical to traditional ‘university-led’ courses. Master’s level assignments are automatically included within the range of assessed tasks and they result in the award of a PGCE as well as qualified teacher status (QTS).

  • Others groups of schools operate as ‘SCITTs’ – School-Centred Initial Teacher Training providers and award qualified teacher status (QTS) in their own right. Some SCITTs only offer QTS with no other academic award, while others may allow you to opt into an academic qualification if you wish. This usually means attending extra sessions with a partner university to prepare you for Master’s level assignments, related to your teaching. 

The other important difference between School Direct routes into teaching is that some are salaried routes and some are fee-paying.

What are the main features of the School Direct Salaried route?

As the name implies, those training to teach on the Salaried route are paid as they do so. You are effectively employed by the school in which you complete most of your training. The fact that you are being paid means that you may have some classes for which you are responsible as their history teacher from the start of the year. Your timetable will also include training activities – sessions offered by the lead school within a SCITT or by a local university partner. As on other routes, you would be allocated a school-based mentor to support your school-based training.  If you are expected to assume responsibility for classes from the very start of the school year, your course may begin with a period of training in June or July to prepare you for that September start.

The precise level of your salary will vary. The DFE ‘Get Into Teaching’ website notes (in 2016) that if you have three or more years work experience in any field, ‘you could earn a salary over £16,300 nationally and £20,500 in inner London’ but it also states that ‘salary arrangements should be discussed with your employing school’. See

What are the main features of the School Direct fee-paying route? 

The obvious feature that all fee-paying School Direct routes share is the fact that you are a fee-paying trainee (a postgraduate student, effectively), not an employed member of staff. You would therefore not be responsible for your own classes from the beginning of the year, but would gradually assume teaching responsibilities as your knowledge and expertise develops.

As noted above, the structure of School Direct routes can vary considerably depending on the size of the cohort and on the kind of partnership that the school consortium has with a local university.   

How is a School Direct fee-paying programme different from a ‘traditional’ PGCE? 

Where schools work in partnership with a university that also has traditional ‘core’ places for PGCE there may be very few differences between the experiences of trainees applying through the two different routes. One difference is that you are likely to be interviewed in school if you apply for the School Direct route – and interviewed in the university if you apply for a core PGCE place. But in each case the other partner might also be involved in the interviews.  

The other difference is that on a School Direct Route, you might know for sure that your main placement would be in the school to which you have applied, but that is not necessarily the case. School Direct places are allocated to partnerships of schools, so you might be allocated a placement in one of the other schools with which the named school works.

However, School Direct programmes can vary dramatically – so do not assume that you would get the same experience as a ‘traditional’ PGCE trainee. You need to check the course details and perhaps ask detailed questions at interview so that you have the information that you need to make an informed choice between different providers.  

What are the fees on the fee-paying route and what financial support is available?

A postgraduate teacher training year is effectively treated like another year of an undergraduate degree – with trainees paying ‘student’ fees and eligible for student loans. Different courses will have slightly different fees, but there are currently bursaries available for history trainees with a 1st class or 2.1 degree. For full details of these bursaries see the funding pages of the DFE ‘Get Into Teaching’ website:

How can I find out what courses are available?

A full list of training programmes is provided by UCAS at:

You can search this list using different criteria, but once you have identified possible options in the right location you are strongly advised to find out more about the details of each course using their individual websites.  Because history places tend to fill very quickly you are advised to do as much research as you can before the UCAS applications process opens for the following year.

How does the application process work?

Applications are submitted through UCAS:
The system opens in the autumn and because history is highly competitive, you should apply as early as possible.  No one can be offered a place without an interview, which is likely to involve some kind of teaching or planning task.   (As for all other routes you will need a good degree (usually a 2.1) in history or a related subject – and a minimum C grade or equivalent in GCSE English and Maths.)

If you are offered an interview by more than one provider you can delay making any decisions about which place to accept until 10 days after you have received decisions from all the different providers.

What do previous School Direct trainees have to say about their experience on the course?

‘My decision to apply to School Direct arose because I wanted to stay in the area I was living. There were several different School Direct partnerships to which I could apply within commuting distance.

The focus on school-based training suited me as I have always wanted to work in the classroom and this route maximised my time spent in school, learning about the profession. Additionally the QTS-only route meant that I have had more time to focus on my own practice and school experience rather than on assignments. Having come straight from university, I wanted a break! I found it useful to have this extra time, especially during the half-terms and holidays to focus on my actual practice and teaching. It also gave me the chance to relax slightly more during those breaks!  Another huge benefit of the School Direct programme has been the chance to become integrated into a department long-term and get a sense of what it is like working as part of a team. I have been able to build strong relationships with other members of staff as a result.

That said, having the same university sessions early on in the course as the PGCE students was very useful and helped to build my understanding of history teaching and some of the scholarship and pedagogy that can really inform our practice. I feel it was crucially important that the School Direct route retained this element of the course.’

Stephen 2015

‘I chose the School Direct route as the federation in which I got a place was close to my home, and for practical reasons I thought that would make my life easier over my training year. I also knew all the schools in the federation so would have some background knowledge of whichever schools I was placed in. My experience overall has been good and very similar to the core PGCE programme in terms of timings and university sessions. The only difference has been with arrangements for my second placement which were organised through school rather than through the university.’     

Asha 2015

‘I am on the School Direct Salaried route into teaching and have to say that it is the best course that I have ever been a part of. My particular course has involved undertaking the PGCE as well and it requires a lot of work in school and also at university. As the school is paying for my course and also paying me a wage during the training year they expect a lot of me – more than is expected of a PGCE student. I have to complete an entire school year and get involved in lots of planning for the following year too – but it’s helpful to look at the bigger picture really early on. Getting comfortable and known amongst the faculty and student body put me in a good place for my NQT year.

All in all, this is a fantastic route into teaching and the school works well with the university to ensure that I get all of the support that is required for me to succeed. The school mentor and the Initial Teacher Training Coordinator have been fantastic in making sure that I am hitting all of the targets that are set and pushing me to do well.’

Previous page     Next page