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THE PGCE … NOW WITH ADDED iQTS
Why the letters after your name matter
By: Dr Denry Machin
International schoolteachers are currently enjoying a seller’s market.
There is more recruitment churn in international schools this year than perhaps any previously. Teachers who have found themselves ‘stuck’ due to COVID are now moving on. Many are returning to their ‘home’ countries.
This has left schools chasing teachers. In China especially, but elsewhere too, there simply aren’t enough to go around.
In this seller’s market, the best jobs, in the best schools, should go to the best teachers, right?
There is another factor at work. Credentials.
For reasons related to brand, perceptions of quality, and to meet legal requirements, the wheat still gets winnowed from the chafe by teaching qualifications. The best teacher may not get a job in the best school if they don’t have the ‘right’ qualifications.
What Counts As Qualified?
The ‘traditional’ route to appropriate qualification has been an undergraduate education degree or a post-graduate teaching certificate. With qualification/s in hand, a few years’ experience under their belts, and the right passport, ‘fully qualified’ teachers have full access to the lucrative and exciting world of international schooling.
What though for those not able to access this ‘traditional’ route?
What options exist for those whose qualifications don’t grant entry to international schools? What about those training to teach in later life? And, what about specialist English as an Additional Language teachers or sports coaches looking to gain formal teaching qualifications?
Once upon a time, the option was a year spent studying in the UK, US or Australia. However, for many, with roots established, families started, and economic commitments made, full-time overseas study was an impossibility – financially, personally, and practically.
For these aspiring teachers, and certainly those looking towards British credentials, until now most roads have led to the PGCEi.
PGCEi’s have given thousands of teachers access to international schools.
However, unfortunately and often unfairly, the PGCEi has been much maligned. In part, this is due to varying content and differing quality. Most PGCEi’s are generic; in contrast to PGCEs, they are not generally awarded in specific subjects nor by phase (early years, primary etc). The lack of an assessed teaching component on some courses has also been an issue.
In short, some (with emphasis there on some) PGCEi’s do not adequately replicate the experience of studying a full-time UK-based PGCE. With the argument against them being that they fuel an influx of decidedly average, but licensed teachers, seeking employment in international schools.
However, the same argument can be levelled at most (all?) teacher qualifications. A teaching certificate is no guarantee of teaching quality – just ask the Head of any school in the UK. There are some very poor ‘qualified’, and some excellent ‘unqualified’ ones.
Acknowledging this, to date, many international schools (again, most often those with a British orientation) have used Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) as a benchmark.
Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)
In theory, QTS affirms that a teacher can teach. They don’t just have a certificate, they have proven they can cope in the classroom.
In very simplified terms, QTS is achieved by undertaking assessed teaching practices in appropriate schools. Experienced colleagues and university staff guide and support trainees in improving their pedagogy against a set of standards codified, for those training in England, by the UK government.
Teachers holding a PGCEi have the same academic qualification as those holding PGCEs. The critical difference is that PGCEis do not accrue QTS; they don’t give the right to teach in UK state schools.
Why though is QTS relevant internationally?
QTS may represent (a particular view of) teacher quality, but holding QTS does not axiomatically equate to knowledge, skills, or experience appropriate to international schools. QTS demonstrates an ability to teach in UK-based and UK-centric schools. Just as teachers completing school-based training in UK independent schools may be ill-prepared for life in UK state schools, so too, teachers holding QTS seeking appointment in international schools.
There is also the issue of diversity.
By privileging QTS, schools favour teachers coming from the UK. Implicitly, if not explicitly, this precludes from employment potentially excellent teachers from different nationalities and different backgrounds. Yet, should international school teachers not, by very definition, represent diversity?
International Qualified Teacher Status (iQTS)
iQTS is a new, UK government-backed international teaching qualification, to be recognised by the Department for Education (DfE) as equivalent to QTS. The course will be piloted this year, with the first cohorts starting in August/September.
The course is mapped against the iQTS Teachers’ Standards and Core Content Framework, closely mirroring the requirements of a UK-based PGCE. At the same time, there is a degree of latitude. Providers can, to some extent, adapt the course to local contexts – it is QTS, but with an international flavour.
Additionally, PGCE iQTS is different from a PGCEi in a few ways:
Whereas the PGCEi is generic (or offered by phase), the PGCE iQTS is phase-specific (Primary or Secondary) and, for Secondary, is initially being offered in only a limited number of subjects. For the latter this means that proof of subject knowledge (via an appropriate degree or relevant experience) is set at a higher benchmark than for PGCEi’s.
A teaching practicum is compulsory and is longer than for PGCEi’s (120 days compared to the more common 90).
Admissions qualification requirements are stricter. These vary by University, but a 2:2 (Hons) degree plus English, Maths and, for Primary trainees, Science qualifications are the baseline.
Mentors are required to undergo detailed training and, whilst the workload isn't onerous, are required to support the trainee with reflection exercises and assessment tasks in addition to lesson observations.
Notably, and much to the chagrin of many, iQTS is currently only available in combination with a PGCE. In practical and financial terms this precludes it as an option for those who already hold a PGCEi. At least for now. The hope is that a standalone iQTS option will be available after the initial pilot year.
For readers interested in finding out more, Warwick University has a useful ‘eligibility checker’:
This online tool provides more detailed background into the course requirements, formats, and qualification prerequisites.
The end of PGCEi’s?
Does the introduction of the PGCE iQTS mean the end for PGCEi’s.
For many people the lack of QTS hasn’t ever mattered. The PGCEi remains a strong qualification for those who are unlikely to ever teach in the UK or who, for whatever reasons, are unlikely to seek employment in the very upper echelons of international schooling.
The lower entrance requirements and more flexible modes of delivery also make it more applicable to a wider range of contexts – and, critically, to a greater diversity of teachers.
A PGCEi is also cheaper, and by quite some margin.
The PGCEi then has an important place in the market; it serves the needs of aspiring teachers who do not want or need iQTS, may not be able to afford it, and may not be in contexts where it is relevant.
The cautionary note is that PGCEi’s are not all created equal. Teachers are advised to choose those which include an assessed teaching component – the additional cost will be more than offset by later employability.
In turn, schools are encouraged to embrace the shifting realities of teacher recruitment. There are thousands of high-quality PGCEi-qualified teachers, who, in many regards, may be more suitable for your school than a those brandishing QTS or, in a year’s time, iQTS.
At their best, PGCEi’s offer thorough, and internationally relevant, teacher preparation.
The letters after your name matter
With the number of international schools increasing, so too are the options for teacher qualifications.
PGCEi iQTS is one such option, but so is the PGCEi.
Yet, if you aspire to teaching in top-tier international schools or in the UK, can afford the fee, and work in a setting which can meet the requirements, PGCE iQTS is the new ‘gold standard’.
Dr Denry Machin
Dr. Denry Machin is an educational consultant specialising in teacher training and new school start-ups. His latest book ‘International Schooling: The Teacher’s Guide’ can be accessed here.
PGCE iQTS - The University of Warwick
The University of Warwick is delighted to be one of a select few providers offering this exciting new programme for August 2022.
As you’d expect, the course is rigorous and robust. For an overview of the requirements, there is an outline (and individual eligibility checker) HERE.
The introduction of PGCE iQTS also means a few changes for Warwick's highly successful PGCEi programme. The admissions and placement criteria have been simplified; head HERE for further information.
A useful comparison of the PGCE iQTS and PGCEi courses can be downloaded HERE.
If you have staff interested in either programme, please feel free to share EDDi.
Or, alternatively, questions can be e-mailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org