There are essentially three routes to becoming a PE teacher:

  1. University and PGCE
  2. School direct
  3. Changing career to become a PE teacher

We look at these three most common routes in more detail and the skills and experience that you need to apply for a role as PE teacher.

How to become a PE teacher in the UK.

If you’re enthusiastic about sports and exercise and love the idea of teaching, then training as a PE teacher might be the perfect career for you.

Not only does it give you a chance to enjoy and maintain your physical fitness, it also provides you with the opportunity to train the next generation, get them enjoying exercise and games as well as teaching them how to stay fit and healthy. 

Teaching isn’t just about physical education, though. As a PE specialist, you will be teaching young people vital skills such as teamwork, collective responsibility, and discipline. You’ll also help them gain confidence and enthusiasm.

But how do you qualify to become a PE teacher?

Routes to becoming a PE teacher.

To become a PE teacher, you will need to do Initial Teacher Training (ITT) which will lead to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). 

The two main ways to do this are university-led training through an undergraduate degree and postgraduate professional training or through school-led work-based training. The vast majority of PE teachers, like most other teachers in England, have a degree and have then gone on to get their QTS subsequently. Another option - studying a undergraduate degree in PE while becoming a qualified teacher - is also available. 

Whatever route you take you will need good GCSEs (grades A* to C) in core subjects as well as numeracy and literacy skills. 

University and PGCE.

You may want to study for a degree or you may already have one. Many PE teachers study a degree in a related subject such as a BSc in Sports Science or a BA in Physical Education and Primary Years. You will then go on to take a one-year Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), which you can do specifically in physical education. You can search for courses and apply to do a PGCE through UCAS teacher training.

A PGCE will normally last one year full-time or two years part-time and fees are around £9,000 with living expenses on top. Courses also come with the added bonus of master's credits.

School direct.

School-led courses are another way to get your QTS and are a great way to train if you prefer a more hands-on approach. You will be working in two schools in a environment that means you'll be effectively learning on the job.

School-led courses last a year and provide you with the equivalent of a postgraduate qualification while institutions can offer master's credits. There is every chance you will continue working in one of the schools you have trained in once qualified.

You are not normally paid during the School Direct programmes, which are run by a school or group of schools with close links to a university or School Centred Initial Teacher Training consortium (SCITT). Your tuition fees may be covered by the school, though.

However, there are certain salaried options if you have a degree in any subject and have more than three years of work experience. In this case, schools will recruit you directly and you could find yourself earning £16,300 nationally or £20,500 while training in London. You’ll need to check with the individual schools what the salary is and whether this also includes a PGCE.

Changing career to become a PE teacher.

If you decide to change careers and become a PE teacher later in life, you will naturally have to have a decent fitness level to carry out your duties. Changing career to become a PE teacher will often mean that you need to undertake further education and training schemes to ensure that you are capable of becoming a fully qualified teacher.

There are schemes run by Teach First, for example, that focus on combining teacher training with personal and business training, internships and mentoring to ensure that you are fully prepared to get into the classroom by the end. 

These types of schemes look at on-the-job training while working towards a fully accredited PGCE as well as offering the option of further study as a Masters degree if you want to pursue it further. This is a fantastic way to take experience and skills from other areas of life and learn how to apply them to the national curriculum.

Degree with qualified teacher status.

Other than the well-travelled routes, Mark Bowler, senior lecturer in physical education and course coordinator in secondary physical education at the University of Bedfordshire, explains how there is also another way into teaching. He said: "The most familiar route into PE teaching is studying a degree and then doing a PGCE. Indeed, this is how most teachers enter the classroom.

"However, there is another path into the profession through three providers - the University of Bedfordshire, University of Brighton and Plymouth Marjon University - who between them offer more than 100 places a year to study an undergraduate degree in PE with qualified teacher status."

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