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Gain your Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) whilst teaching in your current school using our technology to ensure you can participate and receive support with this route even if you are at a distance from our university.


Achieve QTS with the University of Cumbria via interview, e-portfolio, and assessed practice.

This route is perfect for experienced unqualified teachers in maintained or independent schools who teach the English curriculum in primary, secondary, middle or Prep age ranges.

The unique feature of this route is its ‘assessment only’ characteristic.  The University of Cumbria does not provide any training. This route is designed for applicants who can demonstrate that they are able to fully meet all of the Teachers’ Standards without the need for further training.

On completion of your assessment, your e-portfolio may also contribute to a bridging module towards an MA qualification in Professional Practice. Alternatively, you could choose to further your academic qualifications through an online PGCE (non-QTS).

The University of Cumbria has been inspiring teachers through training and professional development for over 100 years, beginning with our founding institutions, St Martin’s College in Lancaster and Charlotte Mason College in Ambleside, so take advantage of our straightforward and supportive route to achieve QTS and help advance your career.


Information sharing sessions

All potential candidates need to be aware of focused information sharing sessions which are scheduled to take place across the academic year 2021/22 and 2022/23 to support you with your application, and to gain further insight to the QTS Assessment Only route.

The following information sessions are scheduled for:

Whilst the sessions are not compulsory they are highly recommended as they provide a valuable opportunity to meet with the assessment team, to become familiar with the portfolio requirements and clarify any queries or questions which you may have. 

In each case, the session is intended primarily for candidates who are looking to be assessed in the following school term.

Please email to express interest in booking one of the information sessions.

Register your interest

A photo of a group students in a science lab with an amazed expression on their face while interacting with a piece of science equipment.

This route will enable you to demonstrate the professional understanding and skills necessary to meet QTS standards, evaluate your current practice and support your continuing professional development. The assessment is carried out by your university tutor and school mentor working in partnership to assess that your e-portfolio evidence and classroom practice fully meet the Teachers’ Standards.


Everything that you need to guide you through the assessment will be provided, eg via our VLE, detailed handbook and proformas and our freely accessible electronic portfolio. Before you commence your initial assessment you will be invited to an optional free workshop on one of our university campuses, so that you can meet tutors and other applicants and clarify any queries.


You'll have access to a school-based mentor who will support the development of your e-portfolio and provide lesson observations during your Assessed Practice. A named university tutor will be allocated to you, providing advice and support throughout the whole process.


The length of time from your initial assessment interview to the completion of your assessment is between 6 weeks minimum – 12 weeks maximum.


Summary of assessment process:

  1. Application
  2. Accepted for Initial Assessment Interview
  3. Applicant prepares e-portfolio of evidence
  4. Initial Assessment Interview
  5. Registration for assessment
  6. 4-week Assessed Practice
  7. QTS Review Meeting
  8. QTS awarded

Programme Specification

For a detailed summary please read our programme specification for this route.

Programme Specification

Fees 2020/2021

The fees for 2020/2021 are £2,725. This includes the £550 fee for the Initial Assessment Interview. This part of the fee is non-refundable. If, at the Initial Assessment Interview, there is insufficient evidence to formally register you on this route, you will exit at this point. You may reapply when the identified gaps in evidence have been addressed.

•£550 to be paid prior to the Initial Assessment taking place
•£2175-to be paid on completion of the Initial Assessment
•£2,725-total fee

Additional Costs

None anticipated.

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Selection Criteria

Applicants must apply with the active support of their sponsoring schools.

The applicant

To apply you must have:

  • Degree or equivalent qualification
  • GCSEs grade C in English and mathematics, or equivalent. Additionally grade C GCSE in science if you are applying for assessment in primary age ranges
  • At least two years’ experience of whole-class teaching, i.e. planning, teaching, assessment and reporting
  • Experience of teaching in two or more settings. Otherwise a 20 day teaching experience in another school will be required. This should show some breadth and variety in your experience, eg pupils from different backgrounds, ability range, different approaches to teaching and learning or school organisation and management.
  • Experience of teaching across two or more consecutive age ranges, eg the age ranges for assessment are 3-7 years, 5-11 years, 7-11 years, 7-14 years, 11-16 years, 16-19 years.
  • Evidence which enables you to demonstrate how you already fully meet the Teachers' Standards without the need for further training or experience. (If necessary, you may need to arrange additional teaching to address any gaps in your existing experience)
  • A significant proportion of evidence which is recent, ie the last 12 months. However, evidence from teaching in a second setting could be older. There are no hard and fast rules about the age of evidence. We will make a professional judgement in individual cases.

To commence your registration for initial assessment interview on this route you must:

  • provide ID evidence
  • be subject to a DBS enhanced disclosure check and/or any other appropriate background checks
  • submit a medical disclosure form to prove fitness to teach

The sponsoring school

To apply your sponsoring school must provide:

  • A signed Partnership Agreement as outlined in the Partnership Agreement Handbook which sets out the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved in the assessment. The Head Teacher/Principal will agree that the school will work in partnership with the University of Cumbria to carry out your assessment.
  • Head Teacher/Principal's reference and professional reference to confirm that your teaching has been recently observed and currently meets the standards for the award of QTS
  • A named and suitably qualified and experienced mentor to work in partnership with your university tutor to carry out your assessment. Your mentor must be experienced in assessing the Teachers' Standards and your subject and/or age range. If not, your mentor must be assisted by an additional specialist mentor.
  • Evidence (e.g. Ofsted report) that the school is in a suitable position to carry out your QTS assessment

Complete our Online Application Form 

Online Application Form

The Online Application form provides applicant details and a brief summary of your qualifications and teaching experience. More extensive details are provided separately by the Additional Information Form. The Online Application Form should communicate your eligibility and suitability for this route.

Your personal statement should convey how your qualifications, teaching experiences and CPD to date have fully prepared you for the award of QTS.  You should aim to confirm your suitability for the Assessment Only route, ie how you already demonstrate that you meet the Teachers’ Standards in your teaching without the need for further training or experience.

Please see Department for Education (DfE) guidance and FAQs below before completing your application.Once your application has been processed, the Admissions team will provide further advice about the completion of the following essential forms:

  • Partnership Agreement Form
  • Reference form
  • Additional Information Form.


DfE Assessment only route to QTS: criteria and supporting advice

Frequently Asked Questions

When can I apply and how long should the AO application process take?

You can apply at any time. From your initial application you need to complete the whole application process within three months, including clearances and evidence of passing the skills tests. The University will register you for initial assessment interview and assign you to one of our three cohorts in September, December or March/April. These cohorts ensure that assessments are available in Autumn, Spring or Summer Terms.

How long does the AO assessment process take?

The length of time from your initial assessment interview to the completion of your assessment will be between 6 weeks minimum – 12 weeks maximum.

Do I need to have taught all key stages in my school?

No. Your assessment must consist of evidence that you have met all of the Teachers’ Standards in at least two age ranges. The age ranges for assessment are

  •  3-7 years
  • 5-11 years
  • 7-11 years
  • 7-14 years
  • 11-16 years
  • 16-19 years

I only have experience of teaching in one school. Can I still apply?

Assessment Only entry criteria states that applicants must have experience of teaching in two settings. Candidates will need at least 20 days’ teaching experience in a second setting before they are eligible for this route.  A 20 day whole class teaching experience would need to be arranged independently between schools in preparation for your assessment.  This teaching experience must involve substantial teaching (ie at least 50% of timetable), not learning support. It may be undertaken as a block, or weekly over the term. A timetable and reference are required from your second school to confirm that your teaching meets the Teachers’ Standards.  When making arrangements between schools, target any ‘gaps’ or limitations in your current teaching experience. For example, related to boys/girls, age range, ability range, pupils’ backgrounds, class sizes, subject & pedagogy, GCSE/BTEC requirements, school approaches and organisation etc.

What if I don’t teach a full weekly timetable?

It depends on what teaching experience you have behind you and what is involved in your other role(s) during the rest of the timetable and how this would contribute to the Teachers’ Standards.  Usually applicants are working as full time classroom teachers, but in some circumstances applicants have other responsibilities in learning support, pastoral support, cover supervision or senior leadership. Each applicant’s unique situation will be considered to make sure that access to this route is fair to the applicant, the sponsoring school, other AO candidates and those taking other routes to QTS. 

I don’t work in a mainstream school, can I still apply?

Yes. Many applicants are from the independent sector, including Prep schools, or teachers who work in Special Schools, colleges or PRUs. For all applicants in these settings consideration will be given to their teaching experience as a whole, across their two settings, to make sure that they have had the opportunity to fully demonstrate meeting all the standards across their full age and ability range.  Where necessary, additional evidence of teaching may be required to provide further evidence. For example, related to boys/girls, class sizes, age ranges, full ability range, subject & pedagogy; GCSE/BTEC requirements, pupils’ backgrounds, school approaches and organisation etc.

I only teach small classes - is this a problem?

We realise that this is the teaching context for some applicants, who work with smaller class sizes. We will discuss each context individually to ensure that the eligibility requirements are met. Where necessary, additional evidence of teaching may be arranged, eg teaching larger classes, to address the full expectations of the Teachers’ Standards.

Is there any training, placements or teaching practices?

No. Assessment Only is NOT FOR TRAINEES. This route is for experienced teachers who already meet all requirements of the Teachers’ Standards and who wish to secure QTS. It would be a mistake to view preparation for QTS assessment via Assessment Only as a type of teacher training route.  The eligibility requirements of Assessment Only mean that it is available specifically to experienced teachers, not trainees.

I am an unqualified new teacher, can my school train me for QTS itself?

If your school has appointed you as an unqualified new teacher to teach your own timetable and it supports your professional development and journey to QTS, as long as you meet the other eligibility criteria, this route would become suitable for you in due course.

This route is not suitable for trainees and it is not compatible with an in-house teacher training route, eg, similar to other teacher training routes. If you do not teach a full timetable, this should only be because of your other responsibilities in school, not because you are regarded as a trainee. Other recognised teacher training routes are suitable for trainees, but Assessment Only is only suitable for experienced teachers.

I am interested in the AO Route, but might not have enough teaching experience, when should I apply?

You will need to develop an action plan to address any gaps in your teaching experience, as your application will not proceed if you do not meet the entry criteria for this route.  If you don’t have two years’ teaching experience we encourage you to secure this first, ensuring that the additional experience you gain is sufficient to meet the entry requirements and also the requirements of the Teachers’ Standards (eg age/ability range etc). As we expect applicants to move from initial application to registration for initial assessment interview within three months, we encourage you to only apply when you can meet the essential entry criteria. The University of Cumbria cannot help you with securing additional teaching experience on the Assessment Only route, so we encourage you to discuss your ambition with your Head Teacher/Principal and seek in-school support to gain the additional teaching experience you need.

I am a Teaching Assistant and want to qualify as a teacher via the AO Route, how can I achieve this?

In principle, like any unqualified teacher who is applying for this route, you need to develop your whole class teaching experience and build up a portfolio of evidence which would reflect at least two years of whole class teaching. This may not necessarily mean teaching a full teaching timetable, but should include substantial whole class teaching responsibilities.   The only way you will achieve this is with the support of your school and an action plan to target your gaps in teaching experience. TAs,  and HLTAs have been very successful in gaining QTS through this route but unless they already have significant experience of whole class planning, teaching and assessment in relation to all the standards in their age ranges, this must be addressed first. As each applicant’s situation is unique, the Programme Leader may discuss possible ways forward.

I am a Senior Manager, Pastoral Leader, SENCO or Cover Supervisor – can I apply?

In secondary schools assessments are made in relation to a named subject only. You must be able to provide evidence of substantial experience of teaching your named subject in two age ranges and across the ability range. This may not necessarily require a full subject-teaching timetable, but should include evidence of substantial whole class subject teaching.   The only way you will achieve this is with the support of your school and your Head Teacher/Principal. As each applicant’s situation is unique, the Programme Leader may discuss possible ways forward to ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria for this route.

Do I need to be employed as a teacher at the point of application?

No, although usually applicants are already teaching in their own schools when they apply. It is not a requirement that you are currently employed in teaching at the point of application, if 1) you have recent relevant experience, 2) your evidence meets all the Teachers’ Standards and 3) you have secured a sponsoring school which will support your application. The sponsoring school must meet the requirements of the Partnership Agreement, as set out in the Partnership Agreement Handbook, provide a suitable teaching timetable and references which confirm that your teaching has been recently observed and meets the Teachers’ Standards.  The University of Cumbria is not able to help with identifying or providing sponsoring schools on the Assessment Only route.

I have a third class degree, or my degree is in a different subject - can I still apply?

Yes. You do not need to have a degree in a particular subject. It is the Teachers’ Standards for QTS that specify the subject knowledge required for the award of QTS. There is no statutory requirement for primary applicants to have a degree in a national curriculum subject, nor is there a requirement for secondary applicants to have a degree in a specified subject, as long as they meet all of the standards for QTS, including those that relate to subject and curriculum knowledge. If your degree is third class it is still possible to demonstrate that you have the appropriate experience and are able to meet the Teachers’ Standards at the highest level. All candidates will be required to complete a detailed Subject Knowledge audit as part of their assessment process. This will relate to a specific subject for Secondary/Prep applicants and across the curriculum and/or EYFS for Primary applicants.

How will I know my portfolio of evidence is on the right lines?

Each cohort will be invited to an optional workshop where they can meet tutors and other applicants and check that they are fully aware of assessment expectations and how the assessment process will work.  Applicants’ clearances can be processed on the same day. Additionally a detailed Handbook, VLE and specific guidance are provided to support every stage of the process. Each candidate and mentor will also be allocated a named tutor who will help with queries and advice. As the evidence is presented in an e-portfolio it is very easy to get feedback and update your evidence, as you go along or as required.

I have a post 16 PGCE and teaching experience in FE. Do I need QTLS or QTS?

If you already hold, or gain, Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status and you are a member of the Society for Education and Training, you are eligible to work as a qualified teacher in schools in England. If you do not already hold QTLS, it is up to you to make an informed decision about whether the QTLS or the QTS route would provide the best way forward in your situation. For more information about QTLS, visit the Society for Education and Training website.

I am an overseas trained teacher (OTT). Do I still need QTS to teach in England?

If you are a national of the European Economic  Area, or Switzerland, and are a qualified teacher, or are recognised as a qualified teacher by member countries, you can apply directly to the Department for Education for the award of QTS, but there are some conditions depending on different circumstances, so please see the DFE website for more information.

If you are a qualified teacher from Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the USA you can apply directly to the Department for Education for the award of QTS.

If you are a qualified teacher from Scotland or Northern Ireland, or an OTT recognised by these countries, you can apply directly to the Department for Education for the award of QTS.

If you trained in a country outside of the EEA, other than Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the USA, you will need to gain QTS through an accredited training programme, or meet the eligibility  requirements of the Assessment Only route.

For more information please see

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