Moving from teaching in England to teaching in Scotland

You probably won’t suffer the kind of culture shock experienced by teachers who head overseas, and the governing Scottish National Party has yet to fulfil its ambition of full independence. But there are key differences between the two nations which you should be aware of before deciding to head for the hills – or cities, or islands – north of the border.

Recognised qualifications to teach in Scotland

  • To teach in primary school, you need either a four year Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) degree course in Primary Education or a one-year Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) course.
  • For secondary school teachers the qualification you need depends on whether or not you have a degree in the subject which you want to teach. If you do have a degree in your chosen subject, you need a PGDE. Anyone who doesn’t have a degree in their teaching subject needs a B.Ed degree course.
  • If your teaching qualification is neither a PGDE or a B.Ed you may still be allowed to teach in Scotland if you have a degree and three years’ relevant teaching experience.

Applying for permission to teach in Scotland

  • To teach at a state school you must register with the General Teaching Council for Scotland, the governing body for the teaching profession north of the border.
  • English teaching qualifications are transferable. However, there is no guarantee that you will automatically be allowed to teach in Scotland. The GTCS considers each registration application individually.

Documents you need to submit with your application form

  • Teaching qualification certificate showing the teaching qualification you were awarded, for example PGCE, QTS or B.Ed.
  • Transcript of teaching degree or postgraduate teaching qualification, for example B.Ed or PGCE.
  • Official documentation confirming the age range in years and subject(s) covered by your professional studies. This must be issued by the university or college where you completed your teaching qualification.
  • Secondary teachers must also submit their degree certificate or an official statement from the awarding institution confirming that you were awarded your degree (stating full degree title, including subject, and the award date).
  • Transcript of degree. This is a year-by-year academic breakdown of the subjects you studied.
  • Evidence of any other academic qualifications declared on the application.
  • Language teachers must also provide documents specifying which language their initial teacher education was in, such as French. You will be registered for that language. Documentation which states ‘Modern Foreign Languages’ is not accepted.

The situation for newly qualified teachers in Scotland

  • You are also eligible to teach in Scotland.
  • Scotland has a one-year probationary period for newly qualified teachers. NQTs who qualified south of the border and do not have one year’s probation will be given provisional registration if successful. Full registration will be awarded after you complete 270 days of satisfactory teaching service.

If you haven’t been issued with a certificate yet you should provide an official statement from your teacher education institution (for example university faculty of education) giving the following information:

  • the date you passed the qualification
  • confirmation that you are not subject to any appeals process
  • confirmation that there are no known impediments to you being issued with your teaching qualification certificate at graduation

Other registration requirements to teach in Scotland

All applicants must join the Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme, Scotland’s response to the official recommendations for children’s safety in the UK made in the wake of the Soham murders.

How long does the process take?

  • On average applications are processed in around six weeks. The GTCS says that the main registration process is usually completed within a week but PVG registration can take as long as eight weeks.
  • The process can be delayed if references are not submitted swiftly. It is up to applicants to ensure that their references arrive quickly and meet the GTCS criteria.


  • The initial registration fee is £60 and is not refundable. If you fail to send all the necessary documentation your application will be delayed and may be closed. If that happens you’ll have to start all over again, and pay another £60.
  • For every subsequent year the annual fee is £45.

Things to know about teaching in Independent schools in Scotland

  • You don’t have to register with the GTCS to teach at a Scottish independent, although some individual independent schools require you to be registered.
  • The Scottish Council of Independent Schools, the representative body for independent schools in Scotland, encourages teachers to register with the GTCS, and most do so.
  • Independent schools in Scotland are subject to the same official inspections as state schools.
  • There are fewer preparatory schools in Scotland because traditionally children were sent to local church-run state schools before going on to be privately educated. Many established prep schools in Scotland serve as feeders for public schools in England

Where to go for more information about teaching in Scotland

  • The Scottish Government has set up a site called Teaching in Scotland  which has useful information including further details on recognised qualifications.
  • To apply for registration or for more information about the process, including PVG registration, visit the General Teaching Council for Scotland website (
  • The TES forums have a range of discussion threads covering teachers’ experiences and questions relating to moving from England to Scotland, including

More articles about teaching in Scotland

The differences between teaching in England and Scotland

The teaching jobs market in Scotland

Support roles in Scottish schools


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