Information: Becoming a teacher

There are both academic and non-academic requirements for entry to all professional and Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) courses in England and Wales.

The focus of this information is in becoming a teacher in a primary or secondary school, and it looks specifically at the processes in relation to criminal records.

Declaration of criminal records

You will need to undergo an enhanced criminal record check to become a teacher.

Before you can start a teacher training course, you will be asked to disclose details of previous criminal convictions and cautions. You will need to disclose any convictions and cautions that are not yet filtered. This is different to when a conviction/cautions becomes spent – you will often have to disclose a conviction even though it’s spent, because it is not yet filtered.

‘Filtering’ is a process that removes certain old convictions and cautions from standard and enhanced checks – if something is filtered, it means it doesn’t get disclosed on the check, and you don’t need to disclose it as part of the application process. You may see a form that asks you to disclose “whether you’ve ever been cautioned or convicted” (or words to that affect) – if you have but it would now be filtered, you do not need to disclose it. We have detailed guidance on the filtering process.

Admission to training courses is at the discretion of the relevant institution. The UCAS process includes a question about criminal records.

Applications for a teaching post requires a signed statement that you’re not disqualified from working with children.

If you need to disclose a criminal record, see our separate guidance about disclosing to employers.

Factors taken into account

If you have a criminal record that needs to be disclosed, it will not automatically prevent you from becoming a teacher.

Offences which would be considered to be most concerning would include:

  • Sexual offences
  • Crimes of violence
  • Crimes of dishonesty including fraud or embezzlement
  • Offences relating to possession or supply of illegal drugs
  • Any offences against children or which raised concern with regard to child protection.

A number of things should be taken into account when considering a person’s suitability to become or remain a teacher

  • The length of time which has passed since the offence without any further convictions
  • The seriousness of the offence and whether it may be relevant to a person’s position as a teacher
  • Whether it would be proportionate to remove a person from the profession or prevent them joining the profession on the basis of the offence committed
  • Were any children directly involved either as victims or in terms of being put at risk?
  • The explanation provided by the teacher or applicant

Misconduct guidelines for teachers

In early 2014, changes were made to the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) document for “Teacher Misconduct: The Prohibition of Teachers”.

The advice gives clear guidelines which advise that any criminal conviction involving indecent images of children will lead to somebody being banned from teaching.

For more information and further advice please see these guidelines.


Disqualification by association

‘Disqualification by association’ is a process which can prevent you from working in a primary school if you somebody that lives or works in your household has an unspent conviction for certain offences. If it applies to you, it means you have to apply for a waiver before you can do the role. We have specific guidance on this.


Personal experiences

The personal story below has been posted on theRecord, our online magazine.

From a difficult start in life, dropping out of school and receiving a criminal record, Juliet went on to follow her dream of becoming a teacher. Read her story – Harnessing my anger to help myself and others – Becoming a teacher with a criminal record


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