Gaining QTS through AO is a way for existing unqualified teachers, support staff or teaching assistants to demonstrate that they already meet all the QTS standards, without the need for any further training. AO is open to those with relevant teaching experience who hold a degree, or for those with a teaching qualification from another country. Candidates undertaking AO do not complete a course to achieve QTS, but are instead assessed against the Teacher’s Standards. The entry criteria for AO is the same as those for all initial teacher training (ITT) courses and must be met in full prior to registration. Only DfE-approved accredited providers of ITT can assess and recommend AO candidates for QTS.
Typical candidates for AO might include:
- unqualified teachers with experience in settings where QTS is not a requirement, for example independent schools, who wish to move into state-funded schools
- unqualified teachers with significant teaching experience
- teachers from overseas who wish to be awarded QTS in England
- higher level teaching assistants with the necessary qualifications and teaching experience
- The number of assessment only (AO) candidates fell by 18% in academic year 2019/20, from 1,515 to 1,238. This is likely to be due, at least in part, to the impact of Covid-19 on assessments in the latter part of the academic year.
- Whilst there was a three-fold increase between 2014/15 and 2018/19, the 2019/20 figures are in line with 2017/18 figures (when there were 1,270 AO candidates).
- 97% of AO candidates in 2019/20 achieved qualified teacher status (QTS), a 2 percentage point decrease from 2018/19, which is consistent across all recorded trainee characteristics (age, gender, ethnicity and declared disability).
- This higher rate of QTS award for candidates undertaking AO compared to mainstream ITT candidates is likely to be because candidates should already be experienced teachers, or hold a teaching qualification from another country, who can demonstrate that they meet all of the Teachers’ Standards without any further training.
Subject breakdown of AO candidates
- 51% of AO candidates in 2019/20 took primary assessments, which is greater than the mainstream ITT routes where primary trainees made up 42% of postgraduates for the same academic year.
- The highest number of AO candidates in secondary subjects are for English (11%), mathematics (8%) and physical education (5%).
AO candidates’ previous qualifications
Compared to mainstream trainees, AO candidates were less likely to have obtained a first or upper second class in their first degree (53% compared to 74% of new entrants on mainstream postgraduate programmes in 2019/20).
 Some qualified teachers from overseas can obtain professional recognition and the award of QTS without undertaking ITT or AO. This applies to fully qualified teachers who trained in the European Economic Area (EEA), under the terms of Council Directive 2005/36/EC. Teachers who trained outside the EEA must have their qualifications recognised by an EEA member state and must have 3 years of experience in that state to be eligible to apply for QTS in England without undertaking ITT or AO. Teachers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and United States can also apply for mutual recognition and must be fully qualified and eligible to teach permanently in the country in question. This must be documented from the recognised authority in that state. There is further information on the award of QTS on our webpage.
 AO data collection first became mandatory in 2014/15.
 Revised figure for 2019/20 taken from ITT Census 2020/21.
 Excludes those with unknown degree class