This information is for overseas trained teachers (OTTs), i.e. those who have
qualified as teachers in countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA)
It applies to those who teach in state maintained schools or
non-maintained special schools in England. We will call them “relevant
schools” in England. It is intended to make the legal position clear for
you and we hope that by schools, local authorities, employment
agencies and other bodies will make it available to all newly appointed
OTTs immediately on taking up teaching posts. It should also be made
available to OTTs who are already teaching.
Teachers from overseas make a valued contribution to our schools and we
hope you enjoy a long and successful teaching career in England. It is
important you understand there is a legal limit on how long you can teach in a
relevant school in England unless you have obtained qualified teacher status
(QTS) in England.
What are the rules for OTTs teaching in England?
The law allows you to work in a relevant school in England for up to four
calendar years if you have successfully completed teacher training which is
recognised by the authorities in your own country. This is often called ‘the four
year rule’. It is very important to be aware that you must have obtained QTS in
order to continue teaching after four years.
How does the “four year rule” operate?
The four year period during which you are allowed to work without QTS starts
on the day you first worked as a teacher in a relevant school in England and
will expire exactly four years later even if you have not taught continuously
throughout the four year period or if you were overseas.
The best and quickest way is to undertake an employment based training
programme, usually the Overseas Trained Teacher Programme, which allows
you to work as a teacher and study for QTS simultaneously. It is sometimes
possible to be awarded QTS without undertaking extra training by assessment
only but the type and length of training depends on your qualifications and
previous experience as a teacher.
What action should I take if I am an overseas trained teacher?
In order to avoid problems in the future, it is strongly recommended that you
carry out the following either before or shortly after arrival in the UK:
(i) arrange a check on whether your home qualifications are equivalent to a
UK first degree. This check should be made with UK NARIC – tel. 0871 330
7033 or email: email@example.com If your qualifications are assessed as below
first degree standard, you may need extra study to obtain a first degree before
you can start a course leading to QTS. You will need to complete the extra
study to reach first degree standard and also obtain QTS within four years of
the first day you taught in a relevant school. Extra time is not permitted to top
up qualifications to degree standard;
(ii) arrange to take part in an employment based training course leading to
QTS at or near the beginning of your four year period.
Although it is your responsibility to arrange training, it is hoped that you will
receive the necessary co-operation and support of your school during the
Where can I obtain more advice and information on training courses?
You can obtain further information on training programmes for OTTs by
contacting the Training and Development Agency for Schools’ Overseas
Trained Teacher helpline on 0845 6000 998 or from their website.
What happens if I have not obtained QTS after four years?
It is unlawful to continue working in a relevant school although extra time is
available if you have taken maternity, paternity, parental or adoption leave
allowed under employment law (see the section ‘Can I have extra time to
obtain QTS’). It may be possible for you to be employed as an instructor but
only for the time there is no qualified or trainee teacher available to fill the
post. Otherwise, you should stop teaching and if you want to teach again
study for QTS via a non employment based route such as the Postgraduate
Certificate in Education. Under Tier 2 of the Points-Based System which
replaced the work permit scheme, sponsors must ensure their teachers are
legally entitled to carry out the job in question. Consequently, if you have not
obtained QTS within four years and are not eligible for extra time to obtain
QTS, you are not allowed to teach in relevant schools.
Can I have extra time to obtain QTS?
Extra time is only available if you have been absent from teaching during your
four years because you have taken statutory maternity (or maternity leave
allowed under your contract of employment), paternity, adoption or parental
leave. In such cases, your four year period may be extended by the amount of
statutory leave entitlement that you have taken during your four year
period. You may also have extra time for pregnancy related absences which
occurred during your four years.
Do these rules apply to me if I was born in the UK or I do not need a work permit?
The rules apply if you qualified as a teacher in a country outside the EEA or
Switzerland regardless of where you were born or your terms of entry to the
Can I appeal against these rules?
The rules on OTTs have been approved by Parliament with no provision for
discretion or exemptions under any circumstances.
Where can I obtain more information on the rules?
You can find more detailed help and guidance through the link on the