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AO summary

AO Home Introduction Summary  Applications The Assessment Teaching Experience Portfolio Guidance

The Assessment Only route – a summary

The Assessment Only (AO) route is an employment-based route for achieving Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) while working as a teacher. The AO teacher follows an individual assessment programme leading to the award of QTS.

The Cambridge Partnership is the accredited provider with the Department for Education, responsible for delivering the AO programme. The Cambridge Partnership recommends successful applicants for the award of QTS to the Department for Education.

As an accredited provider, The Cambridge Partnership is able to make its own particular requirements for its Assessment Only programme.
Requirements for Assessment Only
In order to be eligible for assessment for QTS, AO applicants should
  • hold a bachelor degree of a United Kingdom higher education institution or equivalent qualification (preferably honours at 2:2 or above)
  • hold GCSEs in English and mathematics at grade 4/C or equivalent
  • hold GCSE in a science at grade 4/C or equivalent (for assessment of teaching age ranges 3-11)
AO applicants should:
  • have taught and been accountable for students’ learning for a substantial period of time (typically the equivalent of two or more years full-time)
  • have taught across the specified age phase (i.e. one of 3-7, 5-11, 7-11, 7-14, 11-16, or 14-19)
  • have taught across the ability range in that age phase
  • have taught in two schools, at least one of which is a state-funded mainstream school
  • have been assessed by their school that they meet the Teachers’ Standards for Qualified Teacher Status
In addition, they must also:
  • have been subject to a Disclosure and Barring Service enhanced disclosure check/background checks
  • have the intellectual and academic capabilities needed to meet the required QTS standards
  • possess the appropriate qualities, attitudes and values expected of a qualified teacher
  • be able to read effectively and be able to communicate clearly and accurately in Standard English
  • have met the Secretary of State’s requirement for health and physical capacity to teach
There is a range of circumstances in which teachers do not have QTS but have significant experience working in maintained schools and academies, independent schools, or in further education. As a Provider, we must be confident that the AO applicant was responsible and accountable for children’s and young people’s learning for a period typically equivalent to two or more years full-time as a class teacher. All relevant teaching experience may be taken into account. Working in a supporting role such as a teaching assistant or cover supervisor does count towards the time required as the class teacher.

Overview of procedure


What happens


1.  Initial teaching experience

·    Potential applicant gains necessary experience as an unqualified teacher.

·    Training and support is arranged and provided by the school.

Regular support of an experienced mentor provided by the school.

Regular lesson observation and developmental feedback by the school.

School-based CPD.

Externally provided training and CPD.

Quality of classroom teaching assessed by the school as meeting the Teachers’ Standards.

2.  Application

·    Application submitted to The Cambridge Partnership.

Review of application by The Cambridge Partnership AO programme manager.

Feedback on application provided by The Cambridge Partnership.

3.  Preparation for assessment

·    Applicant gains further experience

·    Applicant compiles portfolio of evidence.

Support from mentor and professional tutor in school.

Regular lesson observation and developmental feedback provided by school.

Additional teaching experience may be necessary to cover breadth of age range, ability range, or in an additional school.

·    Pre-assessment review by The Cambridge Partnership.

 Pre-assessment review includes:

·    Interview by The Cambridge Partnership assessor

·    Review of teaching experience to date

·    Review of proficiency in fundamental English and mathematics

Typically includes visit to and interview in school by assessor.

Feedback from pre-assessment review.

School invoiced £525

·    Applicant completes portfolio of evidence.

Portfolio shows how Teachers’ Standards are met.

Support for development of portfolio provided by mentor and professional tutor.

4.  Initial assessment

·    Assessor visits applicant in school.

·    Successful outcome leads to registration with DfE of starting assessment for Assessment Only.

Visit includes:

·    Interviews with mentor and professional tutor.

·    Lesson observation

·    Review of portfolio of evidence

·    Feedback from assessor from visit

Additional assessment visit by assessor if required.

School invoiced balancing payment of £2325

5.  Final assessment

·    Assessor visits applicant in school.

·    Successful outcome leads to award of QTS with DfE.

Visit includes:

·    Lesson observation

·    Review of updates and further evidence for portfolio

·    Feedback from assessor from visit

Teaching Load and Timetable
As part of the preparation for the Assessment Only route to QTS, teaching experience should have been gained across one of the following age phases:
  • Ages 3-7, 5-11 or 7-11 Primary
  • Ages 7-14 Middle
  • Ages 11-16 or 14-19 Secondary
Primary assessment may take place across the 3-7, 5-11 or 7-11 age ranges. For middle, assessment will take place across the 7-14 age range, and for secondary, assessment may take place across the 11-16 or 14-19 age ranges.

Applicants assessed for the 3-7 age phase must have evidence of the assessment of their teaching across the EYFS curriculum and Key Stage 1 curriculum, those assessed for the 5-11 age phase must have evidence of the assessment of their teaching across the primary curriculum both for ages 5-7 (key stage 1) and for ages 7-11 (key stage 2).

Applicants on middle phase programmes must demonstrate that they have met the Teachers’ Standards for QTS across the relevant curriculum in the primary age range (7-11), and in their specialist subject in the secondary age range 11-14.

Where AO applicants are not currently timetabled to teach across the relevant age phase and do not have evidence of the assessment of their teaching across that age phase, schools will need to make arrangements for their AO applicants to be gain experience teaching an amended timetable, or teaching in another school, and through this teaching be assessed that they have demonstrated that they can teach across the full ability range of their chosen age phase. The AO applicant must be able to provide evidence that they have sufficient experience of successfully teaching across their chosen age phase. Should schools be considering making special arrangements for an amended timetable or a placement in another school or setting in order to provide a prospective AO candidate with wider experience, it is essential that these arrangements are discussed with The Cambridge Partnership to ensure that they will meet the AO requirements.

Teachers who have a part-time teaching timetable may be eligible for assessment through the Assessment Only route if they have accumulated the equivalent of 2 years’ full time experience. Teachers with a part-time teaching timetable must have a timetabled teaching commitment of at least 50% in the term prior to and during the assessment period itself in order for The Cambridge Partnership to be able to undertake a valid assessment against the Teachers’ Standards. AO applicants teaching part-time may also be required, as part of the overall assessment, to provide evidence of their capability of dealing with the increased demands of a greater teaching commitment. 

Qualified Teacher Status: Standards for Assessment

The Teachers’ Standards may be found on the GOV.UK website at: