After the Apply for QTS in England service was launched, data showed that a number of applications came from ineligible applicants. As all submitted applications require an assessor to review them, this had an impact on the assessment process.  

Through speaking to our users, we identified 3 common misconceptions: 

  1. Applicants with applications from subject restricted countries thought they had the correct subject qualifications or 'near enough' to be awarded QTS.  

  2. Applicants thought that because they are or were qualified to teach within their own country, they would be eligible to teach in England, erroneously believing they would be 'transferring' their existing qualification.  

  3. Applicants believed additional evidence of their passion for, or quality of teaching would be considered in the assessment process.

Our user research provided strong evidence that users had not accurately understood our eligibility criteria, particularly in relation to qualification level and subject qualification.

Design thinking

As a design team we looked at ways we could improve how we communicated the eligibility criteria. We hypothesised that if this information was better understood, it would potentially reduce the number of ineligible applicants applying.

The team decided to look at the service's eligibility checker. We investigated both lower effort, lower risk ideas, as well as higher risk, higher effort interventions.

We decided to focus on meeting the following user needs:

  • As an applicant, I need to know if I'm eligible to apply for QTS as soon as possible, so that I do not waste time and money obtaining any documents to support my application.

  • As an applicant, I need to understand the assessment criteria upfront, so that I can understand if this service is for me.

  • As an applicant, I need to understand what evidence to provide, so that I can complete my application with the correct documentation.

  • As an applicant, I need to know what subject specific requirements are, so that I can provide an accurate account of my qualifications.

One of the lower effort, lower risk ideas, was looking at how we could change the content on the first page of the eligibility checker.

We started by examining the existing front page. There was an expectation that potential applicants would arrive at this page having read the criteria in .gov pages. Data showed this was not always the case and a significant number of users arrived at this page straight from search engines.

We decided to restructure this page bringing in more information about the criteria.

Existing front page

Screenshot of the original eligibility checker front page

Initial changes to the front page

We decided to keep 'What QTS is' at the top of the page, but to introduce a link to the detailed criteria pages on .gov.

We decided to add a new section 'How this service works', to explain the process of how to make an application. We also explained that any applications submitted will be measured against our assessment criteria and not on the quality of the applicant's teaching.

We changed the section 'Who this service is for' to 'Who is eligible' and created a bulleted list of the topline eligibility criteria.

Although we had added content, making the page longer, we felt the information conveyed was vital to ensure people understood the criteria before they even started the eligibility process.

We took our initial designs to user testing.

Screenshot of the eligibility checker front page used in user testing

What we found in testing

We undertook user research with 6 participants, asking them to review the revised front page. The purpose of the research was to see if they understood there was specific criteria to be awarded QTS and that only those who met that criteria would be awarded.

We also wanted to see whether ineligible participants would understand from the beginning that they were ineligible.

Overall users found the new page well laid out and easy to read. It was good to note that even though we had increased the content it was useful:

"This seems like a good amount of information, it’s not overwhelming" - research participant.

Where there was information that a participant didn't understand, such as what a level 6 qualification was, they appreciated there was a link they could click to read more about the subject.

Participants said they would be likely to do some more research and select the 'Find out more about QTS' link. This had been added to the front page and confirmed our decision to provide that link to more information.

Other parts of the updated page did not work quite so well.

Half of the participants said they would only skim the information and would look for the apply button straight away. We are mindful of this and work is continuing to iterate on the eligibility checker.

We had also changed the title of the page to 'Apply for qualified teacher status (QTS) in England' however research showed participants found this confusing. They thought they had landed on the application rather than the eligibility checker. We therefore decided to revert to the original title 'Check you're eligible to apply for qualified teacher status (QTS) in England' as that reflected better what this part of the service was.

Under our new bulleted list of criteria, we had added that applicants from some countries would have to show a specific subject specialism to be able to apply. Participants said it wasn't always clear for them where they can find the list of subjects where there is a shortage. We decided to include the list of subjects required in the bullet point.

Post research amendments

We made several tweaks to the content after the research analysis. Participants had been largely positive about the changes, so we were confident the new structure and sections would communicate the criteria needed to be eligible and apply.

The below screenshot shows the new page.

Screenshot of the new eligibility checker front page

What happens next

We will be monitoring the new page to see how it works and will continue to iterate on the eligibility checker.