Before the Education Act 1902, the training of teachers was largely carried out under a pupil-teaching system, supplemented by an examination administered by the Board of Education which selected candidates for places at a limited number of day training colleges. In 1902 the training of teachers became established as a form of higher education, enabling the new local education authorities (LEAs) to make secondary schools available for the training of pupil teachers. In 1904 municipal training colleges were recognised and in 1905 a building grant was made available to LEAs for this purpose. These supplemented the previously mentioned day training colleges created during the 1890s, which by the turn of the century were mostly attached to universities.
The Board of Education had no administrative control over universities, but it was responsible for the payment of certain grants originally paid under the Technical Instruction Acts and subsequently under regulations administered by the Technical Branch. These were designed to aid technology and professional work in the universities of England and Wales. Similar grants in aid of pure science and the arts were made by the Treasury until 1911, which was also responsible for scholarships in certain technical subjects until the Awards Branch was set up.
In 1910, the University Branch was established and took over these responsibilities and was supervised by an advisory committee on grants. To this Branch were transferred the Board's responsibilities for teachers' training, previously discharged by the Elementary Branch. It also worked in co-operation with the Teachers' Registration Council. The Branch also had responsibility for teachers' conduct, previously discharged by the Secondary Branch. After the First World War the various codes of regulations administered by the Branch were amalgamated into a single series (Regulations for the Training of Teachers 1918), which was periodically revised. Also in the immediate post-war period the Branch undertook work in co-operation with the Burnham Committees in formulating and administering standard salary scales for teachers. It also dealt with teachers' pensions and superannuation.
In 1919 the allocation of grants to universities were transferred to the University Grants Committee. In 1925, teachers' pay and related questions passed to the Salaries Branch, and in 1926 the payment of teachers' pensions returned to the Paymaster General's Office (which had dealt with this function until 1919).
In 1944 the remaining functions of the University Branch, together with the Emergency Training Scheme launched the previous year, passed to the newly-created Teachers Branch which also took on the administration of the new emergency teacher training scheme.
In 1961, Teachers' Branch was split into two, with one branch dealing with the supply and training of teachers; the other with pay and general matters. This system lasted until the early 1970s when the two branches were re-amalgamated and divided into five divisions (A to E) which dealt with:
- teacher demand, supply, distribution and recruitment, the Teaching Council, nursery assistants and the Nursery Nurses Examination Board;
- negotiating machinery for teachers' salaries, Burnham committees management policy, employment of teachers, including conditions of service, sex discrimination and the pay of university academic staff;
- the administration of the regulations on misconduct of teachers and prospective teachers;
- the production and application of documents on salaries of teachers in schools, further education establishments, farm institutes and colleges of education; and
- teachers' status, probationary periods and medical requirements.
In the 1980s, there was another reorganisation. Once again there were two Teachers Branches: the Teachers Pay and General Branch (dealing with pay and conditions of service), and the Teachers Supply and Training and International Relations Branch. This lasted until 1993, when a single Teachers Branch was set up, divided into three divisions responsible respectively for:
- teachers' pay and conditions of service, including university lecturers' pay;
- initial teacher training and teacher qualifications; and
- teacher numbers and deployment, including the supply of ethnic minority teachers.