Being a teacher is so much more than standing at the front of a class talking to a group of pupils. here’s how to get into this fulfilling profession!
For anyone wishing to pursue a rewarding and progressive career, teaching – with its myriad options and flexibility – comes high on the list of professions to explore. The routes into this career are varied too, and range from completing a university degree to pursuing postgraduate courses. There are a number of funding opportunities too, with bursaries of up to £26,000 available that make paying for training less of a burden than it once was.
It’s no wonder, then, that increasing numbers of graduates are going into teaching after completing their first degree. In the 2015-2016 academic year, there were nearly 30,000 new entrants to postgraduate teacher-training courses, compared with just over 25,000 for the previous academic year. Indeed, there are now 15,000 more teachers in UK schools than in 2010. After all, those who can, teach!
Choose your route
To teach in an English state school, whether at primary or secondary level, you need to be educated to degree level and gain qualified teacher status (QTS) by following a programme of initial teacher education or training (ITET).
This option is designed for graduates who would like the bulk of their training to take place in a school, enabling them to immerse themselves in a teaching culture from day one. You’ll do four days a week on site learning from more experienced colleagues, and one day a week on a university or college campus. Most courses last a year, after which you’ll gain QTS. Most courses also offer a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE).
School-centred initial teacher training (SCITT) involves in-school courses provided by government-backed schools that provide hands-on training from experienced, practising teachers. They result in QTS and some, but not all, also award a PGCE.
School Direct courses offer school-based teacher training via a network of schools that are signed up to the initiative, and are a great choice if you hope to teach at one of those schools after qualifying. Courses last a year and result in QTS – again, many, but not all, also award a PGCE.
School Direct (salaried) is a route that makes teacher training more plausible for those considering a change of career. If you’re a graduate with at least three years’ work experience, you’ll earn a salary while you train and can expect a job offer when you qualify.
Higher or further education training is more suitable for those who would prefer to complete their teacher training at a university or college. You’ll spend at least 24 weeks on placements to develop your practical skills, and can train full-time for a year or part-time for two. All courses lead to QTS and a PGCE.
Funding your studies
If you’re a graduate, a government bursary (tax-free funding) of up to £26,000 could be available to you, depending on the postgraduate course you apply for, the subject you wish to teach and your degree classification.
If you want to teach maths, physics, chemistry, computing, languages or geography, you can also apply for a scholarship. As well as financial support, this will give you access to resources and networking opportunities. Some training courses, such as those with Schools Direct or Teach First, are salaried, meaning you earn as you train (the amount you earn depends on the school you train in and the subject you’re teaching).
You may also be able to apply for loans to cover tuition fees and maintenance of up to £9,000 and £4,000 a year respectively, depending on your circumstances. Remember, though, that although bursaries and scholarships don’t have to be paid back, loans do. You’ll start repaying once you’ve graduated and are earning more than £21,000 a year. You pay back 9% of anything over that figure every year (so if you earn £26,000, you’ll pay back £450 per year).
Teaching offers a competitive starting salary. Here’s a snapshot of what you can earn in England and Wales1:
Trainee teacher £16,626 – £26,295 (£20,909 – £30,573 in inner London; £19,749 – £29,422 in outer London)
Newly qualified teachers £22,917 – £33,824 (£28,660 – £39,006 in inner London; £26,662 – £37,645 in outer London)
Leading practitioners Up to £59,857 (£67,305 in inner London; £62,985 in outer London)
Headteacher Up to £109,366 (£116,738 in inner London; £112,460 in outer London)
Test the waters
There’s nothing like experiencing day-to-day life in a school to help you decide if teaching is for you. The School Experience Programme allows you to observe teachers and will also help your application.
You’ll get a feel for the pastoral role teachers undertake, too – a vital component for the wellbeing of the pupils in their care. You can apply to the programme via Get Into Teaching (see below) or to schools independently.
From TA to Teacher
If you’re currently working as a teaching assistant and want to take the next step you can apply for a university-led undergraduate course, which means you get a degree and complete your teacher training at the same time.
You can opt for a bachelor of education (BEd), bachelor of arts (BA) or bachelor of science (BSc). The former focuses more on teaching and academic principles, while a BA or BSc will give you specialist knowledge in your chosen subject as well as plenty of time in the classroom. You can start your first teaching job as soon as you graduate.
“I feel lucky to have found something so fulfilling”
Dilly Newton, 28, is in her second year of a Teach First course and teaches maths to years 7-11 (secondary school level) at the Malcolm Arnold Academy in Northampton
“Teaching is actually my third career and I feel lucky to have found something
so fulfilling. Yes, it can be challenging but that’s what makes it so rewarding!
“I used to play hockey for Great Britain, but injury kept me out of the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics, so I decided to retrain in mental health. I completed a master’s in psychology, after which I worked with the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust (www.damekellyholmestrust.org) to help support disadvantaged young people and help them realise their potential. I loved it and thought to myself, ‘Why not go into teaching?’
“I went to boarding school and both my parents teach, so for me ‘going back to school’ felt very natural. I loved the feeling of community at school and was lucky that I felt very inspired by the teachers there.
“I really value the opportunity to build a relationship of trust with my pupils so I can give them the same sort of experience I had. A lot of the pupils here have been let down by ‘responsible’ adults in some way, so it takes a while to gain their trust.
“In the first year, I came to understand quite quickly that it was just about turning up every day. That’s how I’ve managed to gain authority. I’m still young and physically I’m quite small, so at first I really had to work to instil a sense of ‘I am the boss’. But this year it has been much easier, especially as I know my way around the school now and know where to access support when I need it.
“Maths didn’t come naturally to me when I was learning and I really had to work at it. I had a great teacher who broke it down and made it fun, and eventually it clicked. I think a lot of people have mental blocks about maths and I wanted to see if I could make sense of it for the pupils I teach.
“I was delighted when I got my PGCE last year and I’m really excited about what the future may hold.