A teacher is someone who uses their own knowledge and skill to inspire and educate students. Teachers play a crucial role in the development of young minds and shaping the paths that many will take, either by planting the seed that inspires their next steps, or simply pushing them to achieve their full potential.
Teachers are the backbone of education. This is a job that is challenging, but highly rewarding and one that offers significant career progression, good benefits, job satisfaction and an ability to expand your skill set.
What is a Teacher?
A teacher observes, supports, and records the progress of school children. Teachers are usually the main source of education for students prior to university or college and will work with all age ranges from 4 to 18.
Teachers have been known to work at universities or colleges, but these are ordinarily referred to as lecturers or tutors. Teachers are generally placed into different key stages, which are:
- Early years foundation stage (EYFS): 0-5-year-olds - nursery and reception.
- Key Stage 1: 5-7-year-olds - school years 1-2.
- Key Stage 2: 7-11-year-olds - school years 3-6.
- Key Stage 3: 11-14-year-olds - school years 7-9.
- Key Stage 4: 14-16-year-olds - school years 10-11.
If you have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), you can teach any age range in a school across England and Wales. If you decide that you want to study at a different age range, you will need to provide supporting evidence that you have the appropriate experience and can cope effectively.
If you already have a degree, you will need to obtain a postgraduate teacher training course, leading to a QTS.
Teachers do far more than just teach. While nurturing young minds is obviously one of the main responsibilities of a teacher, you will have a myriad of other responsibilities beyond that.
The main responsibilities of a teacher are:
- Attend staff meetings.
- Attend training days.
- Collaborate with other learning professionals to provide in-depth learning guides.
- Develop visual aids for students.
- Ensure the health and safety of all children is assured.
- Keep up to date with changes in your curriculum.
- Motivate students to learn.
- Provide care for students.
Your school may ask you to organise and attend extracurricular activities, like school trips and sporting events. Your responsibilities may also increase further if you are the head of a year of students or the head of a department.
Your salary will depend on your employer. While there is an industry average, the overall salary will generally be reflective of your qualifications, your experience and who you are working for. Location can also factor in, with city-based schools generally paying higher than non-city schools. In some areas of Scotland, it may be possible to achieve a Distant Islands Allowance or Remote Schools Allowance. Newly qualified teachers will receive an additional payment of £8,000 as part of the Preference Waiver Scheme if they agree to work anywhere in the region for their induction year.
The starting salary for a teacher is generally between £16,000 and £18,000. At this paygrade, you may be a teaching assistant or a teacher at a slightly lower salary entry point.
Once you have enough experience or have expertise in a specific area, salaries will increase. You can reach a range of around £23,000 to £35,000, which will also mean an increase in responsibilities and duties.
If you have a QTS, your salary could be higher still. QTS salaries are regulated by the Department of Education.
Your salary may also increase if you work in a private school. Private schools generally have higher requirements for applicants and will also have different license requirements and come with different demands on their time, which affect the pay.
A teacher observes, supports, and records the progress of school children.
The level of qualification you need to become a teacher will depend on which age you are teaching. A degree is not necessarily required for this role, but it will help your application.
You need to make sure that the qualifications you study are relevant to the age group you wish to teach. For instance, if you plan on teaching early years groups, then you will need to make sure that you are studying an Early Years Initial Teacher Training (EYITT) programme.
A common qualification to have to become a teacher is a PGCE degree. This is a postgraduate qualification that allows you to become a teacher in a specialised area. So this is generally a qualification for teachers who want to teach at high school or higher.
There are a number of skills needed to become a teacher. The primary skill that you will need to have, regardless of the age group you are working with, is patience. You will be working with children, therefore, you will need to be able to handle any problems that come your way and will need to understand that everyone learns at a different pace.
- A passion for inspiring young minds.
- An ability to work independently.
- An ability to work under pressure.
- An ability to work with children.
- Enthusiasm for teaching.
- Excellent IT skills.
- Excellent communication skills.
- Excellent organisational skills.
- Good English and mathematics skills.
- Good collaboration skills.
The skills you have can be further developed through training. It is very common for schools, colleges or academies to offer teacher training days to improve your skills and to further your knowledge as well as to make you aware of new changes in the industry.
Training and development
If you already have a degree, you will need to obtain a postgraduate teacher training course, leading to a QTS. You can also take on a two-year programme in challenging schools to complete a Postgraduate Diploma in Education PGDE. Afterwards, you can either stay in the profession or move on to roles within the business or the public sector.
QTLS (Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills) status is equivalent to QTS and is achievable after completing a professional formation. The professional formation is the process that demonstrates adequate knowledge and skills in your professional practice. Training is open to all graduates, but qualifying in a subject part of the national curriculum can improve your opportunities. Subjects which are part of the national curriculum and have high priority include; chemistry, computing, biology, design and technology, English, maths, languages, geography, religious education, physics and primary with maths. If you don’t have a degree in a subject you want to teach, you can take a subject knowledge enhancement course (SKE).
Some schools may cover the costs of your training. Schools will offer training for teachers where needed, but you will also need to take responsibility for your own training and development.
There are a number of useful organisations you can become a part of which provide training courses. These organisations will offer continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities, seminars, advice and various other resources.
Some useful organisations to join are:
- Early years alliance
- National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA)
- National Education Union
- Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY)
Trainee teachers in England have to pass national skills tests in literacy and numeracy before teacher training. You can undertake the exams as part of the application and need to pass them before the course begins. There may also be funding and bursaries available, or the chance to earn a wage while you train.
The level of qualification you need to become a teacher will depend on which age you are teaching.
Work experience is not essential to becoming a teacher, at least, at first. Work experience is generally not needed to begin a teaching assistant job (which is the level you will most likely start out at), however, if you want to become a teacher or to specialise in a specific area of teaching, you will need to have some experience.
Some schools or universities offer training courses at postgraduate level, but this depends on the subject, location and degree class. For more information, you can visit Get Into Teaching, Discover Teaching, Teach in Scotland or Northern Ireland Department of Education.
Though prior experience is not strictly necessary, it can help your application immensely. This could be anything from volunteering in children’s organisations, like playgroups or nurseries to doing some work experience at pre or post-university level.
The career prospects for a teacher can be very promising. It is possible to move into management roles after enough time has passed, which could mean that you become the head of a department, the head of year or maybe even move into a deputy-head teacher role when you have appropriate experience.
Some teachers often decide to start working with special educational needs (SEN) students. This is something that you will need to have specific qualifications in before you can work in this area permanently. As this requires a different level of teaching and management, you will likely need to have some experience in this area, either voluntary or otherwise, before you can apply.
Your level of progression may also depend on where you currently work. If you are working at a primary school, but wish to teach secondary education, you can move up the ranks quite easily, provided you have the necessary experience and can demonstrate an ability to work with this age group.
Many do also look into the possibility of becoming a university lecturer. This is a different role from a teacher, so you will need to have a degree of some kind of experience in the industry that you want to teach.