Career insights: Become a Primary School Teacher
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Primary School Teaching explained
There is no better way to make a difference to the future than to teach young people. It is not just that you are beginning the preparation for the child's future life as a doctor, lawyer or accountant, it is that you are capturing those who do not receive the care or attention they deserve. The job satisfaction levels for a Primary School teacher are off-the-scale. All those memories you have of the connection with your favourite teacher is the life you will lead every day when working in the classroom.
You can begin your journey as support staff. You can work alongside teachers as a teaching assistant, and then take a Higher-Level Teaching Assistant course to increase your responsibility. Although you won't be left in charge of the whole classroom, it is an excellent place to begin your journey to becoming a fully-fledged teacher. This experience in the classroom is invaluable when looking to apply for future teacher training courses.
If you know for sure, your heart is in the classroom, and you know you want to be that teacher, then you are going to have to do some work towards the gaining of qualifications.
What is a Primary School Teacher?
A Primary School teacher is responsible for the learning of young people between the ages of 4 and 11. The teacher is likely expected to cover most aspects of the curriculum. Unlike Secondary Schools, where the teacher will stick to a specific subject, the Primary School teacher must be more flexible. They may have one subject that they take more responsibility for more than others, though they will have to teach them all.
They are also responsible for the social, emotional and physical development of the young people in the classroom. Therefore, although they are primarily tasked with teaching reading, writing, and mathematics, and more, they are also expected to track the development markers of children and to report issues relating to their safety.
What Are The Day To Day Responsibilities Of A Primary School Teacher?
The daily work of the teacher extends well beyond organising the learning of young people. Working with the children sat in seats is a significant proportion of the teacher's day, but certainly not all they do. Therefore, if you think that teachers start at 8.45am and finish at 3 pm, you are going to be disappointed by this career. You will also work through many of your holidays.
Your day will include:
- Preparing lesson plans.
- Preparing resources for lessons.
- Meeting and greeting students, and their parents.
- Making sure the room is settled and orderly, with children understanding the rules and boundaries.
- Taking the register and managing attendance issues.
- Checking the uniform of young people and being aware of student hygiene.
- Checking student equipment and building responsibility towards organising personal equipment.
- Dealing with lateness to the classroom.
- Teaching all subjects, including but not exhaustively: literacy, numeracy, history, geography, science, art, DT, IT which includes coding, personal, social, emotional education, etc.
- Holding one-to-one chats with students.
- Patrolling at break-time and lunchtime.
- Organising extra clubs and activities.
- Organising trips and completing risk assessments and other administrative duties.
- Writing to parents.
- Speaking to parents on the phone.
- Meetings with parents at school.
- Meetings with other staff members.
- Taking assemblies.
- Running training in your specialised area.
- Attending training.
- Networking with other Primary School teachers.
- Anything else that helps to keep a school running – including tea making, cake sales, parents’ evenings, music shows, and more.
What Skills Does A Primary School Teacher Require?
There are a lot of soft skills and qualities needed to be a teacher, such as honesty, openness, kindness, and more. However, there are practical skills you will also need to develop such as:
- Knowledge of teaching methods and the ability to write lessons and layer these into a course of learning.
- Understanding how to manage the classroom environment so students can learn and feel safe.
- Work with others, sometimes in stressful circumstances.
- Be flexible and willing to "muck in.".
- High-level verbal communication skills.
- Strong organisational and administration skills.
- High level of computer literacy.
Most essential is the capacity to remain calm and patient when the working environment is testing your resolve.
What Hours Can You Expect To Work?
Monday to Friday in term time you are likely to need to be in school by 8 am at the latest. You are probably going to work through to at least 5 pm. At least one evening a week, you will attend meetings with other staff. You will also be expected to work late on certain occasions, such as information evenings, parents' evenings, trips out of school, etc.
You will find yourself marking, completing admin and other tasks at weekends too.
In "holiday" time – or out of term time – you will still need to work to keep up with planning and administration duties. You will also use this time to maximise the environment of your classroom. This time outside of term-time teaching is self-directed. Like a freelancer, you would be expected to manage this workload yourself. You can do as much as you think you need to, or as little. However, the level of success in your career is often proportional to the amount of work you do when the students are on holidays.
The average working week can exceed 50 hours.
What Holidays Can You Expect To Receive?
Teaching is renowned for its holidays. The terms tend to run in 10 – 14-week blocks. In the middle of a term, there will be a one-week holiday. Between terms, there will be two, two-week holidays and then the more extended six-week holiday. Therefore, there are thirteen weeks when students will not be in school with you.
You will not receive the full thirteen weeks on holiday. You will work through half-terms for at least some of the time. During the six weeks holiday, you will likely work one week clearing up from the previous academic year and one week preparing for the next.
How Much Does A Primary School Teacher Earn?
Teachers are on a fixed pay-scale. Your pay will increase with experience. You will then proceed through upper pay-scales based on your performance and your level of responsibility.
A basic guide to how much you earn can be found below:
Starter - £22,917 to £33,824, increasing to £39,006 in inner London.
Experienced - £35,927 to £38,633, increasing to £47,298 in inner London.
Highly Experienced - £39,374 to £59,857, increasing to £67,305 in inner London. If you would like to learn more about the salaries earned by Primary School Teachers, then you should visit the website of the Department for Education.
What Are The Main Entry Paths Into The Career?
University - To enter teaching via university, you will likely start on a course covering a generic subject you enjoy. In other words, you will do a degree in English or Maths, etc. There are very few teacher-specific degree courses available anymore, though this is still an option. You will then be expected to complete a post-graduate certificate in education to become a qualified teacher and be able to register with the DfE (Department For Education).
Volunteering- It is also possible to move into teaching through a volunteering role or by starting as a teaching assistant and then progressing through the qualifications while you work. Many schools offer the opportunity to work in the classroom alongside the teacher. You can do this by contacting the school and asking about opportunities to volunteer your time or by applying for TA roles. Although you now need a degree to become a teacher, you do not necessarily have to take a formal PGCE. There are courses you can complete in schools that end with QTS, or qualified teacher status.
What Restrictions / Requirements Are In Place?
You will be expected to undertake an enhanced background check. This means if you have any criminal offences or if the police have investigated you, this can be reported to your potential employer. This also checks to see if you are on the Sexual Offences Register or have been banned from teaching.
This check is called the DBS – or Disclosure and Barring Service check. As the name suggests, findings from this check could prevent you from teaching. The DBS check replaced CRB checks.
You will also have to pass literacy and numeracy skills tests before you can apply for a teaching qualification. These tests can be taken online, and resits are available. They are mandatory for all those hoping to achieve Qualified Teacher Status.
The essential qualifications you need to become a teacher include:
GCSE Grades 9 – 4 in English, Maths and Science. These new grades have replaced the A* - G grades. You will need an honours degree.
You can then take many routes to gain your QTS (Qualified Teacher Status). You can take a formal course at university and attain a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education). Alternatively, you can take ITET (Initial Teacher Education or Training), which are schemes often run within and between schools.
It is not essential to have this experience to gain entry to a teacher training course. However, it is valuable to demonstrate that you have spent time working with children. This can be work with a youth group such as the Scouts, or it can be as a teaching assistant in your local school. We also offer a wide range of teaching courses which you can use to help you get a job in this industry.
How to Actually Get A Job As A Primary School Teacher?
Position in schools can be gained in two different ways:
Route 1: You can retain your position in the school where you trained. It may be that you have been working as an unqualified teacher, and you have just formalised your status with the appropriate qualifications. You will have become an unqualified teacher by applying for jobs in schools advertised on the TES (Times Educational Supplement) or in local media.
Route 2: All teaching positions tend to be advertised in two places: on the school's website under vacancies and the TES website. The application process is vigorous. You will be expected to write a two-page letter and complete the application form. If called for interview, you will be part of a whole-day recruitment process with other candidates. You will be expected to teach, to be observed speaking with students, as well as formal and informal interviews. You should expect the interview to last all day.
How to become a Primary School Teacher
- Make sure you have the mandatory grades in GCSE Maths, English and Science.
- Undertake some form of degree course at university or through distance learning. The degree can relate to teaching but will more likely be in a subject you are interested in. There is a higher demand for Science, Maths and IT expertise in all schools.
- While applying for your chosen course to QTS, you should undertake the literacy and numeracy tests. You will not be able to start a teaching qualification without these.
- Apply to a school as an unqualified teacher or teaching assistant and work to complete the QTS on an in-school scheme. Or apply to an ITET course, work within the school setting and gain your QTS. Or apply to university and seek to obtain your PGCE, which will lead to QTS.
- While you are still qualifying for QTS, you will be expected to apply for jobs. Most classroom teaching jobs are open to NQTs (Newly Qualified Teachers), which is what you will be when you start teaching in September of your first year.
- You will complete your induction year, which you will need to pass to be considered fully qualified. Your progress through your induction year will be managed by the teacher responsible for CPD within your school, usually an Assistant or Deputy Head.
Career Progression Opportunities
There are several routes through teaching:
Academic: You can become a specialist in a specific subject and then gain responsibility for this part of the curriculum for the whole school. This is a middle leadership position, and you will be expected to monitor the work of other teachers. You can then progress to curriculum responsibilities in the senior team, such as writing the school timetable.
Pastoral: Alternatively, you may choose to take on responsibility for the welfare of the whole child. You can become the leader of a year group and monitor child development and safety. This will require you to coordinate with outside agencies and work closely with parents. There are also pastoral roles in the senior leadership, and you can be responsible for Child Protection for the whole school.
Special Education Need: For those who want to help the most disadvantaged in the classroom, then you can become a specialist in additional needs. You will receive additional training in the different ways the children may struggle within the school and the potential strategies for intervention. From middle leadership, you can progress to assistant headteacher, deputy headteacher and headteacher. There are also executive headteachers, who take overall responsibility for more than one school in a consortium.
From middle leadership, you can progress to assistant headteacher, deputy headteacher and headteacher. There are also executive headteachers, who take overall responsibility for more than one school in a consortium.
Are There Any Unions for Primary School Teaching Assistants and Teachers?
Teaching assistants can join UNISON, which is a union for general workers.
Why should you do an NCC course?
Teachers have a greater choice of a union. They can select:
- NUT (National Union Of Teachers).
- NASUWT (National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers).
- ATL (Association of Teachers and Lecturers).
You are strongly advised to be part of a union when working in a school. You will not only need support in managing working conditions, but you also need the insurance and legal services to support you if something goes wrong.
The teaching profession is one of the most rewarding jobs you can enter. We all have our memories of those special moments with teachers or that one individual teacher who inspired you. Being a teacher is more than just teaching lessons; you are helping to shape the attitudes, values and futures of the next generation.