Top of the class

Nursery children playing with musical instruments in the classroom.

Chase reporter ANTONY CLAY looks at the pathways into primary school teaching with the help of an expert

BECOMING a primary school teacher may not be everyone’s first choice of career – but the rewards can be good both financially and professionally.

You could be that person who inspires a child into a great career, or be someone who can steer them through hard times.

You could be the person that an adult will remember as being so important in their younger years.

Teaching at primary school level can also be a lucrative option for young people with starting salaries set to increase to £26,000 this year and £30,000 from 2022.

But navigating the application process can be a headache, according to former primary school teacher Oli Ryan of education experts PlanBee.

He said: “In 2020, there are more options than ever for those looking to get into teaching.

“While you must have qualified teacher status (QTS) to work in state schools in England and Wales, and in all special schools, free schools, academies and independent schools can employ unqualified teachers.”

Oli said that to put yourself in the best position to achieve your career ambitions in the field, you should:

  • Get a degree with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) – the most common routes into teaching start with one of the many university courses that lead to QTS, most of which will take four years to complete.
  • Take the teaching fast track – complete a PGCE course. The one-year postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) is a fast-track route into teaching for those who already have a degree.
  • Become a teacher trainee – a growing number of programmes enable prospective teachers (who already have degrees) to train with an apprenticeship. The appeal is that it is hands-on and you will be working in a school straight away. You will be paid a salary as an unqualified teacher. Trainees take two years to achieve Qualified Teacher Status.
  • Train part-time – while it is not the quickest or necessarily the easiest route into teaching, many superb primary teachers have trained while working as teaching assistants or in other school roles.

There are other things that a budding teacher needs to be aware of and to consider, according to Oli.

He said: “You will need to pass enhanced background checks. Enhanced background checks are required for those working with children. These will reveal if you have a criminal record, including spent convictions, unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands.

“Having completed your initial teacher education training via one of the routes, you will need to successfully teach in a school or an equivalent teaching job for at least three terms before you officially gain your Newly Qualified Teacher status (NQT).

“Decide what age group(s) you would like to teach. As a primary school teacher you have three separate age groups to teach – Early Years Foundation Stage (3-5 years), KS1 (5-7 years) and KS2 (7-11 years). At primary school level, you will be expected to teach all subjects in the primary National Curriculum.

“If you are unsure what age group you would prefer to teach it may be a good idea to get some in-school classroom experience before deciding what age group is right for you.

“Once qualified, you will have to choose which teaching jobs you apply for.

“A deciding factor for many is the year group that you will be teaching. That’s not to say you will always have a choice, though: many employers will advertise for a teacher without specifying a year group for the role, and decide where to place the successful candidate after the application process. Once you’re teaching in a school you may be required to move to another year group after your first year.”

So you have decided to teach and are set on finding a job in the field. How do you go about it?

Oli said: “Some areas in the UK have Talent Pools where teachers can submit one application form, have one interview, receive a grade and then wait to be contacted by schools in the local education authority (LEA).

“Other LEAs and most independent schools advertise for jobs either on their website or through websites like eteach, or through supply agencies.”

Oli said that being well prepared for a job interview is always essential. You should do your research on current teaching ideas and on the school and its area as well.

Oli said: “Prepare for the interviews. There are many online sources which provide examples of questions primary teachers might be asked during their interviews.”

Oli’s five quick tips for success are:

  • Ensure you are up to date with current curriculum changes/education news;
  • If you are nervous in interviews why not create a portfolio with examples of annotated plans, marked work, photos of displays, photos of children completing practical tasks?
  • Don’t over prep and leave yourself so exhausted on the day that you are not at your best;
  • Wear something smart but comfortable – remember you will probably have to teach as part of your interview so you will need to be able to move easily around the classroom;
  • Have a few tried and tested ideas up your sleeve that you can fall back on. Remember that you don’t know the children, their levels or their prior learning. Interviewers will be looking to see your rapport with the children, your ability to assess how the lesson is going and adapt if necessary, and your ability to reflect on your teaching during the formal interview.

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