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Teaching in Schools | The Careers Service Teaching in Schools – Oxford University Careers Service
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About this sector

This information is aimed primarily at those thinking about entering teaching in the UK after their first (or higher) degree. If you already have a teaching qualification or are currently completing a teacher training course you will find some of the information helpful, but should also look at the information on applying for teaching jobs provided by TARGETjobs. For careers in education outside the classroom see Education Alternatives.

Teaching is a popular destination for Oxford graduates, and demand for well-qualified, effective teachers remains high, particularly in the secondary sector. The National Audit Office have  produced a useful infographic highlighting some of the current issues around teacher recruitment and retention.

Nationally more than 27 000 graduates entered teacher training last year, with a fairly even split between those on school-led routes and university-led programmes. Government targets for recruitment into teacher training were met in only a quarter of secondary school subjects (geography, history, biology, PE) with the biggest deficits in design & technology, computing, physics, maths, religious education and art). The largest numbers of vacant teaching posts in schools are still in maths and physics with reports of up to a third of vacancies going unfilled in some parts of the country.

The introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) has increased demand for teachers in its core subjects, reflected in increased recruitment targets into teacher training. The EBacc is a school performance indicator linked to the percentage of students achieving 5 or more A*-C GCSEs (grades 9-4 in the new GCSE grading system) in the core academic subjects of English, maths, the sciences, history or geography and a language.

Recent GCSE reforms have resulted in a new grading system and a move away from modular to linear delivery with exams at the end of two years of study. GCSEs are now graded 9-1 instead of A*-G with 9 the highest grade set about the previous A*.

A levels have also been reformed. Again A levels are now linear, with exams at the end of two years of A level study. AS levels no longer count towards A level and so have largely disappeared from sixth from curricula.

Plans for a newly strengthened qualified teacher standards and professional development for early career teachers are due to be announced by the government in late 2017, or early 2018

Much of the information that follows can be applied across the UK, but there are significant differences between Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. If you are hoping to teach internationally then be aware that required teaching qualifications vary greatly between countries and are not always transferable (more on this below).

The UK school system

Schools in the UK fall into two main categories: the government-funded, state-maintained sector (‘state’ or ‘maintained’ schools) and the independent sector, funded by fees and sometimes charitable foundations (known as ‘public’ or ‘private’ schools). Over 90% of UK children are educated in state schools. Most state-maintained schools are all-ability comprehensive schools, but a few are grammar schools, which select pupils according to ability.

More than half of all schools in England are academies. These are independent, state-funded schools, which receive their funding directly from central government, rather than through a local authority. Although the day-to-day running of the school remains with the head teacher, they are overseen by individual charitable bodies called academy trusts and may be part of an academy chain. They have more freedom than other state schools over their finances and curriculum, and do not need to follow national pay and conditions for teachers.

Compulsory education in the UK runs from age four or five (depending on the region) to age 16. Most young people remain in education or training until the age of 18. Though a few independent schools and academies accept pupils between ages four to 18, most children attend a primary school until age 11 and then a secondary school from 11-16 or 18. In some parts of the country nine to 13 year-olds attend middle schools, a pattern echoed in the independent sector where preparatory or prep schools typically take pupils to age 13.

Some local authorities also operate grammar schools which are academically selective secondary schools. Entry is dependent on performance in the 11+ exam.

Special schools with pupils aged 11 and over can specialise in specific areas of special educational need or disability, for example Autistic spectrum disorders or visual impairment.

Types of job

Secondary school teachers

Secondary school teachers of national curriculum subjects, i.e. English, mathematics, science, technology, history, geography, music, art, physical education, modern languages and religious education, are in greatest demand in both state-maintained and independent secondary schools. There are many opportunities to progress into positions of responsibility, e.g. head of department or head of year, for which you would receive an increase in salary. In 2016/17, salaries in the maintained sector range from £22,467 for newly-qualified teachers outside London to £115,582 for the heads of the largest comprehensives in inner London

Primary school teachers

Primary school teachers usually take responsibility for teaching all areas of the curriculum to the same class for an academic year. Most become specialists with a specific age group – either early years foundation stage (3-5 year olds), key stage one (years 1 and 2, 5-7 year olds) or key stage two (years 3-6, 7-11 year olds). It is also possible to become a subject specialist within a primary school. This may mean co-ordinating the provision of a subject throughout the school (e.g. science or modern foreign languages) or in some cases teaching a particular subject across all age groups, most common for music, drama and PE.

Sixth form and FE teachers

Sixth form colleges and further education (FE) colleges deliver academic and vocational courses to students aged 16-19 (and also adult learners). Teachers (or lecturers in FE) are subject specialists.

SEN teachers

Many teachers have specific responsibilities for working with pupils with special educational needs (SEN). These range from gifted and talented pupils, to those with learning difficulties, or with physical or mental impairment. Many of these pupils are accommodated with additional support in mainstream schools, but special schools also exist. Most SEN teachers gain classroom experience and then specialise. See Prospects: SEN for further information.

Other roles

This briefing focuses on teaching in schools, but there are teaching opportunities in a wide range of settings. For example – hospitals, prisons and young offenders’ institutions, adult education, private tuition and so on. See Education Alternatives for further information.

There are many other roles beyond the classroom to progress towards, e.g. in teacher training, research, advisory and inspection roles and local or Civil Service administration. Also see our information on Academia & Higher Education, and Government & Public Administration in our Sectors and Occupations.

Entry points

In order to qualify to teach in a state school in England and Wales, you must have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). Some training routes lead only to QTS, others lead to QTS and an additional qualification such as a PGCE or Masters credits, which will therefore include more academic content. If you are considering teaching outside England or Wales ultimately, then you may find that QTS alone is not sufficient – in Scotland for example you will also need to have a PGCE (or PGDE) or equivalent (e.g. 60 credits at Masters level).

Eligibility requirements

Government regulations state that applicants must have a degree and passes at Grade C or above in GCSE Maths and English (or equivalent). For primary or middle-years courses applicants must also have a science GCSE at Grade C or above. Beyond that, each initial teacher training provider is responsible for its recruitment and admissions policy, so it may be possible for somebody who has studied PPE to teach history, or a classicist to teach history or English. You should contact training providers directly with queries about the suitability of your degree course for the subject you wish to teach. Subject knowledge booster and subject enhancement courses also exist in some shortage subjects for graduates needing to develop their subject knowledge prior to a course of teacher training.

Professional Skills Tests

Trainees starting on a course of initial teacher training in England need to pass skills tests in numeracy and literacy before their course begins. Some training providers insist that tests are passed prior to interview; others make offers conditional on passing the tests with a certain time frame, typically 30 days.

Routes into Teaching

PGCE courses led by universities

Many graduates training to teach do so by taking a one-year, full-time PGCE at a university or other higher education provider. Some two-year, flexible, part-time courses are also available. In addition to substantial classroom experience in two different schools, the PGCE offers time in university focusing on topics such as the national curriculum, principles and practice of teaching your subject, the professional role of the teacher and aspects of teaching which are relevant to the whole school. Some courses include Masters-level modules, and all lead to the same QTS. QTS is awarded on successful completion of the first year in post in a school as a Newly-Qualified Teacher (NQT). Applications are via UCAS Teacher Training (more on this below).

SCITTs

Similar to the university-based PGCE, School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) is delivered by a local consortium of colleges or schools rather than a university, and applications follow the same route as that for PGCE.

School Direct

School Direct places are offered by a school or group of schools in partnership with an accredited teacher training institution, often the local university or SCITT. This allows schools to train graduates as teachers in the subjects and age ranges they need and in the way they want them trained. In return for this the schools will be expected (though not guaranteed) to find a job for the trainee once they finish training. School Direct leads to qualified teacher status (QTS) and many, though not all, will also award a PGCE. Funding for School Direct attracts the same level of tuition fees and the same bursaries as PGCE and, in common with university-led courses, applications are made via UCAS Teacher Training (see below).

School Direct (salaried)

The salaried version of School Direct is open to graduates with three or more years’ career experience, though this is flexible so it is worth talking to providers about your own circumstances. On this scheme trainees will be employed initially as an unqualified teacher while they train in school.

Teach First

Teach First is an intensive, two-year programme combining training, qualifying and working as a teacher, a programme of leadership development and management skills training, and a wide range of networking and summer project opportunities.

The aim of Teach First is to address educational disadvantage by placing high-calibre graduates to teach in challenging secondary and primary schools, while acquiring QTS and a PGDE. Graduates also get the opportunity to work towards a Masters qualification. About half of all participants remain in teaching at the end of two years and all become ambassadors for Teach First with continued support to address educational disadvantage.

Teach First applications open in June each year for programmes starting the following summer. You are advised to apply early, particularly for non-shortage subjects such as history. A-levels at grade B or above in maths, science or English can qualify you to teach that subject with Teach First regardless of your degree subject.

Researchers in Schools

Researchers in Schools is a salaried two-year teacher training programme based in non-selective state schools for researchers who have completed, or who are about to complete, their DPhil. Alongside teaching, trainees also have the opportunity to maintain an academic profile through projects, publications, attending conferences and other research-related activities. Available in most national curriculum subjects, it offers enhanced salaries of up to £40k for those training in maths and physics. Applications open throughout the year, with the earliest deadline (for Autumn assessment centres) in September.

Teacher Training in the post-compulsory sector (FE)

Many enter the FE sector with no teaching qualification and work towards relevant qualifications part time while in post. Alternatively it is possible to do a full-time PGCE specialising in the FE sector. FE Advice provide comprehensive information about training in the FE sector, and operate a very helpful information line (0300 303 1877) for queries.

Early Years Teacher Training (EYTT)

Early years refers to children up to the age of compulsory schooling (age 5). Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS) has recently been introduced, and now has equivalent standing to QTS. Four training routes are available that focus on Early Years, including School Direct and employment-based options.

Independent School Sector

You are not obliged to have QTS in order to teach in independent schools. But in practice, even within the independent sector, most head teachers or principals prefer applicants who are qualified. Some offer schemes similar to the salaried School Direct route to promising candidates. Other options include:

  • HMC Teacher Training is a two-year salaried training programme in HMC independent schools across England, which leads to PGCE and QTS.
  • Teaching vacancies for those without a teaching qualification are occasionally advertised on CareerConnect, and in the TES. For example, Magdalen College School in Oxford often look for graduates to join their Waynflete Certificate of Teacher Training.
  • Also consider writing speculatively to schools to enquire whether opportunities are available. See our tips for making speculative applications for more information.The Independent Schools Council keeps a database of independent schools.
  • Graduate assistantships are offered by some independent schools, where you may have a pastoral role, or assist with music, drama or sporting activities, in return for board, lodging and a stipend for an academic year. These are most common in boarding schools.

Academies

Academies are publicly-funded schools which have freedom from local authority control, the ability to set their own pay and conditions for staff, freedoms around the delivery of the curriculum and the ability to change the lengths of terms and school days. Some academies recruit graduates to train as teachers, and many offer the School Direct programme or work alongside universities by offering teaching placements for PGCE students.

Alternative classroom roles

There are several roles that can immerse you in a classroom environment, perhaps to help you to decide whether teaching is for you. These include Teaching Assistant, Cover Supervisor, Learning Mentor and Learning Support Assistant. These roles can provide you with invaluable experience which may be particularly helpful when applying for popular teaching subjects such as history. Vacancies are usually advertised locally, in particular on local authority websites. The Local Government careers website has a useful overview of the various roles. A number of Teaching Assistants, for example, go on to undertake the School Direct programme in the school they have been working in as they gain a good understanding of the nature and structure of the school. In addition, the department training them may feel more confident about offering them a full time job upon completion of the course.

Applying for school- and university-led courses via UCAS Teacher Training

Applications for a university-led PGCE and School Direct in England & Wales are made online via UCAS Teacher Training. Scottish courses are available through the UCAS Undergraduate Scheme.

  • Applications open in late October every year.
  • Candidates can apply to three different training providers – these can be a mix of PGCE and School Direct providers. There is no order of preference, applications are sent out to all three choices simultaneously.
  • Institutions have 40 working days to review applications, interview candidates and make an offer or reject them.
  • Once candidates have received decisions from all of the training providers they have applied to, they will have 10 working days to reply to their offers.
  • From January each year unsuccessful applicants can apply for any course that still has vacancies (one at a time).

Choosing courses

  • Course quality
    Ofsted inspects initial teacher training courses and publishes reports. The Centre for Education and Employment Research (CEER) also produces annual ‘league tables’ (including SCITTs) based on a combination of Ofsted inspection results, entry qualifications and how many trainees enter the teaching profession. This is published as the Good Teacher Training Guide.
  • Other factors
    As well as the quality of the individual course you should also consider: geographic proximity to where you would like to teach afterwards, nature of school’s intake (e.g. rural/urban) in the light of future preferences, proximity of partner schools to the training provider, and your likely accommodation.

Application process

The application for UCAS Teacher Training consists of:

  • Application form
    Personal details, details of qualifications, a breakdown of the subject content of your degree (important if you want to teach a subject not directly related to your degree course), details of relevant work experience and a…
  • Personal statement
    The most important part of your application – you will submit one statement that will be sent out to all three of your chosen institutions. Explain why you want to be a teacher, reflect on the relevant experience you already have and your commitment to your chosen subject and age range. See our information on Personal Statements. You might also like a Careers Adviser to give you feedback on your statement before you submit it. We also run a session on writing statements at the Careers Service during Michaelmas Term.
  • References
    You can’t submit the form until these are completed online by your referees so make sure you leave plenty of time for this.
  • Application fee (£24 for 2017 entry)

Funding for university-led courses & School Direct

There are significant differences between the levels of support for trainee teachers in England, Wales and Scotland and in the support available to UK, EU and overseas students. The following applies to home students undertaking full-time courses in England. EU and overseas students will need to check eligibility carefully.

Funding for training in Scotland is administered by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS). There are no government-funded training bursaries for teacher training in Scotland, but you can apply to SAAS for a loan and supplementary grants which are dependent on your household income and individual circumstances.

In England and Wales, three main sources of funding are available:

  1. Training bursaries 
    • Bursaries are available for university-led and School Direct training  routes. The level of bursary depends the subject you are training to teach, and the level of qualification you hold. Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Computing, Geography, Classics and Languages attract the maximum bursary of £26,000 (2.2 degree or above). Trainee maths teachers get a bursary of £20,000 plus early career payments of £5,000 in their third and fifth year teaching in a state secondary school. Only maths specialists receive a bursary for training in the primary age-group. For full details see Get into Teaching
  2. Tuition fee loans;
    • PGCE and School Direct students will need to pay a tuition fee for their course. The amount varies between institutions but most charge £9,250. A tuition fee loan is available to cover this cost.
  3. Maintenance and special support
    • Depending on household income, or special circumstances, you may be able to apply for grants or loans from the local authority or government. See UK Government: Student Finance for details.

Detailed information on fees and funding is provided by the Department for Education.

Teaching in Scotland

The education system in Scotland is different from the system in the rest of the UK. Compulsory education begins in primary schools at the age of 5 and the move to secondary school takes place at age 12. Compulsory education ends at age 16, although most stay in education until the age of 18. The school year begins in August rather than September. Pupils take Standards and Highers rather than GCSEs and A-Levels.

The only postgraduate route into teaching is the Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) which follows the same basic format as PGCE courses in the rest of the UK. Applications are handled by the UCAS Undergraduate Scheme. The government bursaries for shortage subjects do not operate in Scotland, where financial support is dealt with by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland.

If you train in Scotland you must attain England and Wales QTS in order to teach in a maintained school in either of these places. You can apply for this through the National College for Teaching and Leadership once you complete your Scottish PGDE. Someone trained elsewhere wishing to teach in Scotland must apply for registration with the General Teaching Council for Scotland. If you normally live elsewhere in the UK and you take a PGDE course in Scotland you will have to pay tuition fees.

Teach in Scotland provides information about training to teach in Scotland.

Teaching in Northern Ireland

Applications for PGCE courses in Northern Ireland are handled directly by the universities offering PGCE. There are no additional financial incentives for shortage subjects. See Student Finance NI for more information about funding.

Teaching outside the UK

The opportunities for UK teachers abroad are hugely varied, ranging from small schools for the children of expatriate employees of a single company to English-medium schools for over 2,000 pupils, many of whom may be nationals of the country concerned. Most of these opportunities are for already-qualified teachers but some will recruit bright, enthusiastic graduates. Occasional vacancies are posted on CareerConnect, others can be found in the TES. Note that required teaching qualifications vary enormously between countries and even between states within a single country. Please also see our information on Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).

Skills & experience

Skills needed

There are few jobs that call on as wide a range of skills as teaching, for example:

  • Specialist knowledge
  • Communication skills
  • Persuasiveness
  • Motivation and interpersonal skills
  • Organisational skills
  • Stamina, energy and empathy
  • Above all you must enjoy working with children!

Getting experience

It is an excellent idea to sample life as a teacher before committing yourself. Most teacher training providers expect you to have spent some time observing your prospective subject(s) being taught in a state school, before they will interview you for a course place. For example ‘10 – 15 days classroom observation experience and popular subjects will require more than this’ is typical.

The Oxford PGCE office recommend that for popular subjects such as History and English, that applicants should have approximately 5 days of experience in state schools (preferably in a few different ones, to compare). They also suggest this should not be the school at which the applicant originally studied and it must be within state schools, as the course is entirely geared towards the state sector. For primary courses, in particular, relevant experience is extremely important. Ideally you will also have a track record of interest in work with young people, perhaps through university societies or schemes, such as Target Schools or the UNIQ Summer School at Oxford. If you feel that your application needs a boost in this area all is not lost. You can gain a great deal of useful experience even in only a few days in a school.

Insight Into Teaching

The Careers Service partners with schools in Oxfordshire and nationwide to provide the opportunity for Oxford students to spend a few days in a school. The programme runs in Week 9 of Hilary and Trinity Terms each year. See Insight Into Teaching for details of upcoming opportunities and to apply.

Schools Plus

Schools Plus is a  volunteering initiative run by Oxford Hub to allow Oxford students to volunteer in local under-performing schools to help struggling pupils to improve their grades, provide educational activities that go beyond the curriculum and act as positive role models and mentors.

The School Experience Programme

The School Experience Programme offers placements in schools across England. Register to see what is available in your area.

Teach First Insight Programme

The Teach First Insight Programme usually runs twice a year in schools across London, the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber. The programme is designed for people who are passionate about science, technology, engineering or maths. The programme is open to all penultimate year students who meet the following criteria: Must be studying a STEM subject or have studied a STEM subject at A-level (achieving A*-B); Have a minimum C grade in GCSE Mathematics and English Language; Are predicted a 2.1 or 1st degree result; Are eligible to work in the UK.

University societies & volunteering

  • Jacari – A home teaching scheme for ethnic minority children.
  • Schools Plus – A volunteering initiative run by Oxford Hub to allow Oxford students to volunteer in local under-performing schools to help struggling pupils to improve their grades, provide educational activities that go beyond the curriculum and act as positive role models and mentors.
  • KEEN – A registered charity providing sporting and recreational facilities for children and young adults with special needs in the Oxfordshire area.
  • Oxford Splash – Oxford Splash is a one-day event in Hilary Term, which invites local school students to Oxford University to take classes in a broad range of subjects taught by Oxford University students. You can volunteer to teach a one-off lesson on a subject you are passionate about and, thus,  inspire students to learn beyond their traditional school curriculum.
  • Oxford University Widening Access and Participation – run and coordinate a wide range of programmes and activities aimed at encouraging students from under-represented backgrounds to enter higher education in general and Oxford University in particular, and often need student volunteers.
  • UNIQ Summer Schools – a programme of free summer schools offering a taster of university life for year 12 students.

Graduate internships

There are occasionally opportunities to work for up to a year as a graduate assistant or intern in a school. You may be supporting the work of a department, or extra-curricular activity, or coaching small groups of pupils. Most common in the independent sector (see advertisements locally and in the TES), there are also some educational charities who offer 1-2 term internships in the state sector too – see for example Try Teaching.

Arrange your own experience

You may well be able to arrange one or more days observing in a classroom by contacting a local school directly. Write to the Head in the first instance. A full listing, with contact details, for Oxford’s state schools is produced by Oxford County Council.

College outreach activities

Each Oxford College is linked with one or more regions across the UK for schools liaison and outreach. Alongside the Oxford Student Recruitment team, the colleges engage with schools via a number of different activities such as Year 12 school visits, teachers’ conferences, college tours, subject taster days and so on. Speak to the Tutor for Admissions or Access Officer at your college to find out more.

Independent Schools

Opportunities for new graduates to teach for a term or more occasionally arise and can provide useful experience; these may be advertised on CareerConnect or in the TES. Note, however, that most teacher training institutions will expect some experience in a state school prior to a PGCE application. A full list of independent schools, with contact details, can be found on the Independent School Council website.

Private tutoring

Offering to tutor pupils in your subject area can be a great way to gain familiarity with the national curriculum and exam syllabuses. Be clear about the range and level of subjects and syllabuses you can offer. You can expect to earn £15-£25 per hour. There are two main ways of getting some tutoring work, through personal advertising (cards in shop windows, etc) or by signing up with a tutoring agency You can identify tutoring agencies on CareerConnect by reviewing current and archived vacancies.

Getting a job

The TES, published each Friday, carries advertisements for UK and some overseas school and college vacancies. Occasionally CareerConnect will advertise temporary appointments and graduate teaching positions. Vacancies are also advertised directly by local authorities, usually online. Some also produce regular vacancy bulletins, which can be useful if you are restricting your search to a particular geographic area. A myriad of teaching agencies also exist.

For more information and advice on securing your first and subsequent teaching posts see the information about education from TargetJobs.

It may be possible to secure a teaching post in the independent sector without a teaching qualification. Look out for vacancies using the TES and CareerConnect, and be prepared to make well-researched and targeted speculative applications to schools that interest you.

Some independent schools employ graduates on an annual basis to support the school. The terminology used to describe such posts varies, but such posts are often called “graduate assistants” and may be general or specialist roles to support music, drama or sport within the school.

Equality & positive action

A number of major graduate recruiters have policies and processes that are proactive in recruiting graduates from diverse backgrounds. To find out the policies and attitudes of employers that you are interested in, explore their equality and diversity policies and see if they offer ‘Guaranteed Interview Schemes’ (for disabled applicants) or are recognised for their policy by such indicators as ‘Mindful Employer’ or as a ‘Stonewall’s Diversity Champion’.

The UK law protects you from discrimination due to your age, gender, race, religion or beliefs, disability or sexual orientation. For further information on the Equality Act and to find out where and how you are protected, and what to do if you feel you have been discriminated against, visit the Government’s webpages on discrimination.

See Disability Resources for a comprehensive listing of online resources providing information, advice and case-studies.

Our resources

Books

The following books are available to read in our Resource Centre at 56 Banbury Road:

  • Brilliant Head Teacher, Iain Erskine
  • Brilliant Trainee Teacher, Denise Smith
  • How to develop a professional portfolio, Dorothy M. Campbell
  • Teaching uncovered, Karen Holmes
  • Into Teaching, Positive experiences of disabled people. Skill National Bureau for Students with Disabilities

Journals

We subscribe to the following journals in our Resource Centre at 56 Banbury Road:

  • The Times Educational Supplement (TES), weekly
  • Times Higher Education, weekly

Take-away material

Collect the following material from our Resource Centre at 56 Banbury Road:

  • TARGETcourses Teaching
External resources

General information

Funding

Schools

News & other resources

Teaching abroad

This information was last updated on 06 November 2017.
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