First class

Teaching is one of the most rewarding professions, and with a multitude of training opportunities, there’s bound to be one that’s right for you, writes Jack Sadler

Whether you’ve just graduated or you are considering teaching in your not-too-distant future, it’s always good to arm yourself with as much information as possible and be prepared for whatever children throw at you.

Teaching is a challenging but very rewarding profession, with many attractive aspects (and not just the long holidays). For one, the average salary for a teacher is £37,800. But it isn’t only about the financial perks; there’s a good amount of flexibility and clear progression. With passion and hard work, you can go from being a classroom teacher to a subject leader to head of year in a relatively short time span. And, with figures from the Department for Education (DfE) revealing that nine out of 10 newly qualified teachers (NQTs) are employed within six months of completing their training, this could be a reality sooner than you think.

However, it’s also important to remember the altruistic side to this profession. You will have opportunities every day to genuinely make a difference in children’s lives. Motivation can come from a range of sources, whether it’s the ‘light bulb moment’ when a student learns something new, or simply watching them flourish and realise their potential.

The plethora of routes into teacher training can be overwhelming, but take a deep breath and weigh up your options and preferences. You’ll need to decide if you want your training to be university-based or, if you’re looking for a more hands-on approach, school-based. No matter which route you choose to go down, many parts of the journey will be the same: you will have a minimum of 24 weeks of practical placements in at least two schools, all of which will lead to you gaining qualified teacher status (QTS) after a probation year as an NQT. Many school-centred courses will also allow you to earn a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) while you train. Additionally, if you are considering becoming a teacher, gaining some experience in a classroom will certainly help you (and may be required with some providers). You’ll be prepared before your training begins, and, of course, you’ll have a clearer idea if teaching is right for you, as well as it looking impressive on your application.

And, with over 38,000 people having applied for initial teacher training (ITT) in the past year according to figures from UCAS, any on-the-job experience you can get will ensure you catch the admissions officer’s eye.

Matt Inniss, recruitment lead at United Teaching, a network of over 50 schools offering teacher training on behalf of United Learning, commented: “People who want to get into teaching cannot beat volunteering. Write to schools and maybe take a week of your holiday to get some experience – you might find it’s something you really love.”

After deciding how you want to learn, you will also need to consider which age group would suit you best, whether it’s early years, primary or secondary.

Early years

If you want to give children the very best start in life, then an early years teacher is the right position for you. You’ll be working with pupils anywhere between birth and the age of five, providing an essential source of stability and knowledge in their development. Children who have made good progress by the age of five are five times more likely to achieve the highest reading level at Key Stage 1, according to the DfE. 

There are many routes into becoming an early years teacher, but, as with teaching for all age groups, a degree is still necessary, as is at least a C grade in English, mathematics and science at GSCE level. After passing your numeracy and literacy skills tests, you’ll complete your ITT and be awarded your early years teacher status (EYTS).

Graduates have two main options: you can complete a year of full-time study, with a £7,000 grant to cover course fees, or you can apply to the special early years School Direct course, where you will train on the job and will usually have a position after reaching

EYTS. You are also entitled to a bursary of up to £5,000 depending on your degree classification.


Primary school teachers will foster abilities and social skills in young children that will prepare them for later life. It is recommended that you become familiar with the primary curriculum, as you will be teaching across the whole spectrum of subjects. So while training is open to graduates from all fields, a degree in a curriculum area, such as English, maths or science, will put you in good stead. There are also the options to train as a maths or PE specialist.

As a primary teacher, you will often teach the same class different subjects, so you will get to know your students very well and your training will allow you to respond to individual needs. Creativity, patience and a sense of humour are therefore required.

Graduates who leave university with first-class honours or a 2:1 are eligible for a bursary of £3,000. You can study at a university or higher education college for a PGCE or you can opt for school-based ITT. Once acquiring QTS, you’ll benefit from a competitive starting salary and a secure job.


Students falling into this age bracket often get dismissed as the ‘terrible teens’, but it doesn’t need to be that way. Young people need stimulating and engaging lessons so they don’t get bored. By displaying excitement for your chosen subject, you can provide them with a stable and rewarding environment and be a mentor for their transition into adulthood.

Matt said: “Teachers need boundless enthusiasm for working with young people and a real love of their subject. But they also need to be resilient, especially when they make mistakes. Students crave certainty and that you will always have high standards for them.”

Subjects at secondary level are split into two categories based on their standing within the curriculum: ‘priority’ and ‘other’. Priority subjects are maths, sciences, languages, geography and computing. Due to their status, you could potentially be eligible for a training bursary or scholarship of up to £25,000 (£30,000 for physics). However, this depends on your degree grade and differs between subjects, so it’s wise to check.

As you focus on just one subject, the training provider you apply to may ask you take a subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) course. This can be for a number of reasons, such as the field you want to teach in isn’t the same as the one you graduated in, but is related. SKEs can be full- or part-time and range anywhere from eight weeks to a more intensive 36-week programme. They are fully funded by the provider and can be taken alongside your training.

When it comes to a job in teaching, graduates are well catered for with plenty of assistance available. Commenting on the support, Tanya Bentham, head of talent at Academies Enterprise Trust, said: “The best teacher training will allow trainees to develop their understanding of child development throughout their educational lives. This maximizes teacher pedagogy and ensures new entrants to the profession respect it is as a whole.”

As Matt Inniss concluded, new teachers are “fresh energy” ready to inspire and be inspired in equal measure. A teaching role provides genuine scope for job security and personal satisfaction. So, if you are up for a challenge and want the opportunity to do something that matters, look no further than a career in teaching.