Teaching in schools can be a rewarding and fulfilling career with many opportunities for career progression.
There are 8.4 million pupils in 24,317 schools in the UK. According to data published by the Office for National Statistics, in December 2015 there were 1.5 million people employed in the education sector.
Employment in the education sector is forecasted to increase. Data from the Destination of Leavers Survey shows that 89.8% of graduates with a degree from the education sector had found employment 6 months after graduation.
The Education System
In the UK full time education is compulsory between the ages of 4 and 16. After finishing compulsory education many students continue in full or part time education at a school sixth form or college.
Most local education authorities in England and Wales operate a two-tier system. This includes primary (for children up to the age of 11) and secondary (for children aged 11 to 18).
A small number of authorities operate a three tier system:
- primary/first school - up to the age of nine
- middle school - from ages nine to 13
- high school - from ages 13-18
It's important to gain classroom experience and research the national curriculum and key stages before deciding to apply for primary (including early years) or secondary teaching.
You should avoid applying for a mix of primary and secondary training on your UCAS form, as it could suggest indecision to selectors.
Information about the national curriculum and key stages can be found at the following external links:
- Gov.UK: The national curriculum (England)
- The Scottish Government: Curriculum for Excellence (Scotland)
- Welsh Government: Curriculum and assessment (Wales)
The following external sites can be used for careers advice on getting into teaching:
The following external sites contain industry news which may be helpful:
By making contacts you may be able to gain insight into teaching and arrange your work experience. You could start with:
- Graduate Connections – working graduates happy to give you advice
- social media, particularly LinkedIn and Twitter – useful for contacts, employers and finding opportunities
- connecting with our alumni on LinkedIn. Find out what they did after graduation and how they got there, and contact them for advice and inspiration
Open-days, talks and other sector events give valuable insights and the opportunity to make useful contacts.
You may also find details of events on the Get into Teaching site.
You may also be interested in:
- Research in academia
- Teaching in FE/HE
- Teaching English as a foreign language
- Applying for teacher training
Roles & Skills
Depending on your qualifications and the age group you would like to teach, you can choose to work in primary or secondary education.
Some secondary subjects are considered to be priority and students training to teach in these subjects can receive extra funding and support. Priority subjects include maths and sciences, computing, languages and geography.
Primary (including early years)
Early years teachers work with children under the age of five. In a school setting you may work in a pre-school nursery or with a reception class. Teachers work within the framework of the Early Years Foundation Stage, helping children to develop and prepare for primary education.
Primary teachers work with children between the ages of four and eleven. They teach all subjects in the national curriculum but may additionally specialise in a particular area, currently PE and maths. You will usually train to teach two key stages.
You can normally apply to train for primary or early years teaching if you meet the eligibility criteria, and can demonstrate that the majority of your degree course has included study of national curriculum subjects.
Some non-traditional degree disciplines, eg sociology and psychology, may not be accepted by a minority of primary training selectors. You can find all the details about entry requirements for individual training options on the UCAS Teacher Training website and training provider websites. If still in doubt, contact training providers directly.
Secondary teachers specialise in one or two subject areas. You will usually train to teach two key stages.
Your degree will usually have to be relevant to the subject you want to teach. Often the links between degree discipline and the national curriculum subjects are obvious. However, some may be less clear; eg if you’re studying for a degree in engineering, you’re likely to be eligible to train to teach maths, science or design and technology.
Teachers for some secondary subjects are in short supply and it may be possible to take a fully funded subject knowledge enhancement course to build up your knowledge and train in these disciplines.
If you don't think your degree is relevant to any subject in the national curriculum, don't worry. It doesn't mean that you can’t become a teacher; your degree may have more relevance than you think. Contact training providers or the Get into Teaching helpline for more information and advice.
For information about teaching RE, see Culham St Gabriel’s Trust: Teach RE.
Skills employers look for
- good social skills and the ability to communicate with children and young people
- excellent organisational skills and the ability to manage a busy and complex workload
- leaderships skills and the ability to work as part of a team and on your own
- ability to inspire and motivate pupils
- resilience when dealing with challenging pupils
- ability to build effective working relationships with pupils, parents, colleagues and external support agencies
You’ll also need enthusiasm, patience and a sense of humour!
Applying for teacher training
Before applying for a teaching job, it's important that you have researched the schools you are considering and, if you are a newly qualified teacher (NQT), checked that the school is authorised to supervise your induction year.
You can find teaching jobs in a number of ways. You can apply directly to some schools, while other schools recruit through a specialist agency or through the local authority.
Job adverts normally start in January, but most schools advertise between February and June. Use these resources to find advertised vacancies and also to research employers for speculative applications.
In the North East
- Jobs in Schools North East – holds details of teaching jobs across the region.
- North East Jobs – has details of local authority vacancies across the North East
- First Class Supply – teaching supply agency based in the North East
- The Times Educational Supplement (TES)
- The Guardian jobs
- Nursery World - vacancies for pre-school and early years teachers
Some local authorities will advertise teaching vacancies on their own website. LAs may also operate a pool application or teacher registration scheme, where one application is used for all vacancies matching certain criteria in the local area. See the GOV.UK website to find your local authority.
Specialist recruitment agencies
In the North East
Most schools advertise their own job vacancies. You can use the following links to find school web sites for details of vacancies:
- GOV.UK: Find a school in England – database of schools, including an overview of each school and performance scores
- Independent Schools Council is a database of independent schools in the UK and Ireland. You should also check each school’s website for vacancies
Not all jobs are advertised. You could also approach schools directly or find work through a contact. Find schools that interest you and get in touch, always with a named contact. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for.
Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills. Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show that you’re keen.
See Researching Employers for more ways to source and research companies.
Study and Training
There are a number of routes available to train as a teacher in England and Wales.
Not all courses lead to a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). It is not essential to have a PGCE to teach but it is essential to have achieved QTS.
Training routes are different for Scotland.
The UCAS website includes a video Which route is right for you? that includes insights from recent trainees.
Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
The PGCE combines study at a higher education institution with a minimum of 24 weeks teaching practice.
It may also be possible to study for a PGCE through the SCITT and School Direct training routes, depending on the status of the accrediting body.
A PGCE takes one year (full-time) or two years (part-time) and leads to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE)
With a PGDE you will gain 120 master's credits (with a PGCE you will gain 60 credits). There is more academic work but it means you will qualify with two thirds of a master's rather than one third, which is useful for students aiming to do an MA or MEd.
School Direct is a one year programme leading to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and, depending on the training provider, a PGCE and/or Master’s level credits.
You will be recruited by a school and often the training will lead to a job with the school or network of schools that you train with.
The majority of the training is classroom-based. Training is provided by individual schools or a consortium of schools, usually in conjunction with a university or SCITT.
There are two training options: School Direct Training Programme, for new graduates, and School Direct Training Programme (Salaried) for graduates with at least three years' work experience.
School-centred initial teacher training (SCITT)
SCITT is a one year programme leading to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). Training is provided by a group of schools who are approved to run school based training courses. If your programme includes a PGCE you may also need to attend a partner university.
The majority of the training is classroom-based. Training is provided by a consortium of neighbouring schools and colleges.
This is an intensive, two year Leadership Development Programme which combines training as a teacher and personal and business skills training. It also provides internship opportunities and mentoring.
Training is in schools based in low-income communities. At the end of the programme, successful participants will gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) and have one year's teaching experience as a ‘Newly Qualified Teacher'.
HMC Teacher Training
HMC Teacher Training is a two year, salaried programme that allows graduates to work towards a PGCE and Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), while working in an HMC Independent senior/secondary school.
Researchers into schools
Researchers in schools is a two year, salaried teacher training and professional development programme for researchers who have completed, or are about to submit, a PhD.
Training is school-based and successful participants will gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and have one year's teaching experience as a 'Newly Qualified Teacher'.
Experienced teachers without QTS
See the Department for Education's website for information for qualified teachers from overseas and for experienced teachers without QTS.
Applying for teacher training
For information about applying for the different routes into teacher training see our Applying for Teacher Training section on the Careers Service website.
Being self-employed or working as a freelancer is common in the teaching sector. Schools regularly employ teachers/tutors to cover specific specialisms such as music, languages and PE. This may be on a long term basis over an academic year or for occasional sessions.
See our Work for Yourself pages for information on the range of activities and support available to Newcastle students and eligible graduates interested in starting their own business or self-employment.
Find factsheets and reports on starting up and running a business on the COBRA website. COBRA can only be accessed through a University computer on the Newcastle campus.
See GOV.UK: DBS checks for information on applying for a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check - usually required if you are going to work closely with children.
Information on working as a private music tutor can be found in Music and Performing Arts.