To be a successful primary school teacher you need a passion to inspire young minds and a commitment to ensuring that every child achieves their potential
As a primary school teacher, you'll develop schemes of work and lesson plans in line with curriculum objectives. You'll facilitate learning by establishing a relationship with pupils and by your organisation of learning resources and the classroom learning environment.
Your role is to develop and foster the appropriate skills and social abilities to enable the optimum development of children, according to age, ability and aptitude.
You will assess and record progress and prepare pupils for national tests. You'll link pupils' knowledge to earlier learning and develop ways to encourage it further, challenging and inspiring pupils to help them deepen their knowledge and understanding.
Primary schools in England (following the National Curriculum) are usually divided into:
Primary schools in Wales (following the National Curriculum and Foundation Phase) are typically divided into:
Primary schools in Northern Ireland (following the Northern Ireland Curriculum) are generally divided into:
Primary schools in Scotland (following the Curriculum for Excellence - CfE) are usually divided into:
Tasks are broadly the same for all primary school teachers and include:
Academies and free schools set their own pay and working conditions. In some, this may be very similar to local authority schools, while in others it may vary considerably.
Experienced classroom teachers undertaking additional responsibility may receive teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) payments.
Details about pay are available from the teaching unions and the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL).
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Most teachers work long hours during term time, usually over 50 hours a week. They are in school before the school day starts and stay after the pupils have gone home. Marking and preparation are usually done at home.
Teachers have up to 13 weeks' holiday per year, but most do work on marking, planning, preparation and any classroom organisation during this time. Parents' evenings, school concerts, clubs, after-school activities and preparation for school inspections all take up extra hours.
Part-time and temporary work is available. Career breaks are possible, after which, support and refresher courses are available.
Unless your first degree is a Bachelor of Education (BEd) or a BA/BSc with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), it is essential to gain QTS or, in Scotland, to have achieved the Standard for Provisional Registration (SPR) or be a fully-registered teacher in order to teach in the maintained/local authority sector.
Independent schools and academies are permitted to employ teachers without QTS but, in practice, this is uncommon.
QTS may be gained through one of the following routes:
Most course providers require a good honours degree for PGCE/PGDE entry. Primary teacher training is open to graduates in all subjects, but a degree in a curriculum subject area, e.g. English, science, or mathematics, increases your chances. Some disciplines, e.g. sociology, media studies and psychology, are scrutinised for relevance to the curriculum and your pre-university education may be taken into account.
Most applications for PGCE/PGDE courses in England and Wales are made in the autumn before you wish to commence training through UCAS Teacher Training. In Scotland you will need to apply through Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). In Northern Ireland, you should apply directly to the course providers, usually in November and December. Competition for places is high and early application is advised.
The Assessment Only (AO) route leading to QTS is possible for candidates who have a degree alongside a substantial amount of teaching experience in the UK, but do not have QTS. This involves submitting a portfolio of evidence of your work and a day-long assessment where you are observed while teaching at your school.
To find out whether your qualifications are equivalent to a UK degree contact the UK NARIC (National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom). If you qualified as a teacher in Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the USA, you do not need to undertake any further training, but must apply to the National College for Teaching and Leadership in order for your qualifications to be verified prior to being awarded QTS status.
If you trained in a country outside of the European Economic Area (EEA), you can work in England as a supply teacher for up to four years without QTS. However, you will need to obtain QTS if you wish to take up a permanent teaching post in a maintained school. Find out more about the status of overseas trained teachers at eteach.
For more information about obtaining QTS, see Teacher Training Options.
To teach in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you must be registered with the relevant teaching council:
Full details of routes into initial teacher training (ITT), PGCE courses, taster courses, fees and the financial incentives can be found in teacher training.
For information on teacher training in Northern Ireland, Soctland and Wales see:
You will need:
It's helpful if you have additional skills in areas such as:
Experience in a classroom is essential for entry to all training routes. Arrange to visit schools to observe and talk to teachers. Become familiar with the primary curriculum. Ask if you can help a teacher with non-teaching duties on a regular basis. Try to do this over an extended period, rather than just before you apply for a PGCE/PGDE. For more information see volunteering in schools.
A post as a teaching assistant could also give you valuable experience.
Visit open days and try to attend taster courses organised through schools and universities. Contact your university careers service or school of education to find out about any local opportunities to gain experience in schools. Get experience of working with children in other ways too such as:
Primary school teachers usually work in maintained/local authority (LA) schools, although some work in academies.
Qualified teacher status (QTS) is not strictly required to teach in independent schools in England, although it is well regarded and gives you the flexibility to teach elsewhere. In Scottish independent schools, all teachers must hold a teaching qualification and be registered with the GTCS. It is possible to complete the induction period satisfactorily in an independent school although they are not obliged to put teachers through an induction so this must be agreed in advance.
If you train for the lower end of the primary age range, you may consider nursery schools, while if you train for the upper end, you may consider middle schools in the small number of areas where these exist. If you trained in Scotland, you will be able to teach in any stage of primary school education.
Some primary teachers take on supply work through an agency or arrange supply work directly with schools. Although less stable than a permanent contract, the flexibility of supply work may suit some people.
While it is theoretically possible to complete your induction year as a supply teacher, supply work may be hard for a newly qualified teacher (NQT) and it may be difficult to get suitable placements or adequate support to complete the induction period. An appointment lasting for a term or more will count towards the induction period. If you are an NQT considering completing your induction through a supply post, you would be advised to ensure the head teacher will agree that you can begin induction in that post.
Once trained and experienced, some teachers look for positions overseas. Many countries expect a teacher to have qualifications gained in that country, but sometimes there are reciprocal agreements. A lot of teachers go on exchange programmes to other parts of the world, such as the USA and Australia, and some undertake voluntary work in developing countries through organisations such as Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO).
Look for job vacancies at:
Many local authorities (LAs) operate a 'pool' system for recruitment, in which applications from NQTs are dealt with centrally rather than schools advertising vacancies individually. Others operate a database whereby potential candidates' details are forwarded to schools wishing to recruit NQTs.
Many LAs send recruitment leaflets to universities and most have dedicated teacher recruitment websites and run open days. Although vacancies can occur at any time of the year, many schools advertise vacancies specifically targeting NQTs in May. In Scotland, most NQTs join the one-year Teacher Induction Scheme (TIS) to start their teaching careers. The majority of teachers then apply to advertised vacancies or work in supply posts.
There are a growing number of specialist recruitment agencies and websites for teaching positions, including supply work and some full-time posts, such as:
Agencies advertise in the TES and in the local press.
Newly qualified teachers (NQTs) throughout the UK must serve an induction or probationary period, normally of one year. They are monitored and supported, have a reduced timetable and a designated induction tutor and work on areas identified for development during their initial teacher training (ITT).
In-service training is available and teachers are encouraged to pursue continuing professional development (CPD) relevant to their own responsibilities and the development needs of the school. Training takes place in-house on teacher training days or at regional training centres run by local authorities.
Topics often covered in training include:
Some teachers may study on a part-time basis for higher qualifications related to their specialist subject or take a Masters degree in education or business administration (MBA), depending on their career aims.
Professional qualifications for school managers are also available.
Career progression may be through a specialist curriculum or pastoral role, or by moving into management. Geographical mobility can improve prospects. Teachers may become coordinators of their specialist subject or a cross-curricular area, such as special needs.
Classroom expertise is recognised by the status of Leading Practitioner (LP) in England and Wales. LPs share their knowledge and expertise with colleagues to model and lead the improvement of teaching skills.
The Future Leaders Trust and National College for School Leadership run training programmes for aspiring leaders.
It is possible to reach deputy head/head level within ten years and, possibly, even more quickly for those in designated accelerated positions.
Some teachers move out of schools and into further or higher education or other related jobs, such as:
Many of the skills gained as a teacher are also valued by employers outside education. Some teachers retrain for other careers, such as social work, guidance work or management roles within the public or private sector, where they continue to use the skills acquired in teaching.
There are some opportunities for self-employment. These include: