Secondary school teachers teach national curriculum subjects to pupils aged 11 to 18.

Teachers support, observe and record the progress of their class. They also plan lessons in line with national objectives, with the aim of ensuring a healthy culture of learning.

A secondary school teacher must keep up to date with developments in their subject area, new resources, methods and national objectives. The role involves liaising and networking with other professionals, parents and carers, both informally and formally.

Responsibilities

Day-to-day activities may include:

  • preparing and delivering lessons to a range of classes of different ages and abilities;
  • marking work, giving appropriate feedback and maintaining records of pupils' progress and development;
  • researching new topic areas, maintaining up-to-date subject knowledge, and devising and writing new curriculum materials;
  • selecting and using a range of different learning resources and equipment, including podcasts and interactive whiteboards;
  • preparing pupils for qualifications and external examinations;
  • managing pupil behaviour in the classroom and on school premises, and applying appropriate and effective measures in cases of misbehaviour;
  • undertaking pastoral duties, such as taking on the role of form tutor, and supporting pupils on an individual basis through academic or personal difficulties;
  • communicating with parents and carers over pupils' progress and participating in departmental meetings, parents' evenings and whole school training events;
  • liaising with other professionals, such as learning mentors, careers advisers, educational psychologists and education welfare officers;
  • supervising and supporting the work of teaching assistants, trainee teachers and newly qualified teachers (NQTs);
  • participating in and organising extracurricular activities, such as outings, social activities and sporting events;
  • undergoing regular observations and participating in regular in-service training (INSET) as part of continuing professional development (CPD).

Salary

  • Newly qualified teachers (NQTs) in England and Wales start on the main salary scale, which rises incrementally from £22,244 to £32,831. London salaries may be higher depending on location.
  • Salaries on the main scale in Northern Ireland range from £21,804 to £31,868.
  • In Scotland, salaries range from £21,867 to £34,887. In addition, in some parts of Scotland it may be possible to obtain a Distant Island Allowance or Remote Schools Allowance. NQTs will receive an additional payment of £8,000 under the Preference Waiver Scheme if they agree to work anywhere in Scotland for their induction year.

Academies and free schools set their own pay and working conditions. These may be very similar to local authority schools or they may vary considerably.

Teachers may move into key stage or year leaders, mentoring and management roles. Management roles in particular attract considerable salary increases.

Teachers may be able to supplement their income through private tuition, national exam marking, teaching evening classes or writing textbooks.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Thirty-nine weeks of the year are allocated for teaching. Hours vary between schools and are usually from 8.30am until 3.30 or 4pm, but most teachers are in school before the school day starts and remain after school is finished. Marking and preparation are usually done at home. They often teach five periods a day, with lunchtimes sometimes being taken up with extracurricular or pastoral duties.

Teachers have 13 weeks per year away from the classroom, but many use this time to work on marking, planning and preparation.

Part-time work and career break opportunities are possible. Supply teaching is an attractive and flexible option for some.

What to expect

  • Parents' evenings, preparation for Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) inspections, breakfast and after-school clubs, and sport, drama and field trips may all take up extra hours.
  • Geographical mobility can improve prospects, but jobs are available in most areas, especially in towns and cities, throughout the country. Staff turnover is greatest in inner-city schools.
  • Although there are similar numbers of male and female secondary teachers, proportionally more head teachers are male. The gender balance varies across subject areas, e.g. more women teach English and modern languages and more men teach mathematics and science.
  • Secondary school teachers do not necessarily have a base classroom and may have to carry books and equipment from room to room between lessons. The physical condition of school buildings varies enormously, as does the availability and quality of resources.
  • Trips with pupils or staff development opportunities may occasionally involve staying away from home and/or overseas travel.

Qualifications

Unless your degree is a Bachelor of Education (BEd) or a BA/BSc with qualified teacher status (QTS) for England and Wales, or teaching qualification (TQ) in Scotland, you will need further training to achieve QTS.

Independent schools, free schools and academies may employ teachers without QTS although, in practice, this is uncommon.

Briefly, the options are:

  • A Postgraduate Certificate in Secondary Education (PGCE) or Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) in Scotland - courses are available at many universities and colleges. Applications for most courses in England and Wales are made in the autumn before you wish to start through UCAS Teacher Training and in Scotland through UCAS. Northern Irish universities recruit directly. For full details, see applying for teacher training.
  • School Direct (England and Wales only) - a school-based training route. The expectation is that participants will go on to work in the school, or partnership of schools, in which they trained. In most, but not all cases, a PGCE accredited by a higher education institution (HEI) will be awarded.
  • School-centred initial teacher training (SCITT) (England and Wales only) - schools devise their own training programme in partnership with their local education authority (LEA) and an HEI.
  • Teach First - gives the opportunity to teach for two years in challenging schools and complete a PGCE, after which you can either stay in teaching or move on to roles in the public sector or business.

Detailed information about routes into teacher training can be found on the following websites:

Candidates with a teaching qualification from the European Economic Area (and Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the USA – England only) are permitted to work as teachers in the UK, without further training. For more information and to register, (which is a prerequisite for teaching), see the relevant teaching council:

Qualified teachers not from the countries listed above can work for up to 4 years in England as an unqualified teacher. Further information about overseas trained teachers in England is available from the Get Into Teaching website.

It is possible to gain Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status as an equivalent to QTS. This professional status can be achieved by successfully completing professional formation, a process that enables you to demonstrate the effective use of skills and knowledge in your professional practice.

The Education and Training Foundation is the only organisation that confers QTLS status following the transfer of IfL's legacy in October 2014.

Although training is open to all graduates, a degree related to a national curriculum subject increases your chances of obtaining a place. Your pre-university education may also be taken into account. Many institutions offer subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) courses for shortage subjects if your degree isn't related to the subject you want to teach. Current shortage subjects are:

  • mathematics;
  • physics;
  • chemistry;
  • modern foreign languages;
  • biology;
  • geography;
  • computing.

Teacher training providers set their own entry requirements, which always include GCSE grades A-C in English and mathematics. If you do not have these qualifications, approach institutions before submitting an application as some offer special tests for such applicants. Additionally, you will need to satisfactorily pass checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service.

In England, trainee teachers must pass national skills tests in numeracy and literacy before starting their induction year. You will be required to take these tests as part of the ITT application process and must pass the tests before starting your course.

Full details of postgraduate teacher training bursaries and funding in England is available on the Get Into Teaching website. For Scotland refer to the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) and Wales on the Teacher Training & Education in Wales.

You can also find student finance information on Student Finance and Loans. In Northern Ireland, PGCE students are eligible for awards from their LEA and library board.

Work experience

You will need to have:

  • classroom experience as an observer or classroom assistant, for example through the School Experience Programme (SEP). Many secondary schools are also happy to accept volunteer work experience placements;
  • experience with children, e.g. through sports, play schemes, summer camps, youth clubs, tutoring or mentoring;
  • familiarity with the national curriculum for your subject;
  • enthusiasm, motivation, commitment and strong communication skills.

Employers

Most secondary school teachers work in maintained or local education authority (LEA) schools. Qualified teacher status (QTS) is usually required to teach in independent schools and it is now possible to complete the induction period satisfactorily in an independent school.

Some teachers trained in the secondary age range (11 to 18) may consider middle schools in the small number of areas where these exist, and some move into further education settings.

Some secondary teachers take on supply work through an agency or arrange supply work directly with schools. Supply work offers flexibility, which suits some people, although it is less stable than a permanent contract. While it is possible to complete your induction year as a supply teacher, supply work can be hard for a newly qualified teacher (NQT) and it may be difficult to get suitable placements or adequate support to complete your induction period.

Once trained and experienced, some teachers look for positions overseas. Many countries expect a teacher to have qualifications gained in that country, but it is sometimes possible to negotiate terms. Opportunities are available through international schools and in schools for the families of the armed forces.

Some teachers go on exchange programmes to other parts of the world, and some do voluntary work in developing countries through organisations such as Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO).

Look for job vacancies at:

There are increasing numbers of specialist teaching recruitment agencies that deal with supply work and some full-time posts, such as:

Agencies also advertise in the TES and the local press. Many LAs send recruitment leaflets to universities and most have useful recruitment websites. Vacancies may occur at any time, but most are advertised in May, when teachers not returning in September hand in their notice.

Get more tips on how to find a job, create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

Initial teacher training (ITT) combines theoretical learning with at least 24 weeks' teaching practice in schools and can be undertaken in a variety of ways.

Newly qualified teachers (NQTs) serve a three-term induction or probationary period of assessment, usually completed in a single school year, after which qualified teacher status (QTS) is confirmed.

This is a period of rapid, supported development and additional assistance, consolidating what has been learned in teacher training. It is comprised of two main aspects:

  • an individual programme of professional development and monitoring;
  • an assessment against the national induction standards.

During the induction period, NQTs are monitored and supported, have a reduced timetable, and work on areas identified for development during their teacher training.

In-service training is available to all teachers, both in-house and at local education authority (LEA) training centres. Training topics include:

  • curriculum issues;
  • special needs;
  • subject leadership;
  • pastoral care;
  • new initiatives;
  • technology - including child protection and online exploitation training.

Some teachers pursue higher qualifications, such as an MEd or MBA, on a part-time basis, depending on their career aims. Professional qualifications for school managers are also available.

Career prospects

Career progression may be through a specialist curriculum or pastoral role, or by moving into management. Teachers may become heads of department, heads of year or coordinators of a cross-curricular area, such as special needs or careers education, as well as subject or professional mentors for trainee teachers on placement.

ASTs are recognised through external assessment as having excellent classroom practice and they share their knowledge and expertise with colleagues in their own schools and other schools in the locality. They receive additional pay and increased non-contact time.

Accelerated leadership development programmes, including the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) for teachers who are aiming to become head teachers or principals are provided by the National College for School Leadership.

Some teachers move out of schools and into other related jobs, such as further education lecturing, school inspection with the Ofsted, advisory or consultancy roles, initial teacher training, or administration in local education authorities (LEAs) or examination boards.

Organisations such as museums, art galleries and zoos employ teachers as education officers. There are some opportunities for self-employment, which include private tutoring, writing educational materials or running a small private school.

Employers outside education value many of the skills gained through teaching. Some teachers retrain for other careers, such as:

  • social work;
  • the police;
  • guidance work;
  • management roles within the public or private sector.