As a secondary school teacher you can teach a subject you love and engage pupils in learning and preparing for their future

As a secondary school teacher you'll teach pupils aged 11 to 18. Specialising in a particular subject, you'll plan, teach and assess lessons in line with curriculum objectives.

You'll aim to ensure a healthy culture of learning and will support, observe and record pupils' progress.

Teachers 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

As a secondary school teacher, you'll need to:

  • prepare and deliver lessons to classes of different ages and abilities
  • mark work, give appropriate feedback and maintain records of pupils' progress and development
  • research new topic areas, maintaining up-to-date subject knowledge, and devise and write new curriculum materials
  • select and use a range of different learning resources and equipment, including podcasts and interactive whiteboards
  • prepare pupils for qualifications and external examinations
  • manage pupil behaviour in the classroom and on school premises, and apply appropriate and effective measures in cases of misbehaviour
  • undertake pastoral duties, such as taking on the role of form tutor, and supporting pupils on an individual basis through academic or personal difficulties
  • communicate with parents and carers over pupils' progress and participate in departmental meetings, parents' evenings and whole-school training events
  • liaise with other professionals, such as learning mentors, careers advisers, educational psychologists and education welfare officers
  • supervise and support the work of teaching assistants, trainee teachers and newly qualified teachers (NQTs)
  • organise and participate in extracurricular activities, such as outings, social activities and sporting events
  • undergo regular observations and participate in regular in-service training (INSET) as part of continuing professional development (CPD).

Salary

  • New entrants to the profession in England start on the main salary scale, which rises incrementally from £25,714 to £36,961. Enhanced pay scales apply for teachers working in or near London.
  • In Wales, new entrants start on a salary of £27,018, rising incrementally to £37,320.
  • Salaries for new entrants in Northern Ireland start at £23,199, rising incrementally to £33,906.
  • In Scotland, the new entrants' starting salary is £27,498, plus any payments made through the Preference Waiver Payment (PWP) scheme, rising incrementally to £41,412.
  • After gaining experience and expertise, there are opportunities to move up into the role of lead practitioner in England and Wales. In Scotland there are opportunities to move into chartered and then principal teacher roles. Salaries for head teachers can rise to £100,000.

Academies, free schools and independent schools set their own pay and working conditions.

Teachers may move into Key Stage or year leader, mentoring and management roles. Management roles in particular attract considerable salary increases.

Details about pay are available from the teaching unions and the Department for Education (DfE) Get Into Teaching website (for England).

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Teachers are in school for 39 weeks of the year. Hours vary between schools but are usually from 8.30am until 3.30pm or 4pm. Most teachers are in school before the school day starts and remain after school is finished.

Teachers are entitled to a minimum of 10% of timetabled teaching time for planning, preparation and assessment (PPA). In Scotland this is a minimum of seven and a half hours.

Teachers also often spend time at home planning and preparing lessons and assessing pupils' work.

Part-time work and career break opportunities are possible. Supply teaching is also an option. For more information on working hours, see the NASWUT, The Teachers' Union.

What to expect

  • You won't necessarily have a base classroom, and may have to carry books and equipment from room to room between lessons.
  • It's likely you'll have to give up extra hours of your time for parents' evenings, Ofsted inspection preparation, breakfast clubs, after-school clubs and sport, drama and field trips.
  • Jobs are available in most areas, especially in towns and cities, throughout the UK.
  • There may be occasional trips with pupils, or staff development opportunities, which involve staying away from home and/or overseas travel.

Qualifications

To work as a secondary school teacher in a maintained school (England and Wales), you must have a degree and achieve qualified teacher status (QTS) by completing a period of initial teacher training (ITT), (initial teacher education (ITE) in Wales). QTS is awarded by the Teaching Regulation Agency (England) or the Education Workforce Council (EWC) (Wales). You must also register with the EWC to teach in Wales.

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

In order to achieve QTS you can take an undergraduate secondary BA/BSc Hons with QTS. Training focuses on gaining specialist knowledge in your chosen subject and being able to pass this on effectively to secondary school pupils. You will spend a lot of time in the classroom learning from experienced teachers.

However, if you already have a degree, you can gain QTS in a number of ways. These include:

Teacher training providers set their own entry requirements. The minimum requirements are at least a GCSE grade C/grade 4 (grade B in Wales) in English and mathematics, as well as a degree or equivalent in a subject relevant to your chosen area of teaching. Your pre-university education may also be taken into account.

Many institutions offer subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) courses in several subjects if your degree doesn't have enough content in the subject you want to teach.

Current priority subjects are:

  • biology
  • chemistry
  • computing
  • languages
  • mathematics
  • physics.

Other popular subjects include English, music, design and technology (DT), drama, RE, art and design, geography, history, business studies and PE.

Most applications for PGCEs are made through UCAS Teacher Training in the autumn before you wish to commence training. The DfE is setting up a new Apply for Teacher Training service, which will eventually replace UCAS Teacher Training. Until then, both application services will run side by side. 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.

For more information about obtaining QTS, explore your options at Get into Teaching.

In Scotland, you'll need a degree and a Teaching Qualification (TQ) gained through undertaking a programme of ITE to qualify as a teacher. You must also register with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS). All teacher training programmes are university-led and you can take either a four-year undergraduate programme or a one-year Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE). Applications are made via UCAS Undergraduate for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

To teach in Northern Ireland, you must have a degree and a recognised teacher training qualification, gained by taking either a four-year undergraduate BEd or a one-year PGCE, and must register with the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI). Applications for the PGCE are made direct to the course provider, usually in November or December.

For information on teacher training in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales see:

If you trained in Scotland or Northern Ireland and want to teach in England, you'll need to apply for QTS. Information for teachers who've qualified outside the UK is available at GOV.UK - qualify to teach in England.

Find out more about funding for teacher training.

Skills

You'll need to have:

  • respect for children and an interest in helping them develop both academically and as people
  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills for working with children, other teachers and parents
  • good listening skills
  • the capacity to learn quickly
  • strong organisational and time management skills
  • the ability to inspire and enthuse children
  • energy, resourcefulness, responsibility and patience
  • dedication, resilience and self-discipline
  • a caring nature and an understanding of the needs and feelings of children
  • the ability to work independently, as well as part of a team
  • a sense of humour and the ability to keep things in perspective
  • imagination, creativity and a sense of humour
  • good judgement and an analytical mind
  • a good knowledge of the subject you're going to teach.

You'll also need to satisfactorily pass checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service for England and Wales (or the equivalent check in Scotland and Northern Ireland).

To find out more about the attributes you'll need, see essential skills for secondary school teachers.

Work experience

Having classroom experience will help you make a strong application to initial teacher training. You can use the Get school experience service to request school experience in a secondary school. Many secondary schools are happy to accept volunteer work experience placements. Find out more about volunteering in schools.

If you have other experience with children outside of the classroom, for example through sports, play schemes, summer camps, youth clubs, tutoring or mentoring, this may strengthen your application, as it will show you have a genuine interest in working with children.

You'll need to be familiar with the national curriculum for your subject and be able to show enthusiasm, motivation, commitment and strong communication skills.

Employers

Many secondary school teachers work in state schools, which receive funding either from the local authority (LA) or directly from government. These include:

  • community schools (also known as LA maintained schools) - follow the national curriculum
  • foundation schools and voluntary schools - funded by the LA but have more control over how they do things and may be supported by religious groups
  • free schools - funded by government on a not-for-profit basis but aren't run by the LA and don't have to follow the national curriculum
  • academies and multi-academy trusts - receive funding directly from the government, are independent from the LA and are run by an academy trust with more freedom and the option to follow a different curriculum
  • grammar schools - run by either the LA, a foundation body or an academy trust (pupils are selected based on academic ability).

You can also work in independent schools, which charge fees, rather than being funded by government, and don't have to follow the national curriculum. Independent schools must be registered with the government.

Some secondary 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.

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 in place.

Some 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).

Opportunities are also available through international schools and in schools for the families of the armed forces.

Look for job vacancies at:

Specialist teaching recruitment agencies also handle vacancies. These include:

Many LAs send recruitment leaflets to universities and most have useful recruitment websites. Vacancies may occur at any time, but the peak time for jobs is between February and June.

Discover how to structure a teaching CV.

Professional development

NQTs in England and Wales must serve an induction period, normally of one year. During this time you must demonstrate that you meet the Teachers' Standards (England) or Professional Standards for Teaching and Leadership (Wales). You'll be monitored and supported, have a reduced timetable and a designated induction tutor and work on areas identified for development during your initial teacher training/education.

You can carry out your induction period in state schools (except those in special measures). You can also undertake induction in independent schools, free schools and academies, although they don't have to offer it. It's also possible to carry out your induction period through supply teaching. For more information, see the National Education Union - Your guide to induction.

In Scotland, most NQTs join the Teacher Induction Scheme (TIS), a guaranteed one-year probationary teaching post with a Scottish local authority school. There is also a flexible route available. The majority of teachers then apply to advertised vacancies or work in supply posts.

For information on the induction period in Northern Ireland, see the Education Authority.

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. Training topics include:

  • curriculum issues
  • new initiatives
  • pastoral care
  • special needs
  • subject leadership
  • target setting and assessment
  • 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. You may become a head of department, head of year or coordinator of a cross-curricular area, such as special needs or careers education, as well as subject or professional mentors for trainee teachers on placement.

You could take on additional responsibility as a leading practitioner, in which you would share excellent classroom practice, knowledge and expertise with colleagues in your own school and other schools in the locality. You would receive additional pay and increased non-contact time for this.

There is a suite of national professional qualifications (NPQs) available at different levels, including middle leadership, senior leadership, headship and executive leadership, designed to support the professional development of teachers in England. See the List of national professional qualifications (NPQs) providers.

Organisations such as the Ambition Institute and Education Scotland also run training programmes for aspiring leaders. Leadership can include roles ranging from responsibility for a year group or key stage to deputy or head teacher positions.

As a head teacher, you'll have a great deal of influence and responsibility for areas such as pupils and staff, financial management, the school's systems and processes, standards and ensuring continuous improvement.

Some teachers move out of schools and into further or higher education or other related jobs, such as:

  • advisory or consultancy roles
  • education officer - often employed at museums, art galleries and zoos
  • examination board administration
  • initial teacher training
  • local education authority work
  • Ofsted inspection.

There are some opportunities for self-employment, which include private tutoring, writing educational materials or running a small private school.

Find out how Dina became a maths teacher at BBC Bitesize.

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