Make sure you know what to expect and discover how the school system works, the skills and qualifications you need and what the induction year looks like

You'll use your knowledge and skills to inspire and educate the next generation and the variety of your job means that you'll gain plenty of transferable skills in return.

Job satisfaction is guaranteed as you get to watch young people learn and develop. What's more, you'll have ample opportunities to progress your career. Teachers also enjoy great job security and other benefits such as a competitive salary, generous holiday allowance and an excellent pension.

Age groups

The UK education system is broadly divided into primary and secondary schools, with a few authorities running a three-tier system. The key stages include:

  • Early years foundation stage (EYFS): 0-5 year olds - nursery and reception
  • Key Stage 1: 5-7 year olds - school years 1-2
  • Key Stage 2: 7-11 year olds - school years 3-6
  • Key Stage 3: 11-14 year olds - school years 7-9
  • Key Stage 4: 14-16 year olds - school years 10-11

Try to gain experience with different age ranges to help you decide which group is right for you.

Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) means that you're qualified to teach any age range at a maintained school in England and Wales. However, if you want to move between age groups, you'd need supporting evidence to demonstrate that you have the experience to do so effectively. For example, secondary teachers need to show they can teach the broader primary curriculum.

Subjects to teach

Primary schools cover KS1 and KS2 and teaching content is broad, covering the whole range of national curriculum subjects:

  • English
  • maths
  • science
  • art and design
  • computing
  • design and technology
  • geography
  • history
  • languages (at KS2)
  • music
  • physical education (PE), including swimming
  • Welsh (in Wales).

Primary schools are also required to teach religious education (RE).

Secondary schools cover KS3 and KS4, and sometimes post-16. Core subjects include maths, English, a science, citizenship, computing and physical education. Schools must also offer at least one subject from each of these areas:

  • arts
  • design and technology
  • humanities
  • modern foreign languages.

Pupils work towards national qualifications, usually GCSEs, during KS4. Additional subjects offered include, drama, dance, and media studies. Schools are also required to offer RE, careers guidance and sex and relationship education (SRE).

Shortage subjects receive the most funding for teacher training. The current bursaries on offer are:

  • £28,000 in chemistry, computing, mathematics and physics
  • £25,000 in biology, design and technology, geography and languages (including ancient languages)
  • £10,000 in art and design, English, music and religious studies.

You can improve your knowledge of subjects such as geography, maths, biology, chemistry, physics, design and technology, computing or a language with a subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) course.

Types of schools

The UK has broadly two sectors of school education - state maintained and independent. The type of school can affect how it's run, admissions criteria, who staff are employed by and what's in their contracts. The different types include:

  • Academies and free schools don't have to follow the national curriculum. They may focus on a specialism such as business and enterprise, technology, science or art and will participate in the same KS3 and GCSE exams as other schools.
  • Maintained must follow the national curriculum and, as long as these requirements are met, can focus on specific subjects such as RE in faith schools.
  • Grammar schools are funded by the local authority but select pupils based on their ability. To gain a place at a grammar school, pupils must sit an examination known as the '11-plus'. There are no state grammar schools in Scotland or Wales but they still exist in parts of England and Northern Ireland.
  • Independent sector, including Montessori and Steiner Waldorf Schools, are exempt from following the national curriculum, focusing instead on the child's individual creative, moral and personal development. They expect teaching applicants to have their own specialist teacher training qualifications.

Volunteer in schools to see which type of school would suit you.

Becoming a qualified teacher

To teach in England and Wales you need to gain QTS. You will obtain this on an ITT (initial teacher training) programme, which could be school or university-based and takes approximately one year to complete. Once you have finished the course, assuming that you meet the standards, you will be awarded QTS.

Scottish teachers need a degree and an Initial Teacher Education (ITE) qualification. Upon completion of your ITE you'll need to undergo a probationary teaching year. To find out more, see teaching in Scotland.

To become a teacher in Northern Ireland you'll need to complete an undergraduate Bachelor of Education (BEd) or a one-year Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). If you want to teach in the country, but trained outside Northern Ireland, you'll need to get your qualifications approved by the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI). Learn more about teaching in Northern Ireland.

Applications for most teacher training programmes in England are made through the Department for Education's (DfE) 'Appy for teacher training' service, in the autumn prior to starting training. To find out more, see routes into teaching. You'll submit your application for teacher training in Scotland and Wales through UCAS.

In Northern Ireland, applications are made directly to individual institutions. Financial support is available, including bursaries for some subjects depending on degree grade. To see what's available in Northern Ireland, take a look at NI Direct Initial Teacher Training. For Wales, see gov.Wales

Entry requirements for teacher training

To train as a teacher in England, you need:

  • A degree (or equivalent) of a 2:2 or above. If you want to teach at secondary or post-compulsory level, your degree should be in, or relevant to, the subject you want to teach. If it's not, contact a training provider as you may be able to take a SKE course.
  • At least a GCSE grade C/4 or equivalent in English and maths. If you want to teach primary or early years you will also need a GCSE grade C/4 or equivalent in a science subject. Some training providers may accept equivalency tests but you'll need to check with the individual provider.
  • To have declared any previous convictions and undergone the criminal records check through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

In Wales, you'll need:

  • At least a GCSE grade B/5 (or above) or equivalent in English and maths. Early years and primary teachers also need grade C/4 (or above) in a science subject.
  • An undergraduate degree awarded by a UK higher education institution or equivalent.
  • A degree with at least 50% relevance to the subject you want to teach to become a secondary school teacher.
  • Unlike their English counterparts, Welsh teachers are not required to pass professional skills tests. However, some training providers may require you to sit numeracy and literacy tests.
  • To have declared any previous convictions and undergone the criminal records check through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

You'll need the following to train in Scotland:

  • English at SCQF Level 6 and maths Level 5.
  • Two other National Qualifications at SCQF Level 6 and one other subject at SCQF Level 5 for an undergraduate degree.
  • An undergraduate degree awarded by a UK higher education provider for PGDE programmes.
  • To be a member of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups scheme.
  • Classroom experience.

To train as a teacher in Northern Ireland, you'll need:

  • Two passes at GCSE Advanced level, with grade C or above in three other subjects at GCSE level, to be accepted on to a BEd course.
  • An approved undergraduate degree for PGCE courses.
  • To undergo a police criminal records check.

Skills and qualities for teaching

To become a good teacher you need:

  • The ability to relate to pupils and their parents/carers. This could be from working in a school or with guides and scouts or coaching a sports team. This will develop your awareness of how to inspire and motivate your pupils and promote good working relationships with their parents/carers.
  • Enthusiasm for the subjects you teach. Show that you read up on the subject(s) in your own time and are interested in current educational issues.
  • Knowledge of the age range and curriculum. This enables teachers to build good foundations for learning and set developmental expectations for their pupils.
  • The ability to deliver information in an engaging and understandable way. Inspirational teachers develop excellent communication skills through their work with young people and can teach the curriculum in a variety of ways to students who have diverse learning styles.
  • Great organisational skills. This is vital for balancing many demands including pupils' needs, lesson preparation, assessments and discipline matters.
  • Dedication, commitment and resilience. Excellent teachers reflect on their experiences and adapt their approach, constantly learning and improving.
  • The ability to deal with conflict. As well as dealing with it, you need to remain patient and calm in sometimes stressful situations.
  • Integrity. To ensure that pupils, colleagues and parents/carers trust you as a teacher.
  • A good sense of humour.

Induction years for newly qualified teachers

Once you've passed ITT in England and Wales you will be awarded QTS. You will then be required to complete a two-year induction period (previously one year) to become a fully qualified teacher. During this time you must demonstrate that you meet the Teachers' Standards (England) or Practising Teacher Standards (Wales).

You will be provided with an induction tutor/mentor, a reduced teaching load and a tailored induction programme. Find out more about life as a primary school teacher and what it's like to be a secondary school teacher.

The probationary year in Scotland is known as the Teacher Induction Scheme (TIS), a guaranteed one-year probationary teaching post with a Scottish local authority school. A flexible route is also available - see The General Teaching Council for Scotland.

Find out more

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