Gaining experience in a variety of schools can help you decide if teaching is right for you and demonstrate that you have the commitment and skills to be successful

Volunteering will also give you an advantage when applying, particularly for school-led applications. If you're already working in a school you could be at the top of the list if they have any training posts.

School experience for trainee teachers

The minimum required is two weeks, relevant and recent school experience, in a mainstream UK school at the stage for which you're applying. Volunteering with children generally, such as an after school club is useful, however providers will be looking for recent experience in the national curriculum. This will give you:

  • the opportunity to observe and learn from experienced teachers
  • knowledge of the national curriculum/education system of the region you're applying to work in
  • evidence of your commitment
  • practical classroom-based examples that you can use at interview such as small group leading and lesson planning.

Training providers will look for school experience undertaken within the last year at the point of applying. They will also prefer evidence that you have a current Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check and have undertaken safeguarding training.

Look for experience in a range of settings to gain a much broader perspective on education. For example, if you went to a village school find out what it's like to work at an inner city school.

How to get teaching experience

It may take time to find classroom work experience so start early in your degree.

  • Try contacting schools, nurseries and colleges directly and ask if you can visit, shadow or observe the teachers. For a list of schools see EduBase.
  • Check with family and friends as they can have useful contacts with schools.
  • Many university courses have a period of work experience as part of the course. If you have a dissertation, you may choose to base that around work in a school. Visit the volunteering department at your university and ask about school placements.
  • The Undergraduate Ambassadors Scheme (UAS) includes a module working in local schools for maths, science, technology or engineering undergraduates.
  • Some universities run student tutoring programmes where you tutor other students or go into schools to help with classes. Check with your university careers service or students' union for more details.
  • Premier Plus and the school experience programme are for students predicted a 2:2 or above who are considering teaching secondary maths, physics, chemistry, computing, languages or design and technology.
  • Look out for taster courses, school visits and open days to give you an insight into teaching and teacher training.
  • Most local authorities and teaching agencies advertise vacancies on their websites including learning mentor, teaching assistant, and laboratory technician or cover supervisor.
  • Do charities or local authorities in your area run schemes for voluntary mentors to work with pupils, often on a one-to-one basis?

Applying for the School Experience Programme (SEP)

The SEP programme provides opportunities for final year students and graduates to visit a school and gain experience in the classroom. If you’re considering teaching maths, physics, chemistry, computing, foreign languages or design and technology at secondary level find out more at Get into teaching - School experience.

6 tips to make your classroom experience a success

  • Behave in a professional manner as you may be going to them for a job one day.
  • Use your time in school wisely, offer to help, take responsibility, consider running a club or find something that you can contribute to the school.
  • Talk to the teachers about how they got into teaching.
  • Actively observe the different teaching styles, think about which you prefer and why.
  • Keep a log of your work experiences, positive and negative, reflect on them and think about how you might do it differently.
  • Aim to become a regular volunteer, that way you and the school will benefit more.

Alternative ideas for working with children

Your experience doesn't have to all be classroom based, as any voluntary work with children shows commitment, dedication and reliability. You could build your experience with:

  • afterschool clubs
  • coaching a sports team
  • mentoring
  • scouts/guides
  • summer camps
  • youth clubs.

These can give useful additional knowledge but should not replace classroom experience.

For ideas of what you could do, take a look at our volunteering opportunities.

What to do if you can't get work experience

State in the work experience section of the application that you have work experience arranged to start soon. Be aware that if you're applying for a competitive training place recent work experience in a school is essential, as there will be others who have already completed school experience. You may be offered a teacher training place, conditional to you getting some time in a school before the course starts. Find out more about applying for teacher training.

Find out more