Gaining experience in a variety of schools will help you decide if teaching is right for you, as well as demonstrating your commitment

Completing voluntary placements in schools will work to your advantage - particularly when applying for school-led positions. If you're already working in a school, you could be at the top of the list if any training opportunities arise.

School experience for trainee teachers

It may not be a mandatory requirement, but by gaining some school experience, you'll develop a valuable insight into teaching. Having this experience will also strengthen your application and prepare you for potential interviews. Volunteering at a school will provide:

  •  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.

Before you start your school experience, you will be asked to complete a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

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, do your research into what it's like to work at an inner city school before throwing yourself in at the deep end.

How to get teaching experience

It may take time to find classroom work experience, so start early in your degree. To begin your search:

  • Try contacting schools, nurseries and colleges directly and ask if you can visit, shadow or observe the teachers. Visit GOV.UK's Get information about schools for contact details.
  • Check with family and friends as you may find someone has good links with schools.
  • Many university courses include 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.
  • 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.
  • If you're thinking of teaching in England, Get Into Teaching can help you find a local school. 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.
  • Charities or local authorities in your area may run schemes for voluntary mentors to work with pupils, often on a one-to-one basis.

6 tips to make your classroom experience a success

  • Behave in a professional manner, as you may be approaching this school for a job in the future.
  • Use your time in school wisely. Offer to help wherever you can, 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, as this may open up other routes you hadn't thought of.
  • Actively observe different teaching styles, thinking about which you prefer and why.
  • Keep a log of your work experiences, both positive and negative. Reflect on them and think about how you might do it differently.
  • Aim to become a regular volunteer. This way, both you and the school will benefit more from the experience.

Alternative ideas for work experience

The volunteering you do doesn't have to be classroom based, as any work experience with children shows commitment, dedication and reliability. You could get involved in:

  • afterschool clubs
  • coaching a sports team
  • mentoring
  • Scouts/Guides
  • summer camps
  • youth clubs.

While these will equip you with useful additional knowledge, they should not replace classroom experience. 

For more ideas of what you could do, see 10 opportunities to volunteer with children or search volunteering opportunities.

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