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

School experience for trainee teachers

Gaining school experience 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;
  • an advantage 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.

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 find out if they can help with school placements.
  • The Undergraduate Ambassadors Scheme (UAS) includes a module working in local schools for mathematics, 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?

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.

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.