Secondary School Teacher

    If you are wondering how to become a secondary school teacher, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of education and teaching, as well as job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Secondary school teachers work in state and independent schools, teaching children aged from 11 to 16, or up to 19 in schools with sixth forms.

    Typical responsibilities:

    specialise in one or two subjects
    teach classes of different ages and abilities throughout the school
    prepare students for exams like GCSEs and A levels
    preparing lessons and teaching materials
    marking and assessing work
    setting up displays in the classroom
    working with other professionals such as educational psychologists
    discussing pupils’ progress with parents and carers – both informally and at parents’ evenings
    attending meetings and in-service training
    organising outings, social activities and sporting events.

    Some parts of England and Wales have middle schools that take children from ages eight or nine to twelve or thirteen. As a teacher in a middle school you would teach the primary or secondary curriculum appropriate to the age of children in the class.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good secondary teachers include:

    enthusiasm for the subjects you teach
    the ability to develop good working relationships with a wide range of people
    commitment to working with pupils, parents and carers of different backgrounds and different levels of ability
    the ability to work in a team as well as use your own initiative
    good organisational and time-management skills
    the ability to manage classes and deal with challenging behaviour
    excellent communication skills
    patience and a good sense of humour.

    How to become a secondary school teacher
    To be a secondary teacher in a state school, you must gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) by completing Initial Teacher Training (ITT). There are several ITT routes, but for all of them you will need the following basic requirements:

    GCSEs (A-C) English and maths or equivalent qualifications – you should check with course providers for their requirements
    passes in numeracy, literacy and ITC (information and communications technology) tests
    CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) clearance.
    If you intend to teach in middle schools you will also need GCSEs (A-C) or an equivalent qualification in science.

    It will be an advantage if you have experience of working with children (either paid or voluntary) in the relevant age group. For example, you could volunteer at a local school, youth club or holiday scheme.

    You can choose from undergraduate, postgraduate, school-centred and employment-based ITT routes, depending on whether you already have higher education qualifications.

    Undergraduate and postgraduate routes
    If you do not have a degree you can do either:

    a degree in the subject you want to teach (or a closely-related subject), followed by a Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) course – this is the most common route for secondary teachers
    a Bachelor of Education (BEd) degree course or a BA (Hons) or BSc (Hons) with QTS – most of these are for primary teaching, but a few universities offer secondary courses.
    To get onto a degree course you will usually need at least two A levels and at least five GCSEs (A-C). If you do not have these, universities may accept other qualifications, such as an Access to Higher Education course. You should check with course providers for their exact requirements.

    To search for college and university degree courses see Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

    If you already have a degree or equivalent you can do a Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) course. These can take one year full-time, two years part-time or be completed flexibly by distance learning. You can search for PGCE courses and apply on-line on the Graduate Teacher Training Registry (GTTR) website.

    School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT)
    SCITT is classroom-based training which takes one year and usually leads to a PGCE. You will need to have a degree before starting.

    Employment-based routes
    You can gain QTS whilst working in a school on a trainee salary on one of the following programmes:

    Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) – you must already have a degree
    Registered Teacher Programme (RTP) – you must have completed two years of higher education (for example, a HND, foundation degree or two years of a degree)
    Overseas Trained Teacher Programme (OTTP) – you must have an overseas (outside the EU) teaching qualification that is equivalent to a UK degree.
    The number of places on employment-based programmes is limited and there is a lot of competition.

    Training and Development
    When you have completed your ITT course, you will need to successfully complete a probationary period of three terms in employment before you are considered fully qualified. During this time you will have a reduced teaching timetable and will be supported by a mentor.

    Throughout your teaching career you will need to keep up to date with new methods and ideas in education by doing in-service training. This could be on training days in school or at local authority training centres.

    If you want to teach another age group, it is not essential to do further training. However, schools recommend that you get some experience of the age group you are intending to teach. This could be done on a voluntary basis. Some LEAs and teacher training institutions may offer short conversion or refresher courses. You can get details of some of these from the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) website.

    The TDA website also has information for qualified teachers wanting to return to teaching after a career break, including details of returners’ courses and other available support.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    The salary scale for unqualified teachers is £14,751 to £23,331 (£18,552 to £27,129 in inner London).
    The scale for qualified teachers ranges from £20,133 to £29,427 (£24,168 to £33,936 in inner London).
    Teachers who reach the top of the main scale may apply to be assessed to progress to the upper pay scale. This ranges from £31,878 to £34,281 (£37,809 to £41,004 in inner London).

    Teachers of special needs students may receive extra allowances.

    Job Prospects
    Most teaching jobs are in state schools. You could also work in independent schools, sixth-form colleges, pupil referral units, hospitals, young offenders’ institutions or secure units.

    As an experienced teacher you may be able to apply for Advanced Skills Teacher (AST) posts. ASTs spend 80% of their time teaching their own classes and 20% working with other teachers, supporting their professional development. See the Teachernet website for details.

    In most schools, you may be able to progress to curriculum leader, head of department, deputy headteacher and headteacher. You could choose to specialise in teaching pupils with special educational needs or move into private tuition.

    Useful education, teaching and training resources:
    Graduate Teacher Training Registry (GTTR)
    New Barn Lane
    GL52 3LZ
    Tel: 0870 112 2205

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