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What does a teacher do?
A teacher is a qualified professional who educates, inspires and encourages children and plays an important role in their learning and development. Teachers can teach children of different ages, for example:
- Primary (junior) school teachers – teach children from 5 to 11.
- Secondary (high) school teachers – teach children from 11 to 16.
- Sixth form school teachers – teach pupils up to 19 at secondary schools.
There are also early years teachers (who teach children aged five and under) and further education teachers (who teach in colleges and universities).
Teachers mainly work in schools, either primary or secondary. However, they may work in other settings, such as nurseries, special needs schools and colleges. Teachers will work with children of different ages, backgrounds and abilities. They may also work with children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Teachers will have many duties, including establishing relationships with pupils, creating lesson plans, setting up classrooms, teaching children, assessing children’s work, safeguarding and meeting with parents/guardians. The role also has an element of administrative work, such as marking, keeping records and writing reports.
A teacher’s main aim is to ensure that children fulfil their maximum potential by providing the best education possible. Having a good education will open up various opportunities for pupils, and teachers have an important role in helping children achieve their goals. Overall, teachers help to shape children into aspiring young adults.
Teachers typically work in their own classrooms with pupils. They may also work closely with their colleagues, e.g. headteachers, deputy headteachers, other teachers, teaching assistants and support staff. They may also need to liaise with external stakeholders, including school governors, parents/guardians, social workers, early years practitioners, social care professionals, local authorities, Ofsted and education welfare officers.
Teachers mainly work for larger organisations, such as local education authorities and the UK Government. However, they can work for other smaller organisations, such as private schools, not-for-profit academy trusts and faith schools.
A teacher will have many different responsibilities, which may include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Planning lessons and preparing teaching materials in line with the curriculum.
- Keeping up to date on the subjects they teach and the curriculum.
- Providing a healthy and safe environment for children.
- Following safeguarding and child protection procedures.
- Organising the classroom, displays and learning resources.
- Using different resources and equipment to aid learning, e.g. technology.
- Helping to organise and manage school events, clubs, outings and activities, e.g. sports days and school plays.
- Taking registers of the pupils present.
- Teaching lessons to classes and small groups, including running practical activities.
- Motivating, encouraging and inspiring children with enthusiasm.
- Maintaining discipline and managing behaviour within the classroom and wider education setting.
- Ensuring equality and inclusivity is upheld.
- Assessing and marking pupils’ work and providing constructive feedback.
- Attending meetings, appointments and training, which may be outside normal working hours.
- Providing feedback to parents/guardians on their children’s progress, e.g. at parents’ evenings.
- Supervising teaching assistants, trainee teachers and other learning support staff.
- Working closely with other professionals, such as psychologists, careers advisers, social workers and counsellors.
- Keeping accurate records of pupils’ progress and development.
- Writing reports.
The exact responsibilities will depend on the age range of the children they teach, their specialist subjects, who they work with, and the type of work setting.
A teacher can expect to work 37-45 hours a week, but hours will depend on their type of school and setting. The school day usually starts at 8.30am and finishes at 3.30-4.00pm, but most teachers will be in early and stay later.
Teachers may be required to work some evenings and weekends to attend events or appointments, e.g. parents’ evenings and sports days.
Teachers work in line with school holidays and are at work for 39 weeks. In the 13 weeks’ school holidays, they may still need to work, e.g. preparing lessons and marking pupils’ work.
Flexible working is possible for some teachers, e.g. part-time hours or a job share. There are even working from home opportunities with certain teaching roles, and some teachers may choose to work as supply teachers.
Local travel may be required for some teachers, e.g. to attend meetings and appointments. There may also be a requirement to cover teachers in other areas.
Overnight stays may be a requirement for some teachers. There may also be opportunities to travel overseas, e.g. taking pupils on overseas trips.
What to expect
Being a teacher is hard work but extremely rewarding and exciting. Teachers can go home at the end of the working day knowing they are making a difference by helping to shape children’s futures. A good teacher can have a positive lasting impact on pupils and help them maximise their potential to succeed and pursue their dreams.
There is a high demand for teachers, and jobs are available nationally, particularly in towns and cities. The salary is also good when compared to other jobs, even at entry level. Being a teacher also opens up alternative opportunities in other areas, such as tutoring and adult learning, and it may be possible to work overseas.
Boredom will never be a problem for teachers, and no two days will be the same. They will teach a diverse group of pupils with different personalities and ideas. They will also be teaching, which means every day they are learning too.
Teachers have a relatively consistent working schedule. They will be working to school days, times and holidays, and following timetables and lesson plans. It makes it easier for individuals to plan their days and weeks. Other careers can often involve erratic deadlines and demands.
Even though some teachers will need to work during the 13 weeks’ school holidays, teaching still includes more holidays than other career options. The school holidays don’t include personal holidays either. Therefore, the extra time off can be an attractive prospect.
Even though being a teacher is rewarding, and there are many positives associated with the role, they may also face challenges, for example:
- Physical demands – teaching can be physically demanding, but this will depend on the subject taught. For example, if an individual wants to teach PPE, they will expect the role will involve a high degree of physical fitness. Most teachers will stand whilst teaching for most of the working day, which will also require a certain fitness level.
- Bad behaviour – some pupils can be challenging to teach and difficult to control. Classroom sizes are also ever-increasing, so if there is a disruptive pupil, it can disturb the whole class. Teachers will have to deal with misbehaviour at some point. It can also be frustrating if there is a pupil who will not listen.
- High workload – teachers will have to juggle different demands, their workloads tend to be high, and the working days are typically long. They will be teaching many pupils in a class, and each pupil will need to be taught, developed, assessed and supported. There is also a significant amount of administrative work involved in the role, e.g. preparing lessons, marking, report writing and recording.
- Mental demands – being a teacher can be emotionally demanding. Working with badly behaved pupils, demanding parents, and large classrooms can be challenging and stressful. Teachers may also be exposed to various issues relating to children, e.g. child abuse or neglect, which can be distressing. Work-related stress is a risk that teachers may face.
- Repetition – even though teachers are unlikely to get bored, some individuals may have to teach the same subject and content many times during the working day.
- Work-related violence – unfortunately, there is a risk of verbal and physical abuse in teaching. There have been incidents of pupils harming teachers, and verbal abuse is relatively common, particularly when teaching in secondary schools. Some parents/guardians can also be difficult to deal with if their child is misbehaving or when there are issues at home that need addressing. Employers have a duty to reduce and manage the risk of work-related violence, so there are ways of prevention. However, teachers must be aware of the risk.
There are pros and cons in every career choice, and prospective teachers must know what to expect before deciding whether the role is for them. There is no doubt that working in teaching is challenging, physically and mentally demanding and stressful. However, there are many positives too and helping children to be the best they can be is very fulfilling and will give teachers a sense of purpose. Overall, teachers have a significant impact on children’s lives and the community as a whole.
When considering whether to be a teacher, individuals should look at the pros and cons. They should also ensure they have the necessary personal qualities to carry out the role and responsibilities required.
Personal qualities needed to be a teacher
Some of the personal qualities a teacher requires will include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Knowledge of teaching, chosen subjects, maths and the English language.
- Knowledge of related legislation and standards.
- Knowledge of health and safety.
- Knowledge of safeguarding and child protection.
- Knowledge of equality and diversity.
- Knowledge of confidentiality, data protection and GDPR.
- Having a caring attitude, sensitivity and understanding.
- Having a non-judgemental approach.
- Having confidence, patience, resilience, self-discipline and tolerance.
- Having enthusiasm, motivation, creativity, imagination and energy.
- Having an interest in developing children.
- Excellent interpersonal skills, i.e. the ability to deal with pupils, parents/guardians and other professionals.
- Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal.
- Good leadership skills.
- Good listening skills.
- Good observational and analytical skills.
- Good organisational skills and time management.
- Good problem-solving and decision-making skills.
- Being thorough and having attention to detail.
- Being flexible and open to change.
- The ability to design courses and prepare lessons.
- The ability to work well with others and alone using own initiative.
- The ability to inspire and engage children.
- The ability to organise a high workload.
- The ability to be resilient in emotionally demanding and challenging situations.
- The ability to gain pupils’ trust, respect and confidence.
- The ability to work well under pressure and remain calm in stressful situations.
- The ability to use IT equipment and software competently.
- The ability to follow policies, procedures, instructions and risk assessments.
Qualifications and training
To become a teacher and work in most primary and secondary schools in England, individuals need to have qualified teacher status (QTS) and complete a period of initial teacher training (ITT). To achieve this, individuals will usually need to undertake an undergraduate degree or postgraduate qualification.
|Course types||Entry requirements|
|Undergraduate degree||· Bachelor of Education (BEd).
· Bachelor of Arts (BA) with QTS.
· Bachelor of Science (BSc) with QTS.
|· 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) (or equivalent) including English, maths and science; and
· 2 to 3 A levels (or equivalent).
|· Postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE).
· Postgraduate diploma in education (PGDE).
|· An undergraduate first degree in any subject.|
The exact entry requirements will depend on the university, and individuals should check before applying.
Individuals can also become a teacher via the apprenticeship route. If they already have a degree, they can apply for a postgraduate teaching apprenticeship (PGTA), which will lead to qualified teacher status (QTS). It combines paid work with off-the-job training and usually takes a year to complete.
To be eligible for the apprenticeship usually requires a degree and GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) (or equivalent) in English and maths.
Salaried teacher training
As well as an apprenticeship route, there are also other opportunities to earn a salary whilst undergoing teacher training, for example:
- School Direct (salaried) – enables individuals to gain a PGCE or PGDE in addition to QTS. It usually takes a year (full-time) to complete the training.
- Teach First – enables individuals to gain a PGDE in addition to QTS. It usually takes two years (full-time) to complete the training.
Individuals can gain qualified teacher status (QTS) by completing an assessment-only programme if they have:
- a degree; and
- experience working as an unqualified teacher for more than two years in different schools; or
- have worked as a qualified teacher overseas.
It is a 12-week programme offered by certain teacher training providers.
There is financial support available for those wishing to become a teacher. Further information about funds and eligibility can be found on the Department of Education’s webpage.
Work experience and volunteering
To become a teacher, individuals will need to be qualified and hold QTS, as mentioned. However, other options can help individuals work towards entering the profession, for example:
- Work experience – individuals could start work as a teaching assistant or learning support assistant whilst studying for a degree.
- Volunteering – gaining practical experience through volunteering is not mandatory, but it can help individuals enter teaching. An individual can volunteer and work with young people at their local school, after-school club, youth club, holiday scheme or charity. Information on volunteering and local opportunities can be found on DoIT, NCVO and Volunteering Matters.
There may be opportunities to shadow an experienced teacher to find out more about the role and see if it is the right career path.
Further information on how to get into teaching can be found on the Department of Education’s webpage.
To legally work as a teacher in most schools in England, individuals must be awarded QTS by the Teaching Regulation Agency. In Wales, they must register with the Education Workforce Council (EWC). If initial teacher training is completed in Wales, it is recognised in England. However, individuals will still need to register with the appropriate agency in the country where they are teaching.
In Scotland, individuals will need to register with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS). In Northern Ireland, it is the General Teaching Council NI who is responsible for teacher registrations.
There is a cost to become registered and for renewing registration.
Learning does not stop with experience or once someone becomes qualified. Attending relevant training courses and having additional certifications can help teachers enter the profession, enhance their employability, learn new subjects and keep their knowledge and skills current.
Most colleges and accredited private training providers provide training courses. Some examples of relevant courses that may be useful for teachers include:
- Safeguarding children.
- Safer recruitment in education.
- Managing behaviour that challenges.
- Understanding bullying.
- Child sexual exploitation.
- Child neglect awareness.
- Prevent and radicalisation.
- COVID-19 in schools.
- Fire safety in schools.
- Data protection in schools.
- Equality and diversity in education.
- Health and safety, e.g. work-related violence and stress.
If someone wants to gain more knowledge and understanding about a particular subject they would like to teach, they can also do a subject knowledge enhancement course. These courses are offered by many different institutions.
Professional bodies and associations, such as the Chartered College of Teaching and registration bodies for each UK country, e.g. the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE), can advise on reputable training courses. They also have events that can help teachers and give them the means to continue their professional development. Continuing professional development (CPD) is a mandatory requirement for professional body registration renewal. Also, see CPD courses for teachers for further guidance on CPD.
The type of training required will depend on what employers are looking for, the areas of teaching individuals want to work in and the CPD requirements for registration. As well as looking on professional body websites, it is also worth looking at several job advertisements to identify the courses required and other training needed for specialist roles. Jobs can be found on Teaching Vacancies, Tes Jobs, Education Jobs and other job sites, such as GOV.UK find a job service and Indeed. Also, look at recruitment agencies, e.g. EduStaff, ABC Teachers and Eteach.
Having more relevant training and competence will open up more opportunities for teachers. Refresher training will also be required, as it is a legal requirement under legislation and mandatory for registration renewal. It also keeps knowledge and skills up to date.
Where do teachers work?
- Nursery schools.
- Independent (private) schools.
- Local authority maintained (community) schools.
- Foundation schools.
- Voluntary schools.
- City technology colleges.
- Academies and free schools.
- Grammar schools.
- International schools.
- Special schools.
- Faith schools and academies.
- Boarding schools.
- Pupil referral units.
- From home.
They can work for public bodies, private organisations and agencies, for example:
- The Government.
- Local authorities.
- Governing bodies.
- Not-for-profit academy trusts.
- Foundation bodies.
Criminal records checks
Teachers will be required to undergo a criminal record check, as they will have contact with children. Having a criminal record, caution, warning or conviction may put off prospective employers. However, they should account for the seriousness of the crime, when it occurred and its relevance to the role.
The organisation that holds criminal records will depend on the country within the UK, for example:
Teachers may be required to drive as part of their role. Therefore, having a full clean driving licence is recommended.
How much do teachers earn?
How much a teacher will earn will depend on where they decide to teach. If a teacher chooses to work at a Government or local authority funded school, their salary is subject to a pay scale system (NASUWT). For example (these are a guide only and are subject to change):
Typical starting salary for a teacher (main pay range)
- England – £25,714, which can rise to £36,961. London – £26,948–£38,174.
- Wales – £27,491, which can rise to £37,974.
- Scotland – £27,498, which can rise to £41,412.
- Northern Ireland – £24,137, which can rise to £35,277.
Experienced teachers (upper pay range)
- England – £38,690, which can rise to £41,604. London – £39,864–£42,780.
- Wales – £39,368, which can rise to £42,333.
- Scotland – £42,696, which can rise to £50,772 (chartered teacher).
- Northern Ireland – £38,216, which can rise to £41,094.
As teachers progress in their careers and gain more experience, they can increase their salaries, for example:
- Lead practitioners – between £42,402 and £64,461 (England) and between £43,145 and £65,590 (Wales).
- Principal teachers (Scotland) – between £45,150 and £ 58,269.
- Deputy/headteachers – up to £100,000+.
- Leadership (Northern Ireland) – between £41,884 and £117,497.
Teachers taking on additional responsibilities can be eligible for teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) payments. There are also allowances, other financial benefits and a teachers’ pension scheme.
What teachers earn in independent schools, free schools and academies will vary, as employers can determine their own pay and benefits.
As an apprentice, the salary will depend on an individual’s age and how long they have been in their apprenticeship. Apprentices must earn at least the current National Minimum Wage (NMW). Some employers will pay more than this, but it will depend on the organisation and role on offer.
Further information on salaries and benefits can be found here.
Types of teaching roles to specialise in
Not only are there opportunities for teachers to move up the career ladder and work in various types of school, but there are plenty of opportunities for them to specialise in different areas, for example (this list is not exhaustive):
Different age groups – teachers can work in early years, primary schools, secondary schools and sixth form. Within these settings, they can also specialise in specific stages. For example, there are different key stages in the national curriculum relating to age ranges, such as:
- Foundation stage – ages 3-5.
- Key Stage 1 – ages 5-7.
- Key Stage 2 – ages 7-11.
- Key Stage 3 – ages 11-14.
- Key Stage 4 – ages 14-16.
- Sixth form – ages 16-19.
Different pupils – teachers can specialise in teaching certain groups of pupils, such as those with:
- Special Educational Needs (SEN).
- Disabilities, e.g. hearing and visually impaired.
- Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) difficulties.
Different subjects – there are many different subjects teachers can choose to teach, such as:
- Art and design.
- Science (biology, physics and chemistry).
- Design and technology (ICT).
- Physical education.
- Business studies.
- Religious education.
All different teaching roles will require differing knowledge, skills, experience and qualities. Some may need specific qualifications and additional training for specialised areas and groups. Most teachers will need to know how to build relationships with pupils, plan and prepare lessons, teach large classrooms and small groups, inspire and engage children, safeguard and protect children, and carry out various administrative tasks. Any additional areas of expertise will depend on what a school is looking for in a teacher and the type of teaching a teacher wants to carry out.
If teachers do not carry out their role effectively, it can negatively impact children’s learning and development. It may even hinder social skills and cause problems for individuals later on in life. Therefore, whatever the type of role, teachers must have the necessary competence (knowledge, skills and experience) to carry out their role professionally and safely. They should also know the limits of their competency and not take on responsibilities if they have not been trained and are not competent.
Teaching methods, learning approaches, standards, technology, guidance and laws are updated regularly. Therefore, teachers need to keep abreast with the latest developments and changes to remain legally compliant, keep up with the pace of education and ensure they carry out their roles effectively and safely. CPD gives teachers the knowledge and skills to keep up to date with these changes and understand their responsibilities. It also helps them maintain their registration and allows them to progress their career.
Joining a professional body can help prospective and current teachers enhance their skills and overall career. The Chartered College of Teaching and the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE) (or equivalent) offer different levels of membership, CPD, advice and support, access to industry contacts and networking events.
There is ample opportunity for career progression within teaching, and it is a diverse field. With more qualifications and experience, a teacher can become a curriculum leader, lead practitioner, deputy headteacher or headteacher. They can also decide to focus on a specific area of teaching or a particular subject or group. Alternatively, they may choose to work for an agency or work directly as a supply teacher. They may even decide to work overseas at an international school.
Having knowledge, skills and experience in teaching can also lead to a career in different areas. For example, a teacher may want to work in private tutoring, online learning, the adult learning sector or further education. They may want to become an examiner, trainer or an educator in museums, galleries or charities. Finally, they may decide to combine teaching with other roles, such as pastoral support or research.
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