The role of a Primary School teacher is challenging and complex. Class teachers are responsible for planning, teaching and assessing all of the learning that takes place in their classroom. This involves building effective relationships with children and adults as well as organising resources and the learning environment. Primary school teachers also prepare their pupils for external assessments such as the Phonics screening test and SATs. In addition to the academic aspects of the job, Primary school teachers develop social skills in their pupils and support them in their development.
Primary schools offer education from children from 3 to 11, in three stages:
Early Years, for children aged 3 – 5, Nursery and Reception classes.
Key Stage 1, for children aged 5 -7, Years 1 and 2
Key Stage 2, for children aged 8 – 11, Years 3, 4, 5 and 6
PERSONAL QUALITIES AND SKILLS
- Communication skills
- The ability to communicate at all levels and to a range of audiences is absolutely key to becoming a successful teacher.
- Resilience and stamina
- Teaching is a very demanding role and you will need to be able to handle a large workload and long working hours.
- Organisational and Time management skills
- Teaching involves quite a large amount of administrative work on top of planning and teaching. You need to be able to prioritise and manage your time efficiently.
- Ability to take and act on feedback
- As a teacher you will be regularly observed and given feedback on your teaching. You need to be able to accept and reflect on negative as well as positive feedback.
- The ability to reflect upon lessons is a key skill in developing your teaching practice.
- Things change quickly in Primary Schools, you need to be able to think on your feet and change your plans (in seconds sometimes).
- Team work
- You need to be able to work in a variety of teams, from the small team in your classroom to the whole staff team, and even teams made up of professionals from different settings and agencies.
- A good sense of humour
- It is important to be able to see the funny side of things and keep a sense of perspective.
- Enthusiasm is infectious! Let your enthusiasm for your job and the learning shine through.
- Ability to turn your hand to pretty much anything!
- One minute you are in a professional meeting, the next you are patching up a cut knee on the playground. As a Primary School teacher you need to be able to “muck in” and adapt.
Working as a teacher in Primary Schools requires QTS (Qualified Teacher Status).
You must have a C or above in GCSE English and Maths and Science, or an equivalent qualification. It may be possible to gain these alongside teacher training, if you do not already have them, or you might consider taking them at a local college before you start.
If you do not have a degree, you can choose to study for a degree and then take a postgraduate qualification, or you can study for a BEd (Bachelor of Education) in Primary Education. You will choose to specialise in working with younger children (3-7, often known as Early Years).
Trainees on these courses spend up to 50% of their time in schools, with less time in the first year, building up to more time in the final year of the course.
These can take up to four years, depending on the course and your previous undergraduate credits. Apply through UCAS, or direct to the University in Northern Ireland.
If you already have a degree, there are several Postgraduate routes into teaching.
The traditional PGCE route of a year-long course based at a University with at least 24 weeks in school is still the most popular. Nearly 56% of trainee teachers chose this route in 2014/2015. If you are training in Scotland or Northern Ireland, this is the only route available. This route gives trainees a great deal of support, as it involves several placements and also access to University facilities and experts.
School Based Routes
School Direct (tuition fee) or (non-salaried)
This is a school based course for which fees are payable. You will gain experience in at least two schools during your training.
School Direct (salaried)
This is also based in school, but you are paid as an unqualified teacher while you train and don’t pay any fees. You may have to pay extra to gain a PGCE. You will usually need three years’ work experience, but it does not need to be in education.
In both School Direct Schemes, it is highly likely that successful trainees will be offered a job at the school where they train. The scheme takes one year to complete.
School-centred initial teacher training (SCITT)
As the name suggests, these courses are also run in schools, this time often in close partnership with a University.
Apply via UCAS for all of these training schemes.
In Wales, the Welsh Graduate Teacher Programme also places trainee teachers in school to complete their training.
Professional Skills Tests
In order to be awarded QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) you also need to pass the Professional skills tests in Numeracy and Literacy. These can be taken before you start training or during your course. These tests are computerised and can be taken at over 50 locations across the country. There is more information on the dedicated DFE website http://sta.education.gov.uk/
Before training or working in a school in England or Wales, you will need to have a satisfactory enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check. In Scotland you will need a Disclosure, and in Northern Ireland a Criminal Record check. This ensures that adults in schools do not have any convictions which would bar them from working with children. Your training institution or school will apply for and pay for this, although if you go into supply teaching you may have to obtain another one and pay for it yourself.
Staff working in Primary schools also usually need to complete a self disclosure form, on which you must disclose if anyone in your household has a conviction of a violent crime or a crime against children. In some instances you may be barred from working with children if you live with someone convicted of such an offence.
DUTIES & RESPONSIBILITIES
- Teaching the National Curriculum as well as non-statutory subjects such as RE.
- Organising the learning environment to inspire and engage pupils.
- Planning lessons and learning experiences that benefit the children in the class.
- Assessing the learning of pupils in order to plan for their next steps.
- Taking a role in the wider life of the school, for example by running an after-school club.
- Managing behaviour in the classroom.
- Marking work in line with school policies.
- Giving feedback to children in order to help them move on with their learning.
- Working in a team to plan work and other projects.
- Building positive relationships with parents and carers.
- Liaising with colleagues and professionals from outside agencies.
- Developing own subject knowledge and keeping abreast of issues in education.
- Taking responsibility for an area of the curriculum across the school.
- Working alongside the School Governors in developing the school.
- Supervising and mentoring trainee teachers, Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) and work experience students.
- Planning and organising trips, residential and extra-curricular activities.
SALARY RANGE AND BENEFITS
Primary school teachers start on a salary of around £22,000 a year. Those working in a primary school can expect to progress to around £35,000, or more (up to £66,000 in inner London) if you take on extra responsibilities. Schools are able to set their own salaries and you may need to negotiate.
Salaries in private schools vary and are negotiated directly with the employer.
Teachers working in maintained schools can expect holidays in line with school holidays (usually 13 weeks). In private and independent schools holiday allowances will vary.
You can expect to have access to the Teacher’s Pension Scheme if you work in a maintained school. It may also be possible to join if you work in a private school.
These figures are an indication only.
HOURS OF WORK
Maintained schools are required to provide 190 days of teaching and 5 days of staff training per year.
Full time primary school teachers work long hours. It is necessary to be in school before the teaching day begins and remain after, and most teachers also take marking and planning home to do. It is quite common for teachers to work over 50 hours a week in term time. Teachers also routinely work in the holidays. In addition, they are expected to participate in after-school activities, fund raising events such as Summer Fairs, and parents’ evenings.
It is possible to work part time, although the availability varies and some schools do not welcome part time working. Many teachers also undertake temporary work, known as supply teaching, working in schools on a short term basis.
FINDING A JOB
Most primary school teachers work in maintained schools, academies or independent schools. There are some roles available in alternative provision.
Following teacher training, it is necessary to complete an induction year, known as the NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) year. During this time the school will provide you with additional non-contact time (10%) on top of your 10% PPA time, and a mentor will offer you guidance and support. IT is possible to complete your NQT year on short term contracts or supply, but placements do have to be of at least one term.
There is no time limit to complete this year, but you can only work as a supply teacher for five years after completing your training without completing your NQT induction.
A few local authorities still operate a “pool” system for newly qualified teachers. In this case you make one application to the pool rather than applying to individual schools.
If you are working in Scotland, you will be able to join the Teacher Induction Scheme (TIS), which provides a guaranteed training post for your first year of teaching.
Although teachers specialise in one age range when training, it is usual to move from one age range to another during your career, and absolutely essential if you are interested in moving into school management. Do not feel you can only apply for jobs in the age range you trained for; moving outside it will give you valuable experience.
More and more schools are using specialist education recruitment agencies.
Individual schools often post vacancies on their own websites.
INSERVICE TRAINING AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Your school will provide you with regular in-service training (INSET) as part of the staff development program. Most of this training will take place in school, on INSET days. In addition, you will be able to access courses provided by local authorities or third party providers, in line with your identified training needs. This training will cover a wide range of professional issues, as well as practical ones like first aid.
Many teachers continue their studies by undertaking an MA.
As you progress through your career, you can take on extra responsibilities, for example leading in a curriculum area, Special Educational Needs or a Key Stage.
If you are interested in moving into school management, you can study for the National Professional Qualification in Senior Leadership (NPQSL), or the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH). These can be studied while in post and your school will usually support you.
This can give you access to posts on the Senior Leadership Team, progressing to Deputy and eventually Head Teacher. You will usually be expected to have experience of teaching across the primary age range in order to progress to a senior management role.
It is also possible to find work in associated fields such as teacher training, educational consultancy, and Ofsted inspection, once you have some teaching experience.
If you prefer to work for yourself, you might also consider tutoring to help children prepare for exams or perhaps even setting up your own private school.
FIND OUT MORE
If you are interested in becoming a Primary School teacher , it is a good idea to demonstrate your commitment by gaining some relevant work experience. This could be in a school, pre-school or playgroup or a summer holiday scheme, for example.