A Secondary school teacher will work in schools and colleges, teaching at Key Stages 3, 4 and 5. They teach up to A level as well as BTEC and vocational courses.

They are responsible for planning and teaching appropriate lessons for their classes, following the National Curriculum and Exam board syllabi to ensure the success of their students.

Secondary teachers work with a number of classes during the week, and also usually have pastoral responsibilities for a tutor group.

Secondary schools are usually structured into three phases:

  • Key Stage 3, Years 7, 8 and 9
  • Key Stage 4, Years 10 and 11. Students are studying for GCSE exams
  • Key Stage 5, Years 12 and 13. (Sixth Form) Students are studying for AS and A levels, as well as BTECs and other vocational qualifications.


  • Communication skills
    • The ability to communicate at all levels and to a range of audiences is absolutely key to becoming a successful teacher.
  • Subject knowledge
    • You must have good subject knowledge and a passion to pass it on to your students.
  • 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.
  • Reflective
    • The ability to reflect upon lessons is a key skill in developing your teaching practice.
  • 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 institutions 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
    • Enthusiasm is infectious! Let your enthusiasm for your job and your subject shine through.



You must have a C or above in GCSE English and Maths, 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 either choose to take up a teaching undergraduate degree, or to pursue a degree and then undertake Postgraduate teacher training.

For secondary teaching, an undergraduate degree is usually either a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc) degrees with QTS (Qualified Teacher Status).  (Some institutions do offer Bachelor of Education (Bed) degrees too.  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. Your degree subject should be relevant to the subject you wish to teach. If your degree does not entirely cover this requirement, Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses are available to “top up” your knowledge. So for example, if you studied a related subject to A level and now wish to teach it (perhaps you have a maths degree, and want to teach computing, but only studied it to A-level) you can take one of these fully funded courses, either before you start your training or alongside it. Courses can be directly taught, online or a mixture of both, and vary in length depending on the amount of top up needed.

University Route

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.

If you chose a school-led programme, check whether it includes a PGCE and/or Master’s level credits. While you only need to have QTS to be a qualified teacher, the PGCE is an internationally recognised qualification and Master’s credits will be helpful if you decide to pursue a Master’s degree.

If you are training to teach a shortage subject, you will be able to access bursaries and scholarships to fund your training. Currently the subjects that attract funding are;

  • Physics
  • Maths
  • Chemistry
  • Computing
  • Modern Foreign Languages
  • Biology
  • Geography
  • English
  • History
  • Music
  • RE

Check the Get into Teaching website for more information. https://getintoteaching.education.gov.uk

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/

DBS check

Before training or working in a school or college 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 and colleges 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.


  • Planning and delivering lessons which appropriately challenge students.
  • Marking and assessing work, giving feedback to students to enable them to progress and improve.
  • Preparing learning resources, using technology as appropriate, to support students’ learning.
  • Managing student behaviour according to school policy.
  • Preparing students for external exams and assessments.
  • Supporting student’s social development.
  • Taking on pastoral responsibility, usually as a form tutor, and supporting students during their time in school.
  • Taking a role in the wider life of the school, for example by running an after-school club.
  • Liaising with colleagues and professionals from outside agencies.
  • Building positive relationships with parents and carers, and giving them feedback on student progress.
  • Supervising and mentoring trainee teachers, Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) and  work experience students.
  • Planning and organising trips, residential and extra-curricular activities.



Secondary 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 many need to negotiate.

Salaries in private settings 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.


Maintained schools are required to provide 190 days of teaching and 5 days of staff training per year.

Full time 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 parent’s 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.



Most Secondary 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.

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.

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.

More and more schools are using specialist education recruitment agencies.

Individual schools often post vacancies on their own websites.


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.


Once your NQT year is complete, you can progress by taking on more responsibility. You could become Head of Department, leading your subject area. This in turn can lead onto joining the Senior Management Team.

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.

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 Secondary School teacher, arrange some relevant work experience. Schools are usually very happy to hear from prospective teachers. You may also consider working with young people in another context, such as a Youth Club or Scout group.