With so many routes into teaching currently available, it can be difficult to identify which is the best and most suitable option for you. There are options for those with a degree and without, those craving a career change and those leaving the services. There are opportunities for hopeful students just starting out on their academic journey, the seasoned veterans of academia, and everyone in between.
But with debates currently raging about whether the Department for Education (DfE) should focus on recruiting new teachers with glossy advertising campaigns or do more to retain current teachers, what about the potential practitioners who sit somewhere in the middle? What about those who currently work in education, but are not currently teaching or lecturing?
With a wealth of experience in education, these professionals have an enormous amount of knowledge and skill that can be easily utilised. More than this, they have that rare and unquantifiable gift: life experience.
So, how can these staff make their teaching dream a reality? Below are some of the potential steps to realising the dream.
Observe, observe, observe
Like most professions, job satisfaction can be reliant on the work environment and the people you interact with each day. Unlike most professions, in teaching you have a lot of control over who these people are. From KS1 to Post-16 and Higher Education, there are a range of settings (with associated benefits and challenges) to choose from. Whether or not you know which sector you’d like to teach in, it is enormously important to observe as many lessons as you can before starting your journey in the profession. Observing gives a good understanding of the day-to-day tasks, realities and workload of the role; it allows you to become familiar with the types of student you might encounter, and you will pick up invaluable tips and knowledge from those you are observing. To begin this process, either discuss possible observations with your line manager, or contact an alternative school, college or university and explain your interest in the profession, and that you would like to observe some sessions.
Next steps – planning and first teaching
So, you’ve observed and feel you’ve found the right sector for you. What’s next? Next steps could approaching experienced practitioners to discuss how planning and schemes of work are completed or asking for support in planning your own session. This is an enormously important part of the role, and is often overlooked in the early stages. Many new practitioners are guilty of just setting students tasks which fill the lesson, and don’t think about how this will build towards final outcomes. By discussing planning (and how to create resources for lessons), you will have a much better understanding of the course or qualification that you want to teach and will develop knowledge with which to help students. After this, discuss potentially leading of a lesson (a starter or final activity), or supporting in a session.
Small group teaching
After successfully discussing planning (and potentially doing this yourself) and playing a role in lessons, an important step is independently taking and developing gaps in their knowledge. A key developmental activity for potential practitioner and student, this again promotes collaborative planning with an experienced practitioner. Though not always a standard element of training, this will allow you to develop some of the sophisticated soft skills related to the role (building relationships, emotional intelligence) and also give you valuable time to reflect on your own burgeoning practice. These first small steps (supporting, taking your own group) also give excellent opportunities to help you focus on what sector, age group and subject you would like to teach.
Now you’ve decided what sector/age group/setting is right for you, it’s time to look at what qualifications you’ll need. You don’t need a degree to begin working in the classroom and there are a range of amazing opportunities available. To become a practitioner however, you will need a qualification equivalent to a degree to get started before moving on to completing a teaching qualification. There are a range of available qualifications which can be studied full- or part-time depending on the sector with one of the most common routes being the PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education). The PGCE is a mix of university study and teaching practice and can take one (You’ll need a degree before starting this qualification, and the course will cost £9k in fees (though there are student loans and bursaries available). The PGCE is primarily completed for Primary or Secondary teaching, with other available routes for Post-16 and Higher Education.
An alternative to the university aspect of the PGCE, is the highly popular SCITT (School Centred Initial Teacher Training) option. This route is designed and delivered by groups of schools/ colleges with the majority of training delivered in the classroom (by experienced teachers).
If you feel the Post-16/adult sector is right for you, many settings will accept a L3 award in Education and Training, L4 Certificate in E&T or L5 Diploma in Education and Training.
There is also the possibility of becoming an unqualified teacher, though the maximum earnings for this role are capped at £27,965.
If you’re currently unsure of what route might be best for you, check out our Routes Into Teaching pages for a range of information about starting a career in education.
About the author
Jonny Kay is Head of English and maths at Tyne Coast College. He has previously worked as an English teacher and Head of Department in KS3/4 and tweets @jonnykayteacher . He also regularly blogs at www.thereflectiveteacher.co.uk.