There are numerous routes into the teaching profession for those wishing to join, but it is worth exploring how your personal skills and experiences might match the options available to you so that you choose your path wisely from the outset. Making a potentially disappointing decision at this stage could mean not completing your training, so it is worth getting it right for you from the start.
It’s important to ignore any categorical statements about which routes into teaching are best. Occasionally such debates make their way onto social media and they are not always helpful. It is, of course, possible to thrive on all routes into teaching, and if you can pick a route that suits you well, your chances of success are naturally higher.
The first step is to explore the scope of options available to you. These are fully outlined here, but in brief they are: Postgraduate teacher training courses, undergraduate teacher training courses, and flexible training routes.
Questions to consider
Don’t rush headlong into making an application. Consider these points first…
Are you ready to apply?
It is worth spending some time gathering together your qualifications and experience to date and taking a good look at the overall picture. From what you have achieved so far in your life, what kind of a teacher do you think you could be? Do you want to specialise in a particular subject or age group? While all teachers must be proficient in teaching special education needs, some choose to specialise either within the mainstream or in special needs schools. Is this something that appeals to you particularly? Do you have experience to support a career in special needs?
Primary or secondary?
The next consideration is whether you want to teach in a primary school or a secondary school. At primary schools you will be teaching the full range of subjects in the national curriculum (although some primary schools do have specialist teachers for example, PE and music teachers) while at secondary schools you will be teaching, in the main, the subject you specialised in during your training. It is also possible to specialise during primary training, for example in modern foreign languages, special educational needs, and early years.
There are many features of teaching that apply across secondary and primary schools. For example, in both phases you will be concerned with the mental health and wellbeing of pupils, developing social skills, nurturing study skills and so on. Class sizes are likely to be similar too – the significant difference being that in primary, your class will usually be with you throughout the day whereas in secondary you will be teaching a number of different classes.
Subject knowledge enhancement?
If you choose to specialise in a particular subject in your training it may be necessary, depending on your route, to do a subject knowledge enhancement course. According to the Get into Teaching website, these courses are available if:
- Your degree wasn’t in your chosen subject but is closely related
- You studied the subject at A level but not to degree level
- You have an unrelated degree, but relevant professional experience in the subject
- It has been some time since you used your degree knowledge
Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses are available in: maths, physics, languages, chemistry, computing, biology, geography, English, religious education, design and technology, and primary maths.
Which route to take?
At this stage of your thinking, start to consider which route might suit you best. We all have certain preferences when it comes to studying. Some love the balance of theory and practice that a university-based course offers, but others may prefer to spend more time learning on the job. For some, initial teacher education will come after doing a bachelor’s degree, while for others training to be a teacher is part of their degree. It is possible to do a degree that gives you Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), or a degree with opt-in QTS. Flexible routes such as part-time courses allow you to earn while you study. There may also be bursaries or scholarships available.
The best advice is to explore all of the routes available to you. Contact universities direct and talk to course leaders to find out exactly what is involved in training. Talk to all training providers in your locality, or in areas where you plan to train, so that you can make an informed decision.
Skills to date
Before you can attempt to make a final decision about the path ahead you need to do an appraisal of your skills and experiences to date. Then look again at the paths open to you and, based on your skills, expertise, experiences and aptitudes, make an informed decision.
- qualifications you have achieved to date, including music grades etc (this will help you to determine which level your training should be pitched at)
- your work experience (this will help you to decide whether which training approach will suit)
- skills you have acquired that could be used in schools (this will help your application)
- your hobbies and associated achievements (this will aid your application)
- voluntary experiences and contributions to society (this helps to reveal your aptitudes – where do you choose to donate your skills?)
- your study preferences (this helps you to reflect on your experience of learning to date; what has worked well for you? What has been particularly challenging?
- your overall goal for training (this will focus you on the shortest route to your goal)
- any time pressures that you face for your training (this helps to realistically put your goals into the context of your wider life)
- your ideal training scenario (be as idealistic as possible)
While choosing your initial teacher training route carefully is important, not least so that you give yourself the best possible chance to succeed, you should also keep in mind that if things don’t seem to be working out for you once you begin, don’t feel that only solution is to drop out. It may be that adjustments can be made and additional support given to keep you on track. The key, regardless of the route you take, is to raise concerns sooner rather than later.
Whichever route you go for, very best of luck!
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.