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How to Become a Teacher: 10 Top Tips

How to become a teacher in 10 steps
How to become a teacher in 10 steps – where to start, what you should do and by when.

How to Become a Teacher

Are you interested in a new career and wondering how to become a teacher? There’s a lot of information available regarding the teaching profession, how to get into it and which training course to choose but it can seem overwhelming with knowing where to start, what you should do and by when. As a recently qualified teacher who has gone through the process not too long ago, I’ve shared my top 10 tips on how to become a teacher in a helpful order.

1. Research the different routes into teaching

There are 5 main ways to become a teacher, either through University-led training or school-led training.

For University-led training, this will involve a greater number of University lectures to consolidate the theory-side of teaching in combination with placements, there are two main routes:

  • Postgraduate teacher training – This option requires applicants to already have a degree, and generally takes1 year full-time (FT) or 2 years part-time (PT) to complete, commonly leading to a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE).
  • Undergraduate teaching degrees – If you do not have a degree, you have a choice of a number of undergraduate degrees, which can take 3-4 years FT or 4-6 PT to complete.

If you would prefer to go for school-led training, there are three options that lend trainees to more hands-on teaching experience.

  • School Direct – Schools recruit and train teachers on the job (both salaried and unsalaried), with a possibility of a job at the end.
  • School-centred initial teacher training (SCITT) – SCITT courses are more suitable to applicants wanting to gain teaching qualifications who already have a lot of school experience as they will be based in schools right from the beginning. The course tends to last 1 year.
  •  Teach First – A charity working to end educational inequality, who offer teacher and leadership training to its participants specifically within schools in low-income and disadvantaged areas.

Each route into teaching has its own benefits and disadvantages, different application dates and times scales for full-time and part-time course completion, so it is worth researching each one and carefully considering which would be the most appropriate to you.

2. Check your eligibility

There are some standard eligibility requirements to become a teacher in England, regardless of what training provider you go through.

  • To teach in a secondary school, you will need a a standard equivalent to a GCSE grade C / grade 4 in English and Mathematics.
  • To become a primary school teacher, you will need a standard equivalent to a GCSE grade C / grade 4 in English, Mathematics and a Science subject.

Don’t worry if you’ve fallen short on this criteria, just discuss it with your training provider as they could offer you the opportunity to sit a GCSE equivalency test or ask you for other evidence to show your attainment.

  • In addition, to gain qualified teacher status (QTS) to teach in most schools, you will need an undergraduate degree. If you do not have a degree, you can train on a University-led undergraduate course and graduate with QTS.

3. Check if you can receive funding

There are excellent financial incentives introduced by the government to increase recruitment into teaching. There are numerous tax-free (yes, tax-free!) bursaries and scholarships for specific teaching courses. There are many courses offering trainees £26,000 and up to £32,000 if you want to teach Maths – which are amongst the most generous amounts provided for any training course!

To qualify, firstly, you will need a minimum of a 2:2 and secondly, you will need to check whether your teaching course is applicable. If you are not eligible for a bursary or scholarship, you could still gain a tuition fee loan and maintenance loan to help fund your teacher training year.

4. Know what salary teachers start on and what you can make in the future

Newly qualified teachers (NQTs) outside of London generally start on £22,917 (bear in mind, this could mean your starting salary would be lower compared to your training year if you received a bursary!). Teachers can then work their way up to £33,824 on the main scale. The upper pay range for teachers is between £35,927 and £38,633, with teachers taking on additional roles earning between £39,374 and £59,957. Headteachers can earn from £44,544 and £109,366. If you work in a school on the London fringe, outer London or Inner London, your pay will be much higher, respectively.

A pay rise up each band in teaching is no longer linked to your years of service with schools now have greater freedom to develop their own pay policies and link pay progression with your performance. Thus meaning, schools can now reward teachers performing well with the opportunity to rise up to the next pay level, or even jump a few pay bands, if they are excellent teachers!

5. Get school experience

How to become a teacher - demonstrating practicals in a Yorkshire school
Getting work experience in a school will help your application and help you decide on whether teacher is right for you

Before you apply for a teacher training course, you will need to gain school experience. This will boost your application, prepare you for potential interviews and most importantly, help you know for certain if teaching is the right career for you.

During your school experience, try to observe teaching of a range of classes and age groups being taught, and if possible, by different teachers. Speak to as many teachers as possible about their day-to-day school life, how they’re finding teaching and general tips.

Generally, teacher training courses ask for a minimum of one week experience, however some may ask for two. If you want to get a better feel of what being a teacher is like on a week-to-week basis, consider becoming a voluntary helper or a paid teaching assistant.

Gaining school experience can be done by arranging a meeting directly with your local school. Alternatively, you can book school experience online through the School Experience Programme if you register with Get Into Teaching. Keep in mind, schools are busy places, particularly during exam season,so they may not always get back to you quickly, but be persistent! Schools will also tend ask to see a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check from you, so if you do not have an up-to-date version, you should order one in advance as it can take 4 weeks to arrive.

6. Be clued up on the life of a teacher

Teachers often work outside of their contracted hours, which can include lots of early starts
Teachers often work outside of their contracted hours, which can include lots of early starts (and sunrises at work!)

When people mention teaching, they often think about 12 week worth of holidays and short working days with 3 o’clock finishes. However, teaching is reported as being one of the most stressful jobs with one of the highest drop out rates so make sure you’re clued up on the profession before you make a decision to apply. Even if you’ve always known you’ve wanted to be a teacher, do you know what your weekly workload would involve, how many hours teachers are paid vs. how many hours they actually work or know what are the biggest challenges teachers face? Read articles on the internet, read forums or ask teachers themselves (work experience is an excellent opportunity for this) – whatever you do, just make sure you’re clued up.

7. Make a decision, register and apply for teacher training

Applications for the postgraduate teacher training course is open from late October via UCAS and you can make up to three choices. To apply for an Undergraduate teaching degree, the deadlines are different depending on your choice of course so you will need to filter by ‘Education’ using the multi-destination search tool on UCAS to find the deadline specific to your course.

For the School Direct or the SCITT programme, applications open up from late October via UCAS. You will need to search for the appropriate ‘School Direct training programme’, ‘School Direct training programme (salaried)’ or ‘SCITT’ option in the ‘all training programme types’ in the UCAS Teacher Training search tool – this search tool is only made available in late October, a few days before applications are open.

For Teach First, the charity recruit on a rolling basis and you can apply directly from the website.

Places for teaching courses can be limited and competition can be high, especially for subjects such as English and History. Therefore, it is better to apply as early as possible to give yourself a stronger chance. Some courses that are higher in demand, such as Maths and Chemistry, can still have places available even in August for a September start, should you decide on teaching later on. In this case, it it is worth contacting your teaching route provider directly to see if they have any available places and if they can hurry along an interview (sometimes they will offer you an interview over the phone, without asking for a personal statement!).

8. Pass the skills test

You will need to pass the Literacy and Numeracy professional skills tests. It is not necessary that you pass these two tests in time for your application or even your interview but you will need to pass them both before beginning your teacher training. You have a maximum of three attempts to pass each test and the first test is free (£19.25 per resit). A full breakdown of what each test will involve can be found here and if you’re not too confident in Literacy or Maths, do not worry as there are plenty of materials available online!

9. Interview

If you apply for a teacher training course, you can receive an interview offer as soon as on the same day or a few weeks later. The interview process can range from a few hours to a full day and what the actual interview entails depends on whether you go for a school-led or University-led training course.

Interviews for school-led courses can include a tour of the school, a short presentation to a class, an interview panel with students, a formal interview panel with senior leaders in the school, mixed discussion with other candidates and a short subject-knowledge assessment (e.g. a written GCSE question).

For University-led courses, the interview can include a tour of the campus, longer subject-knowledge assessment (e.g. a GCSE paper), a larger mixed discussion with other teaching applicants (from other subjects) and a formal interview with the course leader.

For whatever route, you will receive a breakdown of what the interview process will be like in advance, normally when you receive confirmation of the interview.

As with any interview, questions can vary and some questions are more likely to come up than others, but it’s best to prepare early and carefully consider what are you motivations for wanting to teach and what you have learned from your teaching experiences. Whatever the case, it is best to remember that the interviewers are generally on your side and are not trying to catch you out!

10. Preparing for your teacher training course

With new changes to GCSEs, content has been pulled down from A-Level and you should be confident in it to teach
With new changes to GCSEs, content has been pulled down from A-Level and you should be knowledgeable in your subject area to teach it

If you have a place confirmed – success! – and you have some time before starting your training course, there’s a few things you can do to prepare yourself for your start. Possibly the most valuable area to focus on is brushing up on your subject knowledge . This can be done from reading GCSE/A-Level text-books around your subject and making a few notes, practicing exam papers or completing a (potentially paid) subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) course.

You can also read up on and buy some books on teaching techniques and strategies but generally, this is what you will be learning from your training course, whereas you are expected to already a good level of subject knowledge when you start. I hope you found this post on how to become a teacher useful! Please feel free to leave a comment below if you have any specific questions 🙂

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Also published on Medium.