If you’re passionate about imparting knowledge, enjoy the company of children, and have a keen interest in moulding future generations, then teaching is probably your ideal vocation. If, however, you still want to see whether this would be the right career for you, there are ways you can gain experience of classroom settings before you invest in gaining official qualifications.
Try contacting your schools to see whether you can volunteer, either full or part time, as an unofficial classroom assistant. Many schools will be keen of the extra pair of hands for no cost! This can help you to get a feel for what it would be like to work in a classroom, whether as a permanent member of staff or as a supply teacher, and you may be able to try out different key stages or subjects to see which you find most appealing. Alternatively, if you are already a student, you can spend 15 days assisting a teacher under the Student Associate Scheme.
Once you’re sure that you wish to embark on this exciting career path, you can begin working towards your teaching qualifications. There are three main routes to gaining the status required for employment in state-maintained schools: undergraduate, postgraduate, and employment based teacher training.
Undergraduate Teacher Training
There are two options available to undergraduate students: a Bachelor of Education (BEd) combines a teaching qualification with another taught subject degree, and is more usual as a route into primary education. The graduating student is granted qualified teacher status, or QTS. There is also a range of BSc and BA degrees which include content that will lead to the award of a degree and QTS. All qualified teachers must have achieved GCSEs (or equivalent qualification) grade C or above in English and Maths; primary school teachers must also hold a science subject. Enrolment requirements for undergraduate courses are dependent upon the individual university or other educational institution, though usually include a minimum of two A-levels.
Postgraduate Teacher Training
A Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), or Professional Graduate Diploma in Education in Scotland, can be obtained by those already in possession of a degree. It is a one year (full time) course that focuses on teaching skills, and includes a minimum of 18 weeks hands-on teaching experience in schools. Another option is the School-Centred Initial Teacher Training qualification, which also takes one year to complete, and completes the training almost entirely within a school environment, rather than combined with lectures.
Employment-based Teacher Training
The Graduate Teaching Programme (GTP) in England and Wales enables graduates of any subject to gain QTS while working in a classroom environment for a period of up to one year. This requires the school to employ an unqualified teacher, although government funding may be available to contribute towards the salary. The current GTP is being revised by the government, and will run for the last time in the academic year from 2012 to 2013, to then be replaced by a new scheme. Non-graduates with other higher level qualifications have the option of the Registered Teacher Programme, which is a similar scheme but is usually over two years.
Whatever route you decide is most suitable for your personal circumstances, once a QTS is achieved you can apply for teaching jobs in your chosen subject, and begin your exciting new career as a teacher or supply teacher.