For all the cataclysmic headlines about school teaching, the profession remains a popular training choice for graduates – UCAS reported a little over 46,000 PGCE applications in 2017. As finalist undergraduates, it’s likely you’ll know peers who are already decided on teacher training.
And it’s not terribly hard to see why:
- Financial stability – with starting salaries of £23,000 – £29,000 (location dependent), and a relatively generous, guaranteed pension (a rarity), this can be a solid, long-term financial pathway.
- High demand, forecasted rises – with an estimated 15% increase in secondary school classroom size by 2025 plus examination changes, an already high teacher demand is likely to grow, with the government pushing for extra recruitment via incentive programs.
- Reimbursed training – heavy subsidies from the government mean that those training for teacher qualifications can receive subject-specific bursaries, generally going up to £26,000.
- Perks – excluding some great time off, a House of Commons Library briefing (Teacher Recruitment and Retention in England by David Foster) reports incentive programs being piloted by the government, including student loan reimbursement schemes in some areas.
- Job satisfaction – the oft-quoted ‘no two days the same’ is highly applicable with children or youth, and you’ll have a direct hand in their formative years often seeing the change and results through the years. ‘Love of teaching’ is real.
- Degree relevance – few existing career paths will link quite as directly to what you studied as an undergrad, meaning your sense of time used quickly and efficiently will be great.
- Transferable skill-sets – apart from the vast range of education job roles outside direct school teaching, talent and skill development are valuable skills which can be leveraged in other roles.
Things to consider…
And yet – the state of the industry and job market means that caution is needed before rushing into a decision. Following government cuts:
- There have been cuts in administrative staff –and the work falls to teachers. Between paperwork, lesson planning, and marking you’ll be working hours similar to that of the average policeman.
- Bursaries exist for all subjects, but actual amounts are subject dependent – for those subjects with less demand, your grant is likely to be markedly less.
- Despite consistent reports of job satisfaction, the increasing workloads placed by under-funded schools means that burn-out is real.
- Incentives are focused into areas of the country which are underperforming, meaning that to take full advantage, you must be able to travel.
- Permanent positions are competitive, and rare – meaning that to avoid a cycle of temporary teaching jobs, successful graduates must go several extra miles to stand out.
So – if you’re set on success in the education industry …
…you need to play things smart. And you’ll also need to think carefully if you’ve the right qualifications (personal and professional) for the job:
- Calm under pressure, high adaptability – this is not a job for the faint of heart. You’ll not only be working with children, but with their parents, and this will call for a steady hand. If you’re easily stressed, or have a tendency to fold under pressure or confrontation, consider training yourself up first
- Excellent time-management – with such a high work-load, there isn’t much space for poor time management. This, thankfully, is a skill you can develop – consider starting with the University’s dedicated guides to time management.
- Enjoy working with children – seemingly obvious. But – bear in mind that you will be with children for the complete extent of your daytime career. While this can be incredibly rewarding, it will only be so if you are happy with that decision, and have the communication skills to make it work.
- Willing and able to travel – an ability to relocate will be particularly helpful here – government schemes are going to be focused into underperforming school regions, so being able to reach them could be advantageous.
- Have the right degree –you can teach with most degrees. But to really maximise your changes and benefit, you need to look ahead at existing (and forecasted) career opportunities, and consider what’s in demand. Have a degree Geography, Design Technology, Physics, Religious Education, or Maths? These are currently in demand and training comes with generous bursaries. Degrees in Biology, PE, English, and History are experiencing a glut of qualified teachers, and applications may come with extra challenges.
- Get outside experience – given how competitive the job market is, getting outside experience is greatly recommended. If you still have time at university, consider looking at outreach programs, such as Reading’s own SiS scheme (otherwise – keep reading).
And perhaps most importantly…
- Get the right help –to maximise the benefits you reap, you MUST know the path. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources to help and guide you – the Department of Education has released resources, and it is HIGHLY recommended you start here. Fill out the online form, and you gain access to:
- Tailored advice on teacher training;
- Help preparing strong applications to teacher training programs
- Access to teaching events
- Notifications on open school experience programs.
Teaching can be tough – with a high workload, a rapidly changing career landscape, and long hours, this is in no way a career path for someone who is unable to adapt to pressure.
But plan ahead, and be prepared handle the pressure, the change, and the challenge – and you’ll find yourself on a growing career pathway with opportunities and personal rewards unlike any other.
After all – where else can you find the opportunities to quite literally change the course of a person’s entire life on such a regular basis?