Education and training

Primary, secondary and special needs education

The majority of school teachers in the UK work in the public sector, in government-funded schools. However, there are also opportunities in independent or private schools, some of which may be specialist eg 'faith' schools. All teaching work involves delivering a teaching curriculum and providing pastoral support to pupils. This is done via a mixture of classroom-based teaching, plus out-of-class tasks such as lesson planning, marking pupils' work, administration and meeting with pupils and parents individually. Teachers frequently work alongside classroom assistants, directing the work of these colleagues.

Types of graduate roles

Teaching roles can range from early years, primary, secondary or special needs pupils. Those teaching early years/primary age children will usually teach a range of subjects. Secondary school teachers specialise in teaching particular subjects.

Special Needs Teachers are qualified teachers who work specifically with children and young people who have additional support needs eg learning difficulties, a physical or sensory disability, who are on the autism spectrum, mental health issues, social or emotional issues or a combination of these. They are likely to work with much smaller class sizes as it is essential that they are able to address the individual and differing needs of their pupils.

Other roles working in education
A diverse range of jobs involve working with children and young people in a non-teaching role within schools, vocational training schemes, colleges and therapeutic settings eg learning mentor, parent support adviser, student adviser, portage worker, youth worker. Refer to the publication 'Education Alternatives' for a comprehensive overview (listed in the 'Useful websites' section below).

Entry points

School Teacher
There are two main training routes for teaching " University-led or School-led. Trainees who successfully complete their training via school- or university-based training are awarded Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) at the end, and in most cases (but not all) a Postgraduate Certificate/Diploma in Education (PGCE / PGDE). Information on the training routes and funding for training appears on the ‘Get Into Teaching’ website (see 'Useful websites' below).

Trainees on university-led programmes, such as the PGDE teacher training courses at Sheffield University, are based at a university but undertake regular placements in schools.
Trainees on school-led programmes are based in school but also receive training via a partner university or college. Programmes include 'School Direct', 'School Centred Initial Teacher Training' (SCITT), 'Teach First' and the 'Graduate Teaching Scheme'.

Other school-led routes include a new 'Postgraduate Teaching Apprenticeship' and the 'School Direct (salaried)' route. The Postgraduate Apprenticeship route leads to a postgraduate qualification and is for prospective primary or secondary teachers. Apprentices are employed and paid by a school. Opportunities are currently limited as this is a new scheme (as of 2019).
The School Direct (Salaried) route is for graduates with typically at least three years’ experience of transferable work history. Graduates on this paid route are employed as an unqualified teacher for the duration of their training.

Teach First is an industry sponsored 2-year salaried programme, in which trainees also undertake a leadership development programme and industry placements during vacation. The Graduate Teaching Scheme has paid graduate internships and paid and unpaid school-based teacher training schemes, working with schools in various locations.

In addition, there is a separate training programme for PhD entrants called Researchers in Schools, and a 2-year programme 'HM Teacher Training' for graduates interested in working in independent schools.

Note: some independent schools may be willing to recruit an unqualified graduate, especially if they offer a degree in one of the shortage subject areas.

Special Needs Teacher
In order to gain employment in this role, it is necessary to have gained QTS through one of recognised teacher training routes, all of which provide some preparation in working with pupils with additional needs. In addition, some post-qualification experience of working in mainstream education is usually advisable. To work with pupils who have a hearing, sensory or visual impairment, it is usual to have undertaken additional specialist training.

Skills and experience required

You will need to demonstrate a passion for your subject and the ability to engage pupils of varying levels of academic ability and interest in your subject. It is important that you can command respect, have the ability to inspire pupils, and use creativity and innovation in your work. It is also essential that you are able to show concern for and empathise with your pupils. You’ll need to be able to work under pressure both independently and as part of a team and be well organised. Work experience with young people, ideally in a school setting, is extremely important to show evidence of your commitment, and an insight into the reality of a teaching career.

In addition to the skills required for all prospective teachers, special educational needs teaching requires evident motivation and first-hand experience of working this client group. Your communication skills will need to be highly developed, as will be your ability to empathise with pupils and handle and challenging behaviour which requires emotional intelligence, initiative, flexibility and adaptability. Patience, resilience, a 'can-do' attitude and a sense of humour will also help.

Job search strategies

Most primary and secondary school teachers who have achieved QTS are employed by the Local Education Authority (LEA), so local councils’ websites are the best place to start your job search. Posts are normally advertised a term ahead of the start date and this could be for a fixed term or permanent posts and plus occasional Trainee Teacher positions and Supply Teacher jobs.
See 'Useful websites' section for details of other vacancy websites.

Most Special Needs Teachers work in local authority special schools or specialist units in mainstream schools, while jobs also exist in FE colleges, independent schools, pupil referral units or youth custody centres, or as a supply teacher. Use local councils' websites as a starting point for vacancies. See also ‘Useful websites’ for details of other vacancy websites.

Our resources
Preparing for Teacher Training Interviews (Careers Service)  
Offers top tips for Initial Teacher Training interviews. Also includes a list of key websites and further sources of information.
Useful websites for further information
Education Alternatives
Education-related careers outside of teaching in mainstream schools. Particularly relevant if you want to help people learn outside mainstream teaching; for teachers or trainee teachers wishing to move out of the classroom.
Education and training (National Careers Service)
A wide range of jobs in education, training and instruction.
Recruitment for schools in the East, South East, West Midlands and London.
Get into teaching
Explore your options, routes in, funding, help and support.
Graduate Teaching Scheme
A national scheme offering graduates the opportunity to work in schools in a salaried post and gain the necessary experience and skills.
HMC teacher training
Teacher training in independent schools.
National Association of Special Educational Needs
Provides the relevant training, support and resources required to help teachers meet the needs of children and young people with SEND.
Primary school teacher (Prospects)
Job profile, responsibility, salary and skills.
Recruitment agency which covers an education section.
Researchers in schools
A teacher training and development programme designed for PhD students.
School jobs (Guardian)
Jobs board for the education sector.
Secondary school teacher (Prospects)
Responsibilities, salary, working hours, qualifications.
Special needs teacher (Prospects)
Job Profile, including responsibilities, skills and qualifications.
Supply desk
Jobs in teaching including supply, temporary and permanent.
Teach First
Details about the training scheme.
Teacher special educational needs (Targetjobs)
Job description, qualifications and training along with skills required.
Teacher training and education (Prospects)
Sources of information covering careers in teaching and how to apply.
Teacher, secondary (Targetjobs)
Includes typical responsibilities, employers, qualifications and training required, along with typical training routes.
Teaching / classroom assistant (Targetjobs)
Includes responsibilities, qualifications and training.
Teaching and education (Prospects)
Job profiles related to careers in teaching, including teaching English as a foreign language.
Teaching and education (Targetjobs)
Jobs, training schemes and placements, including teaching English as a foreign langauge.
Teaching, the online magazine (Targetjobs)
Courses, funding, jobs and advice.
TES - jobs
Teaching and educational jobs.
How to get the work experience you need to teach (Targetjobs)
Includes suggestions for gaining work experience and links to the Schools web directory.
Volunteering in schools (Prospects)
Tips on gaining work experience prior to applying as a teacher.

Last updated: 15 Jul 2019