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Teaching & Education careers

Teaching: Community, Social & Public Services

Why get into community, social & public service teaching?

Not everybody has the same opportunities for learning and education. Lots of people simply can’t attend schools or colleges because of medical or social reasons. Furthermore, in certain areas of society, many people are unaware of the importance of education and lifelong learning, or are simply resistant to such notions.

Consequently, in order to give everybody the same chances in life, and the same opportunities for learning, many careers are dedicated to teaching people within alternative learning environments (such as hospitals, pupil referral units and prisons), or to promoting the importance of education in the community.

What's it like teaching in these unorthodox environments?

Teaching provision in public service institutions can truly help people. It can change people’s lives, or simply make sure that their current learning isn’t too badly affected. Education schemes in medical facilities mean that there is minimal interruption to the education of students that have ongoing medical problems and are thus frequently unable to attend school.

Teaching schemes in prisons and young offenders institutes are designed to give prisoners a fresh start. These initiatives increase the prospect of inmates finding employment when they are released, which may prevent them from re-offending.

By law, children under the age of 16 have to be in some form of education. It is the responsibility of local authorities to ensure that children who cannot attend school are still provided with suitable education. Consequently, teaching in public referral units offers children who cannot attend school an opportunity to learn.

Careers that focus on promoting and coordinating community education initiatives are integral to breaking down restrictive social conventions and negative attitudes towards education

Careers in this area of education can be the most challenging of all. People working in this sector may experience profound resistance to their endeavours. On the flip side of this, you can get great job satisfaction when success stories do happen.

What will I be doing in this sector of teaching?

Hospital education services can provide essential help for students who are unable to attend school because of severe or recurring medical conditions. Those who work as part of hospital teaching services will liaise with each individual child’s school, and then plan and deliver lessons and learning exercises which are consistent with their age level and the National Curriculum.

This teaching might be delivered in purpose built classrooms and learning suites that are located onsite at hospitals, or sometimes even by the child’s bedside. Furthermore, these teachers and education officers will often offer teaching provision to sick children in their own home once they have left hospital, but before they are well enough to return to school.

These schemes are truly effective in providing continuity in sick children’s education. To teach in this area, it is essential to have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and you may need additional CPR and First Aid training.

Teaching in prisons and young offenders institutes can involve both academic and vocational education. These education schemes are designed to help prisoners with the rehabilitation process.

Vocational training may cover a wide range of subjects, from engineering, tailoring and woodwork, to plastics, printing and I.T. Academic courses may predominantly focus on literacy and numeracy, but could also include art, sport and music classes. If you pursue a career in this area, you could be employed directly by Her Majesty’s Prison Service as an instructional officer.

Alternatively, you may work for an external teaching body, which is contracted to offer teaching services for inmates. To work in this area of education, you are going to need formal teaching qualifications and more importantly you will need to be very thick skinned.

It can be one of the most demanding areas of education to work in. You might get students who are genuinely interested in learning, but you might also get students that have no interest at all. Additionally, you will need to be able to handle yourself properly, as you will be partly responsible for managing the security of the prisoners.

If you are teaching in a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU), you might be teaching children that have been excluded from other institutions, children with behavioural problems, children with medical problems, teenage mothers, pregnant schoolgirls, pupils who have been assessed as being school phobic, and pupils awaiting a school place (e.g. children who are part of families seeking asylum and have just arrived in the UK).

These institutions are not necessarily required to teach the full national curriculum, but they have to offer a balanced syllabus, which covers a range of subjects, including English, maths, science, I.T. and PSHE (personal, social and health education).

People that work in PRUs may also play an important part in outreach programmes, where they work in schools alongside children at risk of exclusion. You will need to have QTS to teach in one of these institutions.

Many careers can be explored as part of community education and development initiatives. Community education officers often work in areas of social deprivation, or alongside marginalised social groups, and encourage people of all ages to get involved with education programmes.

This might involve leading educational outreach programmes directed at gypsies and travellers to increase the availability of education for children in these communities. Alternatively, it may involve promoting vocational and life skills courses to people in areas of unemployment.

These guys often work alongside social care organisations and charities and play a valuable role in changing the lives of people with social problems, drug addictions and issues such as homelessness. Quite often, these people have a background of teaching in mainstream or special schools.

Teaching in this sector is a particularly altruistic vocation – it can sometimes be a considerably more difficult, emotional and harrowing environment than in a traditional institution, like a school. However, it means that some of the most vulnerable individuals don’t miss the chance to a fair education, which means no one is left behind. It’s a pretty amazing subsector, really!