Primary school teachers are responsible for teaching approved national curriculum subjects to pupils aged 5-11, guiding them through what is arguably the most important stage of their education.
If you enter this incredibly important profession, you will be responsible for preparing lesson plans and teaching pupils in accordance with the national curriculum. As a primary school teacher, you won’t only be teaching one or two specific subjects – instead, you will be required to teach different lessons on a broad range of topics.
Effectively, it doesn’t matter what age group or academic level your pupils are: as a primary school teacher, you will teach every area of the curriculum, from maths and English to music and physical education.
You will be using creative, interactive and engaging teaching methods to encourage pupils to actively participate in classroom activities and develop cognitive, numerical and verbal reasoning skills.
You will be responsible for preparing lesson plans, educating pupils in a fun and engaging manner, marking students’ work and providing them with necessary feedback, encouragement and support.
You will need to pay attention to each individual pupil’s progress and evaluate their learning abilities by setting assignments, periodic tests and homework projects.
From time to time, you may also get the opportunity to take part in events and projects outside of the classroom, such as field trips and sports days.
Teaching, however, is not all about working with young children in the classroom. Frequently, you will have to attend meetings with other teaching staff, write reports, undertake in-service training and meet with pupils’ parents to discuss their children’s academic progress at parents’ evenings.
Teachers also need to keep their skills fresh. Therefore, you’ll be required to keep up to date on new teaching methods and developments in the curriculum.
Salary & benefits
Teachers in England and Wales receive salaries based on a standardised pay scale.
Newly-qualified teachers outside of London start their careers on £21,588 per annum, while teachers working in Greater London can earn between £22,626 and £27,000, depending on where they are specifically located. This takes into account the higher cost of living in and around London.
As teachers in England and Wales progress through their careers their salaries will increase on an incremental basis towards £31,552 per annum (outside of London) and £36,387 per annum (in London).
If you become a teacher in Scotland, you will earn £19,997 as a newly-qualified teacher. This will gradually increase throughout your career to £34,200 per annum. Some teachers also receive extra allowances if they’re engaged in activities relating to distance learning, or are based in remotely-located schools.
In England and Wales, some teachers eventually become Advanced Skills Teachers (ASTs). These teachers have the potential for higher earnings, ranging from £38,493 to £64,036 in London, and from £37,461 to £59,950 outside London.
Similarly, in Scotland, experienced teachers who become Chartered Teachers can earn between £35,253 and £41,925 per annum.
Primary school teachers receive around 12-13 weeks of annual leave each year. However, for the other 39-40 weeks, during term-time, teachers can expect early starts and a particularly busy working life.
Teachers’ official working hours correspond with their individual school’s timetable, although most teachers start earlier and end their working day much later than their scheduled lessons.
Travel outside of the school campus is rare, except when taking pupils on school outings or field trips.
In order to become a primary school teacher, you will need to obtain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) in England and Wales or a Teaching Qualification (TQ) in Scotland. There are various ways you can do this:
You could study an undergraduate degree which automatically gives you QTS, such as a BA in Education.
If your undergraduate degree does not grant you QTS, you could do a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), or a Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE), if you study in Scotland.
Alternatively, you could pursue one of four other postgraduate routes into teaching: School-centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT), the Registered Teacher Programme (RTP), the Graduate Teacher Programme, or the Overseas Teacher Training Programme (OTTP). Moreover, you could do your teacher training as part of the popular Teach First scheme.
All teachers will also have to undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS, formerly known as CRB, or Criminal Records Bureau) check before they can work in schools.
Training & progression
Newly-qualified teachers (NQT) begin employment with a 12-month probationary period, during which all teaching activity is supervised and a moderated timetable is assigned.
Trainee teachers are also paired with a dedicated mentor, who provides support and guidance on development areas raised in the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) programme.
Upon successful completion of the probation period, teachers need to fulfil continuing professional development (CPD) requirements. This can usually be achieved through designated teacher training days or offsite training at regional training centres.
Opportunities for career progression include positions with more administrative and management responsibilities and recognition as an Advanced Skills Teacher (AST in England and Wales) or Chartered Teacher (CT in Scotland).
Another possible option is to complete the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH), which trains people who want to become headteachers.
Alternatively, you could become an OFSTED inspector or work for an examination board. You could also explore opportunities for private tutoring and education consultancy.