Secondary school teachers are responsible for teaching approved national curriculum subjects to students aged 11-19, guiding them through some of the most important stages of their education – their GCSEs and A-levels.
If you enter this incredibly important profession, you will be responsible for preparing lesson plans and teaching pupils in accordance with the national curriculum. Essentially, your primary objective will be to impart your subject-specific knowledge using creative, interactive and engaging teaching methods.
You’ll also be responsible for marking students’ work and providing them with necessary feedback, criticism, encouragement and support.
As you educate the bright young minds of tomorrow, you will need to pay attention to each individual student’s progress through the use of regular assignments, tests and projects. Furthermore, you’ll be responsible for helping students prepare for crucial examinations, admissions tests and other competitive academic exercises.
From time to time, you may also get the opportunity to take part in events and projects outside of the classroom, such as taking children on cultural outings, field trips and excursions.
Teaching, however, is not all about working with young students. Frequently, you will have to attend meetings with other teaching staff, undertake in-service training and meet with pupils’ parents to discuss their academic progress at parents’ evenings.
On a pastoral support level, you may be required to provide counselling and guidance to students who are facing learning difficulties. This may involve referring students to other relevant authorities and professionals who may be able to help them.
Teachers also need to keep their skills fresh. Consequently, you’ll be required to keep up to date on new teaching methods and developments in the curriculum.
Finally, you’ll regularly be collaborating with other teaching colleagues, administrators and teaching assistants in order to provide every student with a well-rounded, quality education.
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 (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 guys 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.
Secondary school teachers receive around 13 weeks of annual leave each year. However, for the other 39 weeks, during term-time, teachers can expect early starts and a particularly busy working life.
Teachers’ official working hours correspond with their individual schools’ timetables. However, 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 secondary 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 CRB [Criminal Records Bureau]) check before they can work in schools.
Training & progression
‘On-the-job’ training for secondary school teachers involves doing Initial Teacher Training (ITT), which is comprised of 18 weeks’ practical training.
Newly-qualified Teachers (NQT) undergo a period of probationary evaluation in their first year of service, which is assessed over three academic terms. The assessment process involves individual professional development under supervision and evaluation against current national induction standards.
Opportunities for career progression include subject specialisation, 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 a further education lecturer, an OFSTED inspector, or even work on an examination board. You could also explore opportunities for private tutoring and education consultancy.