Advice on route into becoming a Primary Teacher

(31 Posts)
margarinesimpson Sat 18-May-13 19:36:50

Having had a bit of a break I have decided not to return to my previous career. A route that has always appealed is primary teaching so I've decided to bite the bullet and finally do something about it. (Have previously done bits and pieces of volunteering/work experience.)

I have a degree so I am potentially looking at starting training in Sept 2014. My preferred route would be School Direct Training Programme.

So... How can I make the best use of the next 18 months? I realise that I need to get into school. Would it be best to volunteer or try to find a job as a TA? If I volunteer, would it be best to spread myself across a few schools or commit myself to one?

What else can I do, read, get involved with, etc?

Any advice would be most welcome.

Many thanks

Arisbottle Sat 18-May-13 19:38:49

I do not know a single happy primary school teacher.

margarinesimpson Sat 18-May-13 19:39:18

I meant to add that I already know how stiff the competition is for Primary!

mrz Sat 18-May-13 19:50:24

I'm happy and so are my colleagues.

You definitely need experience in at least one school, it doesn't matter whether it is as a volunteer or as a TA. It will give you an overview of life in school (it may not meet your expectations but better find out now) and show trainers you are serious. Good luck

Ruprekt Sat 18-May-13 19:53:31

Run away!

Four teachers at my school have asked for non teaching roles for Sept and the teacher I work with is about to have a breakdown.

Just so you know. smilesmilesmilesmile

margarinesimpson Sat 18-May-13 20:28:09

I've volunteered in three schools (albeit a while ago) and met a few teachers who surprisingly enjoyed their jobs! A friend left after seven years because she hated it.

I am realistic. I realise teaching isn't a bed of roses, however, I also know plenty of people in industry who are at breaking point. I'm not sure anyone in a professional job is having an easy ride at the moment.

driftwoodsands Sat 18-May-13 20:53:25

I would advise that you try to gain some experience as a volunteer in EYFS, KS1 & KS2. This will give you a good idea of which age group you may enjoy working with most. It can be a very different job, depending on the age group you work with. I would also suggest that you try to spend some time in a large school (2 form entry+) and a small one with mixed age classes, as these demand different approaches and again, will give you an idea of what best suits you. You can be a happy teacher, but it's important you feel comfortable in the right setting with the age group that inspires you to be the best teacher you can be.

overthemill Sat 18-May-13 20:57:26

All good advice. A number of people in my skl started off volunteering then appled for TA jobs and then got sponsored for graduate training scheme. If you are good, a school will want you! Good luck

Willsmum79 Sat 18-May-13 21:04:21

Don't do it. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it!

Whereas some, like Mrz, are happy, I do believe far more are not. It is an intense and stressful job and as my head teacher said a few weeks ago, it isn't a job, it's a vocation - a lifestyle. It is far from 'family friendly' too.

I have been in the profession 13 years and the work I am doing now, mirrors the workload I did in college - taking up lots of hours in the evening. It feels like I should put my husband and son in a cupboard for 6/7 weeks as I raely spend the quality time with them that I would do if I worked in other professions.

As a professinal, you are open to constant criticism, abuse and bullying from government, OFSTED, LEA, school leaders, children and parents.

Teachers I know are in school at 8am (some at 7:30am) ready for a 8:45am start. We don't get a break - setting up for the next session whilst the children have a 15 minute break. Lunch is rushed as the first/last half hour of the hour break is setting up afternoon work and/or marking the morning session work. Our school finishes at 3:15pm at which time a whole host of meetings, assessments, planning, resource finding etc, etc takes place. Staff meetings go on for up to an hour, after school clubs we are 'expected' to run are also about an hour, then their is the marking and assessment from the days learning, amending plans for the next day, gathering resources, displays, individual meetings with teachers, parents, administrative stuff that can't be done during the day because TAs are now expected to be supporting learning every minute of the school day and are frowned upon if caught laminating, setting up a display or filing work away in folders belonging to 4/5 year olds! Obviously all of that cannot be done during the afternoon after-hours of school and are then continued at home.

I get home at 6pm, have one hour with my toddler before he goes to bed, half an hour for my tea which my husband cooks and then 'settle' down to school work. I stop at 10pm regardless. oh, and then there is the 'claim' that we hang up our teaching overalls at 3:15pm and NEVER pick up a teaching resource, planning file etc, etc during the 'school holidays'.

Don't get me wrong, EVERY job brings its problems and stress but teaching is a constant stress maker - there really never is an ending to your jobs and you have to be super organised and planned to ensure nothing is missed or done to the last minute. You cannot have a quick cuppa when you're feeling tired at your desk or grab a biscuit when you want or venture off to the toiet either (unless you have a willing TA to cover!)

I would give ANYTHING to be able to hang up my 'teaching overalls' at 5pm and go home to my family without worrying if the next days lessons are planned, fully resourced and children's work marked ready for them to respond to. Teaching would be a lot less stressful if it followed the same work pattern as lots of other jobs - open 51 weeks of the year, teachers working 8am to 5pm - no work to take home - and the opportunity for the same holiday entitlement as most people and the opportunity to take it as you please.

salcz Sat 18-May-13 21:53:14

Completely agree with Willsmum79.

margarinesimpson Sat 18-May-13 21:59:19

Lots of really useful advice, thank you.

Willsmum, I take on board your comments. Unfortunately, we don't seem able to have children. I am 42 now and just need a change of direction. I have always worked in business and I am battle weary. Stress, bullying, discrimination, redundancy, ridiculous workloads, recruitment freezes, incompetent bosses, long hours... I've seen it all! The difference is that my sole purpose in life has pretty much been to swell the coffers of the shareholders and senior directors.

Arisbottle Sat 18-May-13 22:01:50

From posts in here and real life friends, I do think that secondary is a bet of roses compared to primary

Arisbottle Sat 18-May-13 22:35:53

I would seriously consider secondary, easier to earn more for doing less

mrz Sun 19-May-13 07:38:22

I'm not pretending teaching isn't stressful and I'm not suggesting it is a family friendly profession but it is still the best job in the world. You can be stressed and exhausted and totally fed up and a struggling child suddenly grasps what you have been teaching and it makes it all worthwhile.
I worked in industry with deadlines and stayed at my desk for 20 hours a day when required so knew stress and exhaustion and pointless paperwork.
Teaching isn't for everyone...get some experience before committing yourself but it can be a very rewarding job.

margarinesimpson Sun 19-May-13 09:36:46

Thank you mrz

I will get into school and see how I get on. The only way to get an accurate picture of anything is to actually do it.

teacherwith2kids Sun 19-May-13 09:47:36

Just sending some 'good luck' vibes, really. I retrained as a primary teacher after several previous changes of direction - an academic career, one in business, years as a SAHM - and love it.

Yes, it is hard work. Yes, it is immensely long hours. Yes, it is stressful. I have cried more as a teacher than I ever have in any other profession - but I have also laughed 10x more. I have never been bored. I sometimes think that coming into teaching after long experience in 'the rest of the world' reduces that 'grass is greener' perception - I know that pretty much everyone, in any job, works hard, has unreasonable bosses, is stressed, has job insecurities, has pointless paperwork etc etc so when those arise in my teaching job I don't feel uniquely persecuted. Don't like the political interference, though!

I volunteered a lot - in schools, but also in e.g. cubs, Rainbows etc, anything with children - before applying. If you could get a TA job for a while it would give you great insight into the everyday life of a school.

margarinesimpson Sun 19-May-13 12:06:15

Thank you teacherwith2kids

I've changed direction several times too but feel that I have never really found 'my thing'. I'm hoping that teaching will be the answer as I love kids and feel this is probably the only way I am ever going to have them (if that makes sense!).

In reality, I might be rubbish and hate it but I am probably in the best place mentally to deal with the challenges. I am hoping that it can't be harder than dealing with obnoxious bloody minded alpha males in business.

I could have written what teacher wrote above. I changed career from the utility industry, with 2 DCs as well. I have never worked so bloody hard or long in my lafe and I lost a LOT of weight. I am permanently exhausted .... but I do love it! My class make me laugh so much. The "OH! I get it!" moment is priceless... but for that I'm working 70-80 hours a week as an NQT.

darl2283 Sun 19-May-13 16:59:21

Thank you so much ReadtoOrder and Teacher. I read this thread this morning and was so disheartened at the negative comments about primary teaching that I came back on to make exactly the points that you have both made. I agree with all the negatives but if you are in the right school with a supportive team around you the satisfaction as you can see the difference you are making to your class is absolutely priceless and worth all the hard work and more.
I have been employing teachers every year for the last 14 years and when I reflect on it some of the very best have been the career changers who have traded a successful career to go back to the drawing board and become a teacher. In my experience they bring with them real passion for the job and are really reflective and prepared to do what it takes to be the best teacher that they can be. This of course can only be beneficial to the children in their care. So go for it if it is something that you really want to do. At least reading through the posts on here you know what you are getting yourself into!

juniper9 Sun 19-May-13 17:56:22

Try and get yourself involved in after school clubs and school trips too, if the schools will let you. It'll show you have initiative.

When I applied to do a BA in primary education, the main thing they cared about was that I had a realistic idea of what the job entailed. As my mum was an infant school teacher for 38 years, and I had helped out in her class (and marked SATs papers...) just for the fun of it, they were reassured that I wouldn't be shocked by the reality. although the paperwork now is ridiculous in comparison to when she taught, and her pension was bloody brilliant whereas mine looks unlikely to happen

juniper9 Sun 19-May-13 17:57:23

Incidentally, I love teaching. I don't love my school and I am happy to be leaving, but the actual time with the children is fantastic. No two days are the same, and no two classes are the same.

Littlefish Sun 19-May-13 18:47:08

I agree with Teacher - I went into teaching 15 years ago after leaving my previous career in marketing. Apart from a couple of difficult years in the middle, I've loved every minute of it!

margarinesimpson Sun 19-May-13 19:16:02

Thank you so much everyone. It's so good to hear some positives. There is so much doom and gloom at the moment!

If I do decide to go with it, I'll effectively have 18 months to get experience. How could I best use that time? Does anyone have any specific recommendations? Also, which books/blogs/websites would you recommend? I would like to try and get ahead if I can!

sunshine401 Sun 19-May-13 19:28:08

I do not know a single happy primary school teacher.

sad Then they should not be teaching our children.

My DH is a primary school teacher, 19 years and he still loves his job. Yes it has gotten more stressful in bucket loads over the years but he loves teaching he is so passionate about it and I know he is a great teacher.
When it comes to teaching especially primary aged children you have to want to do it, if you hate/are unhappy doing it then it will reflect in your teaching ability and you should not be disadvantaging the young minds you aim to educate.

sunshine401 Sun 19-May-13 19:29:17

What is your degree in Op, if you don't mind saying?

margarinesimpson Sun 19-May-13 22:06:46

Art & Design

darl2283 Mon 20-May-13 09:58:23

Sorry OP practical advice: As others have said it is a good idea to volunteer at local primary schools to get a feel for what school life is like and what different schools are like. One route you could take into teaching is the School Direct route (previously know as Graduate Teaching Programme) this is 'on the job' training with a certain amount of face to face at a University or other HE provider. Some schools who offer School Direct take on Teaching Assistants with a view to them undertaking the training after a year in school as a TA. I think Teach First also offer training to career changers now however the Teach First brand is all about the very brightest and best and so unless you have a double first from Oxbridge don't hold your breath! Obviously you can also do a straightforward PGCE which is a year at Uni with significant amounts of time spent in the schools on teaching practice. However in the first instance get in touch with local schools and offer to go in as a volunteer. You might find teaching is not for you, a high quality teacher makes it look really easy but it is a real skill to get the very best out of 30 children and you have got to really want to do it if you are going to be successful.

margarinesimpson Mon 20-May-13 15:03:36

Thanks darl

Yes, that's exactly what I am thinking now (i.e. volunteer in several schools then teaching assistant role then School Direct route). I have no idea if I will be any good or if I will even like it so small steps probably make sense at this stage.

Sadly, I don't have a first from Oxbridge so Teach First probably isn't an option!

PinkMangoSays Mon 20-May-13 20:35:10

Sadly, I don't have a first from Oxbridge so Teach First probably isn't an option!

I've got onto Teach First for September 2014 and I will only have a 2.1 from a good uni but not Oxbridge! It's worth having a look!

Happymum22 Mon 20-May-13 20:53:23

I am primary teacher and after 30 years of it I still love it and have no regrets. Yes it is stressful, not 9-5 and difficult but it is manageable and you have to keep it in perspective. Most of the staff in my school loved their jobs (honestly!), it really does depend on the school. I worked in deprived area schools, surrey very middle-class schools, prep schools, highly organised schools and horrendously dis-organised ones! But the best one was the one in the deprived area as there was such high staff morale and a buzz. Everyone was very focused and well supported to help these kids who were living in such deprivation and needed us to do our jobs well for their futures.

To answer your question as you clearly have looked into this and thought about this a lot:
My DD is planning to go into teaching and my elder DD's best friend is doing teaching (via teach first)
School direct sounds your answer- my advice to get on would be to approach the schools offering it for work experience and make a good impression while you are there.
Spend the next 18 months volunteering one day a week or whatever you can in a school which you know has potential to take you on for school direct or recommend you to a local school which is offering SD.

Get as much other work experience with children.

I (think) you can apply for school direct, pgce and teach first. Teach first opens in June and so you can do the assessment centre and know before you apply to a pgce or school direct.
Teach first is worth looking at as other poster said, my DDs friend absolutely loves it (but it is tough). You need a degree from a decent uni at 2:1 or above- not an oxbridge 1st!! Teach first is specifically working to address educational disadvantage and so only go this route if you are interested in this and working in deprived areas. Also look at their areas.
PGCEs are another option. Loads of unis do them. Open University PGCE is an option?

claresf Tue 28-May-13 08:37:41

Teaching isn't for everyone, but you'll never know unless you try it. I love my job 95% of the time. The kids are hilarious, it's challenging, every day is different, you have to think on your feet, be adaptable and creative. Yes, there are negatives to the job, but that's the same in any industry.

The one thing that is horrid is the amount of teacher bashing perpetrated by Gove and Wilshaw. It is pretty demoralising to read in the media constantly about how they want to change this, that and the other.

Good luck, I changed career around three years after uni to go in to teaching and I've never looked back (apart from my first year of teaching which was horrendous and had me crying most weeks!).

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