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If you *had* to choose: PGCE primary 3-7 or secondary MFL

(25 Posts)
Doraemon Sun 01-Apr-18 18:34:50

I am aware that most of you are firmly of the 'don't touch it with a bargepole' camp as far as teacher training is concerned. But, hypothetically speaking, which would be the lesser of 2 evils?

At the moment I am in a support role in primary, with some MFL teaching time in KS2, lovely job but paid a pittance and no possibility of progression. I am early 40s, can't see myself doing this job for ever, not qualified for anything outside education. I could double my income with QTS (and before someone says it, I know I would also be significantly increasing my hours). Even if I only stuck it out for a few years financially it would be worth while, or I could go part-time and still earn as much if not more than what I earn now.

If I trained in primary it would be Foundation/KS1 with a preference for working in Foundation. I love working with the younger children but the workload in primary is bonkers. There is no training bursary and a lot of competition for salaried school direct places. There is very little possibility of part-time work once qualified.

I also have qualifications and experience to train as secondary MFL, for at least one language and could probably get a funded SKE course to teach my second language up to GCSE. I would qualify for the whacking great 25k bursary (and yes, I know I would earn less than this as an NQT). I suspect there is more scope for part-time work here.

I know most teenagers around here see little point in MFL (several of my y5s are already in the 'why do I have to learn French, I'm never going to France' mindset). On the other hand, in primary we are having to deal with extremely challenging children who spend ages being assessed, sent on temporary placements to specialist units then brought back into class to throw furniture around and hit staff, then as soon as they go up to high school they're on restricted timetables or excluded and sent to the PRU.

So, if you had to choose, which one would you go for???

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noblegiraffe Sun 01-Apr-18 19:22:58

I’d go for secondary because I want to teach my subject, not art, PE, history...I also like teaching teenagers, they are funny, independent, you can have conversations with them.

That’s not shining through in your post, tbh. I think you need to spend some time in secondary to see what it’s actually like and whether you could do it. Secondary MFL would be better in terms of job prospects, but if that’s all that’s drawing you to it then you’re onto a non-starter.

Piggywaspushed Sun 01-Apr-18 19:34:39

I think you are a little deluded if you believe all those really extreme children don't exist in secondary schools. That really made me confused In case , you aren't aware, they can bounce right back out of those PRUs, particularly at school transfer points (so they go to a PRU year 5 and re-enter mainstream in year 7...)Any challenging behaviour only becomes more challenging as they become older, bigger, taller, more disaffected.

With apologies, it sounds a little bit like you don't want to teach the 'great unwashed' and believe secondary MFL will cushion you form this, The biggest malcontents I know are MFL teachers...

noblegiraffe Sun 01-Apr-18 19:39:07

When I originally read it I thought she was saying that she had experience of poor behaviour so secondary behaviour wouldn’t be off-putting. I missed the insinuation that behaviour is better in secondary than primary grin that notion won’t last long!

Doraemon Sun 01-Apr-18 20:24:21

Piggy I'm really sorry if that's how it came across, I certainly didn't intend to insinuate that I don't want to teach the 'great unwashed' as you choose to put it. I wouldn't be working where I am now if just wanted to work with 'naice' children.
The point I was trying to think through was more that, although I know behaviour in secondary can be very challenging (and probably not at its best in MFL due to lack of motivation), but it's not a walk in the park in primary either. Over the last few years I have seen several child come through our primary with huge issues and who have needed (and received) a great deal of support, and then within a term at the local high school are no longer in the mainstream classroom.
Why do you say that MFL teachers are the biggest malcontents?

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nothruroad Sun 01-Apr-18 20:30:45

I’m a MFL teacher although in Scotland where things seem a bit easier. Still it’s my huge passion for languages and my love of working with young people that get me through the day. If I didn’t have those it definitely wouldn’t be worth the stress and frustration.

Piggywaspushed Sun 01-Apr-18 20:37:32

A lot of MFL teachers are acutely aware that their subjects are under threat : often A Level classes don't run. They can get the worst of behaviour at the lower end of secondary and feel unappreciated. As you rightly say, may are part time- often whole departments and this can affect departmental cohesion. In all honesty, I have found a lot (not all!) of MFL teachers quite elitist, too - and often they don't want to teach the lower end of the ability spectrum. there can be active or insidious campaigns waged against students who they feel aren't up to their subject. Some MFL teachers, however, are the best teachers I know - but often exhausted. there's a lot of being 'on' all the time in an MFL lesson.

None of the schools near me are able to exclude with any ease at all. Ofsted looks v dimly on high exclusion rates. Inclusion is the watchword. And, true, those students may not be in MFL classrooms but you will be a form tutor , too, in all likelihood .

The poor behaviour at secondary isn't confined to a few soon to be excluded children. It spreads rather as hormones kick in! Teenagers can be surly, aggressive, dominating and downright disrespectful (especially to women, sadly) but many are utterly delightful.

I think the workload at primary can be 'bonkers' as you say . the level of accountability and data dropping can be insane at secondary.

I suggest you get yourself into a secondary to see how you like it. You may thrive, of course!

Doraemon Sun 01-Apr-18 20:52:20

Thanks for the replies. It has been many years since I last worked with teenagers (although I do have one of my own who has his moments....). I may have to figure out how to get some time shadowing someone in a secondary whilst also working full-time in primary.... Even if I then decided I hated it at least it would help me make my mind up! [gives self large kick up arse to stop plodding along as a TA until too old to do anything else]

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ohreallyohreallyoh Mon 02-Apr-18 00:26:46

I’m was secondary MFL and now supply in both secondary and primary. I love primary and am looking to shift.

Spend some time in an average secondary locally.

Elitist? I resent that. I work hard to make my lessons accessible for all but differentiation is very difficult and the new exam is inaccessible to many.

Piggywaspushed Mon 02-Apr-18 07:15:55

I couldn't find the right word but I will say MFL teachers always say that about the new exam. My DS1 with his full marks at Spanish GCSE has had his confidence knocked out of him at A level by believing that his GCSE was 'really easy' and that he is not 'actually very good' and 'A Level is too hard'. This is the constant rhetoric he hears. Believe me, the new GCSE in Eng Lit is also not accessible to the lower end : but we have to teach everyone! Sorry, it is a bit of a soapbox of mine : I have watched MFL teachers for years putting students off their subjects and then being concerned when no one takes them at A Level, citing as their main reason that it is 'very difficult'. hey ho... off topic - but I have never heard an MFL teacher say that everyone should be doing their subject because it is so fantastic! Apart form me, when I taught German - and my inclusive approach did put me at odds with the department.

MFL teachers are definitely very dedicated and generally have very exacting expectations and standards. It's not a fly by the seat of your pants type subject at all and it definitely requires good classroom control as you have to work so hard on ensuring they are listening hard, learning everything, and participating. Kids expect a high level of 'fun', which is draining!

Piggywaspushed Mon 02-Apr-18 07:17:17

ps I did put not all and I am sure you are one of those ohreally !

RowenaDedalus Mon 02-Apr-18 07:24:20

What languages do you offer? I've been an MFL teacher for 5 years and my subject is no longer offered in many schools so it's hard to find a job.

Piggywaspushed Mon 02-Apr-18 07:34:06

There's that, too. I am assuming you are a German teacher?

My school offers German, French and Spanish but my DS's school has just axed German (chicken and egg : they can't get the teachers to replace the one really bad one they had, so don't offer, so no one takes it, so there are no future German teachers : all very sad). I recently noticed not all unis offer languages these day either. And many of the students taking MFL at GCSE and beyond are native speakers , which causes it own problems with grading etc and has been in the news recently... it's a bit of a political football, MFL teaching.

RowenaDedalus Mon 02-Apr-18 07:35:47

Political football is definitely the correct phrase, Piggy!

PumpkinPie2016 Mon 02-Apr-18 08:35:24

I had a similar dilemma to you when I was applying for teacher training. My choice though was between primary or secondary Physics with Science. I spent time in both primary and secondary schools and in the end went with secondary.

I wanted to teach my subject and didn't feel all that comfortable with the idea of teaching all subjects. Also, I love working with older kids as they are more independent, you can have proper discussion/debate with them and yet they are still funny.

In terms of workload - as you say, the workload in primary is bonkers, however, secondary can also be bonkers and has points of being incredibly stressful - now for instance, I am preparing my Y11 kids for their final exams. I am giving up a day of my holiday to run a revision session. We also have data collections/reports several times a year. I would think both are stressful/hectic but I'm different ways.

If I were you, I would try to get a visit to a secondary school to see what it's like and then decide from there.

monkeysox Mon 02-Apr-18 09:17:48

You need to offer at least 2 languages at secondary.
Could you teach a level or uni?

Doraemon Mon 02-Apr-18 10:34:56

I used to teach Uni a long time ago, I would never get back in now with a huge gap in my research record and MFL departments closing. I could offer French to A level and Spanish probably to GCSE, any higher at Spanish and I'd have to put some serious work into brushing up my own written language. Could probably manage KS3 German at a push. Half my first degree was English so I could do that too but whenever I've considered secondary it's always been MFL I've had in mind.

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RowenaDedalus Mon 02-Apr-18 11:50:08

French and Spanish are the winning combination!

clary Mon 02-Apr-18 15:47:10

I taught MFL secondary for six years, left at Christamas.

I agree with others, go and observe, see what it's like. I have only ever taught MFL, but I agree with piggy, it is very full on, you never get a moment to breathe in a lesson, and I did occasionally walk past a history lesson and see the teacher sitting at their desk shock I never sat down except to take the register!

MFL teachers do teach everyone, to Year 9 anyway; a couple of years ago I had a very challenging group in year 8 and 9, a lit of low ability and poor behaviour and lack of interest. Despite having me for two years, a good number of the, chose to take GCSE! Maybe I am at odds with othe MFL teachers but I was always happy to teach someone interested, whatever their ability. The issue is that some schools are insisting on everyone taking it regardless of interest. Still, at least that should mean lots of jobs OP.

Piggy, the new GCSE IS really hard; but yes, I see that the new English one is too, you gave my sympathy.

Op you need to really love your subject for secondary as you do it all day. I do love mine and it still wasn't enough sad

clary Mon 02-Apr-18 15:48:20

Sorry for all the typos!

LadyLance Mon 02-Apr-18 17:13:12

How employable would you be with a 3-7 PGCE? I eventually went for secondary (biology) but I spent time looking at primary teaching too. Unlike you, I would have preferred teaching older children, but I got the impression most primary schools wanted to be able to move you to whichever year they liked if they needed to. Would you be limiting yourself to only working in infant schools?

I would spend time in a/some secondary schools if you haven't already. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the behaviour in the two fairly average secondary schools I spent time in before applying. I also found I preferred being around teenagers a lot more than being around younger children- yes, there are issues with behaviour but there's less general neediness, which I find quite draining.

I sort of feel like you are listing the downsides of both routes. Would it help to list the positives of both routes as well?

Appuskidu Mon 09-Apr-18 13:12:32

I wouldn't do either of those if you you put a gun to my head, to be honest. I would take the bullet!!

I wouldn’t touch secondary with a barge pole-especially MFL. My kids are at high-achieving grammars with quite low behaviour issues in general and MFL are the classes (along with RE) the kids seem to view as completely pointless and will kick off during.

3-7 is far too restricted and once you qualify, a head in a primary will still put you in y6, so best to have some experience really.

I would do a 4-11 primary. Well, I did it twenty years ago and now desperately trying to get out.

Please do some research though-you seem to be viewing it as something to get you a nice part time job.

It’s a crap horrid course which many people don’t finish and part time can still be a 30/40 hour week. PGCE is time-consuming, NQT year is stressful, but to be honest, the year after NQT is even worse!

Doraemon Tue 10-Apr-18 14:38:45

Sorry for slow response have been away with crap wifi.
Appuskidu, I currently have a nice (effectively part-time) job thanks. And am as aware as I think anyone can be, without actually having done it, of the hours and stress involved in training and in teaching. I am doing some research, this thread is part of that as a way of sounding out opinions of people with a different range of experiences.
Ladylance - the suggestion to list the positives was a really useful one thank you. I am veering towards the conclusion that my heart is in Early Years, and if I did primary it would definitely be 3-7. I know it wouldn't necessarily save me from being thrown into y6, but there are still plenty of nursery classes around here.
Thank you to everyone who has constructively contributed to my thought process. Last time I asked for advice on here it really helped me clarify what I actually wanted to do, and the decision turned out well (even though it was the opposite of what most people responding advised!).

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Neolara Tue 10-Apr-18 14:42:54

I used to teach secondary.. I think you really have to live your subject..

carefreeeee Wed 11-Apr-18 22:51:39

Really sad to read that mfl are seen as pointless by students. French and German are the only subjects that have been of any use to me in real life. (apart from getting a levels in science to get onto a degree course). Every time I go on holiday in Europe I wish I'd taken them further at school. Trying to catch up now with evening classes but could have done them for free back then! Being able to speak languages makes holidays so much better. And opens up so many more jobs abroad where the weather is better

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