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Thinking of retraining as a chemistry teacher in Scotland - what is it really like?
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Anycrispsleft · 09/12/2020 07:49

I was wondering if there are any Scottish science/chemistry teachers on here who could give me a bit of insight?

I'm thinking of returning to Scotland in a year or so. I have a chemistry degree and I used to work in the chemical industry and various other stuff but for the last 5 years I've been a SAHM due to moving abroad with DH's job. I want to come back to Scotland with the kids and teaching chemistry is attractive to me because there is a clear route into the job, my perception is that there is plenty of demand for chemistry teachers, perhaps less so than in England but still pretty decent, and that I shouldn't have too much trouble to find a job in Glasgow as long as I do well at the PGDE and am willing and capable of maybe working at one of the city's rougher schools (having attended one of these myself I'm fairly up for that challenge). It's a secure job, the pension is good, and while the hours might be quite tough in term time (I've been told to expect about 50 hours a week once established, more in the first couple of years) the long holidays and relatively short days of pupil contact time would at least mean that I had a lot of discretion over where I do my work, and I should be able to make that fit with being a solo parent to by them 10 year old twins, with additional help from breakfast club/after school for the kids.

I did a thread about my life plan over on Chat and someone recommended meo come over here and get the no frills version of life as a teacher (in Scotland). I promise I don't think it's a doss where you swan off home at half 3 and then have 20 weeks' carefree holiday a year. But after 15 years of trying to make a family life fit around the incredibly insecure and not even that well paid chemical industry, the security and demand for teachers looks really attractive to me. And people with families do this job, don't they? What do you think - would you do it?

I guess my other question is, if you are a Scottish science teacher right now, do you want to stay, or are you trying to get out, and what do people do when they do get out?

Thanks very much for any insights you can give me.

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Possums4evr · 11/12/2020 13:55

Not a chemistry teacher but work in Scotland - it's only 13 weeks holiday you know! If you can teach once Covid isn't such a threat you will have a better time than we're having now! Where would you plan to do your training? Oh sorry I see you've said Glasgow. Look up their entrance requirements. They will expect some experience with young people, visit schools etc (again not easy just now you wouldn't be allowed in but that will change). Good luck!

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BaileyBoos · 11/12/2020 15:55

The best thing you can do is get some experience in a secondary before making the leap. Possibly as a TA? It’s really easy to get a TA job where I’m from, not sure about Scotland.

I thought I could do secondary no problem.
Spent a year in the environment in a support role and I personally thought it was horrific. Hard to really explain if you haven’t done it. They’re strange environments to work in. (I’ve done many roles in the past).

I’m testing out primary now and getting on a lot better.

Good luck.

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LittleTokenWonders · 11/12/2020 16:32

would at least mean that I had a lot of discretion over where I do my work

This is the thing, you won't really, especially not as a new teacher. The PGDE is a hard year. You'll likely be 9-5 at uni and you will be at your placement school at least 8-4.30, depending on your class teachers' hours.

You are guaranteed a probationary post but obviously cannot pick the school, so a commute may be inevitable. Being willing to work in a challenging school and being able to do it are also two different things. My friend works in a school where no member of the science department has lasted more than 18 months.

My school starts teaching at 8.45am but briefing is 8.15 on a Tuesday, you may have staff meetings other mornings and you will need to get your classroom/ resources physically set up.

There is a culture of presenteeism, especially for NQTs. It will be noticed and commented on if you're leaving with the children. In your probation year you will be expected to meet with your mentor, visit other classrooms for peer observations and jump through hoops like after school clubs and supported study.

It's very different for teachers who come in in their twenties when they're single or child-free and can do all these things before they settle down. By the time their children are even born they have banks of resources, they can manage their time, they know what they're doing.

That sounds very negative, and in general it's not, especially compared to England, but it is a hard job to pick up. It's not always as rewarding as the adverts make out!

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LittleTokenWonders · 11/12/2020 16:39

It's also worth considering how you would manage parents' evenings and CPD events.

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Anycrispsleft · 11/12/2020 17:23

Well, thank you for your honesty! I mean I don't have that many other options so I will likely end up doing it anyway... at this point in my life and with my CV a mess, picking up a career that anyone else would balk at is probably the only way I will be back in the workforce.

I'm in Germany at the moment and I was planning to try and do some volunteering in one of the secondary schools here, covid permitting. (I'm not planning on coming back to Scotland until 2022 so at least that will be over hopefully!)

Has the PGDE changed over the years? I have a mate who did the PGDE in physics about 20 years back and he said it was pretty easy. That might have been a bit of bravado though. From my point of view, if I can pick up the kids by about 6pm that should work.

For me it's a balance between how old do I want to be as I start this career vs how able I am to devote loads of time to those intensive first few years. 10 years'time my kids will be out of the house, but nobody is going to hire a 55 year old NQT, are they?

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LittleTokenWonders · 11/12/2020 18:55

Oh nothing will be like it was 20 years ago. Absolutely nothing. The drop out rate on the PGDE is notorious, although, tbf, it's teaching practice which knocks people out, not the uni content side.

I think the probationary system in Scotland would go in your favour. You have a guaranteed post for a year, and if you do well, your HT/ head of department is likely to fight to keep you (especially in science!). It's a small community up here, we all know each other Grin so a probationer with a good reputation will get a job. I don't particularly think your age would go against you.

Having said that.... do you actually want to teach? You have to be wary of people going in with a 'I'll save the world' attitude, but at the same time, you have to want to do it, not just want a job. It's all very well saying you can put up and shut up, but you'll be the one standing in front of a farting, crying, hormonal, pissed off, up for a laugh 2nd year last period on a Thursday.

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toomuchtooold · 11/12/2020 19:19

Do I really want to teach? I want to teach kids chemistry, like, I enjoyed teaching labs during my PhD, and I used to do literacy volunteering with primary aged kids with learning disabilities, so I think I would enjoy the actual teaching side but to be honest, all the teachers I speak to present such a negative view of the job that I am desperately looking for some other alternative. I don't know. I mean, I was a process development chemist in pharma, and then I was a financial analyst (told you my CV was a mess) and I wouldn't recommend either of those careers to anyone - pharma is notorius for just upping sticks and transferring a third of its workers to another continent and making the other two thirds redundant, while the bit of the financial services industry that I worked in was incredibly high pressure and just horrible, like people phoning you up and just shouting at you... you know I start wondering, is there any career worth recommending these days?

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toomuchtooold · 11/12/2020 19:20

Oh sorry, name change fail!

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bookishtartlet · 11/12/2020 19:42

I'm a Scottish secondary teacher, and I love it most of the time. Completely depends on your school though, as I've gone through periods of wanting to quit daily.

I trained before I had my children, but you might find you are much more organised because you have them, therefore limited time for study. The pgde and probationer year is full on, but once you have a contract in a school you like it's much, much easier. I'm not a science teacher, but I'm sure even though you're a chemistry teacher you would need to teach BGE science to S1-3 too. Good luck!

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RuleWithAWoodenFoot · 11/12/2020 19:44

It's wet and hilly.

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BaileyBoos · 11/12/2020 22:26

@Anycrispsleft

I get the frustration. Is there any career that’s worth doing these days? My mother and sister are nurses and have put me off that career for life. My best friend is a social worker and her hair is currently falling out by the bucket load because she’s so stressed. My cousins have warned me against teaching, and have been quite firm that I should not venture into it. I have friends in the private sector who are miserable as sin.

I only know two people who love their jobs and they’re both hairdressers.

I couldn’t do secondary. I found the noise,
Behaviour and constant bad language draining and this was at an “outstanding” school.

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Isthatitnow · 12/12/2020 12:05

Not Scotland, but I NQT’d in my late 30s as a lone parent with three children. It was tough. It is less tough now I know what I’m doing and can open a PowerPoint previously made rather than have to make one. My children are now of an age where I don’t have to worry about picking up so can manage after school stuff without any issues. You need solid childcare and to be able to manage parent’s evenings. The job is tough but enjoyable.

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Lidlfix · 13/12/2020 09:12

I am a Scottish secondary teacher different subject and I did my probation year mid thirties with 4DDs. My DH worked shifts and weekends at that point and it was tough but we managed. It was a saturated job market and it took me 4 years to get a permanent post. That said I decided to stick with the same local authority as my DDs so our holidays/ inservice etc lined up.

Anecdotally And not through any skill on my part I had less behaviour management issues than my peer probationers simply because of your age. The pupils didn't realise that I was inexperienced.

In Scotland in science classes you will have smaller classes 20 max. So that impacts on workload as your marking burden is reduced.

Have a look at my job Scotland for an idea of vacancies and the geographical spread.

I still enjoy my job most of the time.

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hedgehogger1 · 13/12/2020 19:22

I've got German friends who've worked here and Germany. Both gone back to Germany now. They say teaching in the UK is a lot worse than Germany. More pressure/marking/ poor behaviour. Not sure you'd get an accurate idea in a German school

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Anycrispsleft · 13/12/2020 21:57

Thanks guys, those are really useful perspectives. @Isthatitnow @lidlfix you're both very inspiring!

@hedgehogger1 I'm not surprised at your friends. Teacher is a pretty good job here. But it's a dedicated 3 year degree, or else you can get hired as a "Quereinsteiger" - like, a direct entrant - with no bloody training or anything! In German. A terrifying prospect...

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