Getting experience in schools

Some form of work experience is advisable, both to check that you like the job, to develop your skills, and also to demonstrate that you are serious and informed about teaching when you make your application for training.

Most teacher training providers insist that you have completed a two-week observation in a school before starting with your application. Other options include volunteering as a classroom assistant or as a mentor, e.g, through LSE’s Student Tutoring Scheme, or working for a charity to tutor children.

Also consider experience with sports, play schemes, summer camps or youth clubs. You could also contact a school privately to arrange your own observation. Many teachers enter the profession having first taught English abroad; a good way to see if teaching is for you.


Volunteering is also great way to support the local community, and is of course very attractive to employers on your CV even if you don't become a teacher. Remember however that working with an individual child requires consistency and commitment.

Where to volunteer

  • Student Tutoring Scheme - an LSE scheme. Act as a classroom assistant for a morning or afternoon a week in a local school
  • Into University  - a charity that tries to get more students from ethnic minorities and disadvantaged social groups into university. Act as a tutor for a talented child at risk of underachieving
  • The Rugby Portobello Trust  - a charity working with disadvantaged children. Volunteer as a tutor, or work with young people in many other ways. 
  • The Children's Society  - often advertises for volunteers to work a few hours a week to mentor or tutor children
  • The School Governors' One-Stop Shop  - advertises for volunteers to act as governors for local schools. This is a great way to get first hand experience of schools, as well as working on a team to control budgets and make managerial decisions

For other opportunities, contact the LSE Volunteer Centre.

Observing lessons

An 'observation period' really means acting as a Teaching Assistant, helping individual students or small groups within the classroom. However, if you are applying for Initial Teacher Training, universities will expect you to look out for and think about certain things as well. For example:

  • Lessons for different year groups and abilities.
  • The structure of lessons.
  • The way that teachers adapt their lesson plan in the classroom. (No class ever goes quite as expected).  
  • Reaction to bad behaviour.
  • Pre-emptive management of bad behaviour. (Ask teachers how they do this).
  • The curriculum for your subject.

Ask too if you can shadow a particular pupil throughout the day, as this will give you a different perspective on school.

How to organise an observation period

  • Contact a school. Schools will be used to requests from people applying for teacher training. However, ask a few months in advance: unless (or even if) it is your own school they are likely to require you to undergo a Criminal Record Bureau check.
  • The TDA is launching a new, single School Experience Programme (SEP) from September 2011. This new programme will be available not just to students, but also to other people who are considering entering, or in some cases, re-entering teaching. The SEP will be delivered by the TDA in partnership with schools.

Useful links