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Introduction to teaching in the UK

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Overview

Currently, demand for teachers in the UK is high, particularly in mathematics, sciences and modern languages. This means there are good opportunities for rapid career development.

The breadth of skills gained through experience of teaching can be valued by employers in many industries. In particular, there are many opportunities to develop leadership and management skills, not least being in charge of thirty people on an hourly basis in a classroom.

There are 440,000+ teachers in 25,000 schools in England. It is a stable occupation, has generous pension schemes and employers can be flexible in terms of hours worked from year to year.

Teaching can be quite stressful and exhausting. At the same time, it is exciting, fast-paced and unique. You should expect to work 50 hours in your first few years as the job also involves lesson preparation, marking and assessment, running extra-curricular activities and administrative duties.

The majority of state schools must follow the National Curriculum; a set of learning objectives determined by the Department for Education. The Department also determines the approved structure of lessons and some elements of teaching style.

Broadly, state schools are divided into: primary (4-11), secondary (11-18), and adult education (16+). “Middle schools” exist in some counties, and in the private sector there are similarly “prep schools” for ages 9-13.

Primary school teachers should expect to teach all subjects in the curriculum, whereas secondary school teachers normally teach a subject comprising at 50% of the degree they studied at university.

Market trends

In the long-term, because demand for teachers rises proportionally with population growth, demand is likely to be higher in London and the South-East.

The market is slightly tougher for those wishing to work at the lower end of the primary school age range. Trainees in subjects such as English, Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry may find the job search easier.

As a statistical trend, teachers are getting younger. Over a third of trained teachers leave the profession after a year, and those who remain are taking retirement earlier. As such there is a constant demand for newly qualified teachers with around 30,000 a year trained.

The entry requirement for trainees is also high with an increased number having gained a 1st or a 2:1; the government has decided that only those with good degrees will receive training grants in the future.

Due to this shift in the age of teachers, there is an increasing lack of headteachers: in 2008 over 1000 schools in England and Wales had only an Acting Head. If you are willing to take on greater responsibility, it is increasingly easy to climb the career ladder

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