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A career in the education sector can be extremely varied. As schools become more and more specialised, with a wider curriculum, people from all sorts of professions could find a suitable position within the education sector.
Becoming a teacher or indeed taking on any role in any school or college is not a decision to be made lightly. It's essential that you evaluate the role and see whether this is in fact the job for you.
Volunteering or applying for paid work as a classroom assistant is an excellent way to get a taste of life in the classroom. You will get a realistic picture of the rewards and challenges the job offers. Alternatively, you may be able to attend an open day or complete a programme of structured observation at a local school.
It's also possible to attend a three day Teacher Training Agency (TTA) taster course, which includes guidance from a local teacher-training provider and at least one day of structured observation in a school.
Colleges like Southwark work with those training to be teachers, as well as qualified teachers and, as featured on page 31, St Michael's Secondary School in Bermondsey has been extremely successful in attracting professionals and university graduates into teaching roles, without them having to return back to being a full or even part-time students. They have also found that teaching assistants have gone on to become excellent teachers through the same Graduate and Registered Teacher Programme that they run.
Obviously, there are a whole host of non-teaching roles in schools, from cooks to admin, and caretaking to IT support, but it is the teaching that we have focused on here. And as either a starting block to teaching or a career in its own right, we have also highlighted in this feature what you do, what qualifications and skills you need and what you can earn as a teaching assistant.
What does a teacher do?
Being a teacher is one of the most rewarding, fulfilling and yet challenging careers on offer. Your role is essential because of the impact you can have on the lives of students that you teach.
You can train to teach primary or secondary children and your role will vary accordingly:
Primary school teachers teach children aged 3-11 years, covering pre-school, reception and Key Stages 1 and 2. You train to teach the full range of National Curriculum subjects, including Welsh if you are training to teach in Wales. Usually you will take one class through the whole year. As your career progresses there is scope for you to take responsibility for a subject or pastoral area.
Secondary school teachers usually teach children from 11-16+ years. You can train to teach your choice of one or more of the National Curriculum subjects, or one of the vocational subjects on offer. You will usually be expected to take responsibility for a tutor group or form class, and may be required to teach PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) and some aspects of Careers Education to this group. As your career progresses you may take on responsibility for part or whole of a subject or pastoral area.
Be aware that a teacher's working hours are often very long. You will ordinarily be required to attend evening meetings after school at least once a week. Although non-contact time is built into a secondary school teacher's day, you will need to take much of your marking home to complete in the evenings, at weekends and during holiday time.
What does a teaching assistant do?
Teaching assistants (TAs) are essential - they have been referred to as the eyes and ears of the teacher.
They work with teachers, helping with classroom organisation, supporting children with their work and assisting with administrative tasks.
Teaching assistants are known by a number of different titles, including teacher associates, classroom assistants, classroom aides, general assistants and learning support assistants.
TAs work in primary, secondary and special schools. Obviously their roles vary depending on the types of school they work in, but generally they can be divided into the following four categories:
Supporting children: supervising small groups of children while they work on a task, helping individual children with their work, listening to them read, helping develop their social skills.
Supporting the teacher: handling routine classroom administrative duties, helping to manage pupil behaviour around the school, dealing with minor accidents, playground/lunchtime supervision.
Supporting the curriculum: this might include supporting children using computers within the school, observing and recording children's progress, supporting children in specific areas of the curriculum.
Supporting the school: working with parents and with other professionals.
What qualifications or training will I need?
You will need GCSEs (or Standard equivalents) at grade C or above in English language and mathematics.
Before you receive Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) you need to complete a course known as Initial Teacher Training (ITT). During your course you will spend a minimum of 18 weeks in at least two schools, completing a programme of observation and supervised teaching. You will develop skills in planning and preparation, behaviour management, setting learning objectives and assessment.
There are several options available:
As an undergraduate you can choose from a range of full- and part-time courses in primary or secondary education. You study for your degree at the same time as training to be a teacher.
As a postgraduate you can study for a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in primary or secondary education.
Alternatively you may choose an employment-based route, where you train to teach whilst working in a school. As an undergraduate with at least two years' higher education you can follow the Registered Teacher Programme. Graduates may choose to follow the Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP).
Finally, if you already have classroom experience, you have the option to follow an assessment-only route to QTS.
Initial Teacher Training (ITT) is available from at least 130 providers in England and Wales, ranging from large universities to groups of schools providing School Centred ITT (SCITT). For full details, visit the Teacher Training Agency's website, www.teach.gov.uk.
Do I have the right skills?
As a teacher you must love to learn and be ready to search constantly for answers to questions, both your own and your students'.
You need a high level of patience and tolerance toward others and a good sense of humour, as well as imagination and creativity.
You also need excellent verbal and writing skills as well as expertise in your chosen subject area, if appropriate. You should be able to give clear instructions which others can easily follow, and of course be highly organised. Previous experience of working with children will also give you a real advantage.
What can I earn?
There are now substantial bursaries available for trainee teachers and, for teachers qualifying in certain subjects, generous 'golden hellos' when you start your first job.
The salary you earn will depend on your qualifications, job description, the area and school you are teaching in. A qualified teacher can expect to start on around £19,000 - £22,000.
At present, pay for teachers in state schools is reviewed and raised every year dependent on satisfactory performance: meaning your salary can increase steadily as you gain experience and expertise.
There is also scope to take on extra responsibilities, for which you will be paid according to a scale set nationally. Teachers with sufficient experience are currently entitled to apply for increased performance-related pay.
What qualifications will I need to be a teaching assistant?
At present no formal qualifications are required, although it can help you to get a job if you have previous experience of voluntary or paid work with children, or if you have completed one of the many courses for teaching assistants which exist across the UK.
Most Local Education Authorities (LEAs) will ask new teaching assistants to undergo some form of induction training. This helps make sure they are familiar with the school and are clear about how to support teachers in the vital areas of numeracy, literacy and behaviour.
Many schools and LEAs have a range of training programmes, some with external accreditation. These usually include an element of school-based training. National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) at Levels 2 and 3 for teaching assistants based on the National Occupational Standards are also offered by some schools, LEAs and colleges.
Training material is available on the Department for Education and Skills website: www.teachernet.gov.uk/teachingassistants
What can I earn as a teaching assitant?
Salaries vary according to the job description but generally range between £12,400 and £13,900, possibly rising to £16,000+ in some areas.
To get an exact figure you need to contact your local council directly.
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