Primary School Teacher

The Job and What's Involved

Primary school teachers work with children aged between five and eleven, in state or independent schools.

As a primary teacher, you would be responsible for a class and teach them all areas covered by the National Curriculum. You would also have a specialist subject, which you may coordinate throughout the school.

As well as teaching, you would:

  • Prepare lessons and teaching materials.
  • Mark and assess children's work.
  • Put up displays in the classroom.
  • Work with other professionals, such as educational psychologists and social workers.
  • Discuss children's progress and other relevant issues with parents and carers (both informally and at parents' evenings).
  • Attend meetings and in-service training.
  • Organise outings, social activities and sporting events.

You may have the help of a teaching assistant.

Some areas of England and Wales have middle schools that take children from ages eight or nine to twelve or thirteen. As a teacher in a middle school you would teach the primary or secondary curriculum, depending on the age of children in your class.

You would teach 39 weeks a year. Teaching hours vary between schools, but are usually 9am to 3.30pm or 4pm.

You would also spend a lot of time outside these hours preparing lessons, marking and assessing work, and taking part in other activities such as outings, parents' evenings and in-service training.

The main salary range is from £21,102 to £30,842 a year (£26,000 to £35,568 in inner London).

Teachers who reach the top of the main scale may apply to be assessed to progress to the upper pay scale. This ranges from £33,412 to £35,929 (£40,288 to £43,692 in inner London).

Salary scales are normally reviewed each year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Most teaching jobs are in state schools, but you could also work in independent schools, pupil referral units, hospitals and schools run by the armed forces. Part-time and supply teaching are possible.

Education and Training

To be a primary or middle school teacher in a state school, you must gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) by doing Initial Teacher Training (ITT).

There are four types of ITT:

- Undergraduate
- Postgraduate
- School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT)
- Work-based

For all four types the basic requirements are:

GCSE's (A-C) English, maths and a science subject or equivalent qualifications - you should check with course providers which qualifications they will accept, or if there are any equivalency tests you can take.

To pass skills tests in numeracy, literacy and ITC (information and communications technology).

Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) clearance.

It would also be an advantage if you have experience of working with children (either paid or voluntary) in the relevant age group. For example, you could volunteer at a local school or holiday play scheme.

If you do not already have a degree you can get QTS at the same time as completing a degree, by doing one of the following types of course:

  • BA (Hons) or BSc (Hons) with QTS.
  • Bachelor of Education (BEd) degree course (at a few universities).

The courses last for three or four years full-time. As well as the basic requirements listed above, you would usually need at least two A levels (one of which should be in a National Curriculum subject) and at least five GCSE's (A-C).

Universities may accept other qualifications, such as an Access to Higher Education course. Check with course providers for their exact requirements.

You can find out about National Curriculum subjects on the following website -

To search for degree courses visit the UCAS website.

The National Languages Strategy introduced an entitlement to foreign language learning for every child in key stage 2 (ages 7 to 11) from 2010. If you are interested in teaching modern languages visit the TDA website to find out more.

Postgraduate routes

If you have a degree or equivalent in a subject relevant to the primary National Curriculum, you can get QTS by doing a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) course. Courses can be one year full-time, two years part-time or flexible by distance learning.

You can search for PGCE courses and apply on-line on the Graduate Teacher Training Registry (GTTR) website.

School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT)

SCITT is classroom-based postgraduate training which takes one year. You would need to have a degree.

Employment-based routes

You can gain QTS whilst working in a school on a trainee salary on one of the following programmes:

Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) - you must already have a degree.

Registered Teacher Programme (RTP) - you must have completed two years of higher education (for example, a BTEC HND, foundation degree or two years of a degree).

Overseas Trained Teacher Programme (OTTP) - you must have an overseas teaching qualification that is equivalent to a UK degree.

The number of places on employment-based programmes is limited and competition is strong.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

After your ITT course, you would need to successfully complete three terms in a teaching job before you are considered fully qualified. During this time you would be supported by a mentor.

Throughout your teaching career you would need to keep up to date with new methods and ideas in education by doing in-service training. You could do this by attending training days in school or at local authority training centres.

National College Leadership of Schools and Children's Services offers programmes for:

  • Teachers who are taking on leadership and management responsibilities, including heads of subject or area and subject coordinators.
  • Deputies, assistant heads and others looking to move up to their first headship.
  • Newly appointed, first-time head teachers.

Transferring to another age group

You do not need to do further training to transfer to another age group. However, schools recommend that you get some experience of the age group you are intending to teach. This could be done on a voluntary basis.

Some LEAs and teacher training institutions may offer short conversion or refresher courses.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A Primary School Teacher needs

  • Enthusiasm for the subjects you teach.
  • The ability to make good relationships with pupils, parents/carers and colleagues.
  • Commitment to equal opportunities.
  • The ability to work in a team but also to use your own initiative.
  • Organisational and time-management skills.
  • The ability to manage classes and deal with challenging behaviour.
  • Excellent communication skills.
  • Patience and a good sense of humour.

Your Long Term Prospects

As an experienced teacher you may become an Advanced Skills Teacher (AST), supporting other teachers as well as teaching your own class.

In most schools you could progress to curriculum leader, deputy head teacher and head teacher. You could also choose to specialise in teaching pupils with special educational needs or move into private tuition.

As a newly qualified, current, former or retired teacher you can register as a tutor on the One to One Tuition Programme. This is a new Government-funded initiative to help children who need to gain more confidence and understanding in English and maths. You would receive training and be paid an hourly rate. Visit the TDA website for details.

Get Further Information

Department of Education Northern Ireland (DENI),
Rathael House, Balloo Road, Bangor BT19 7PR
Tel: 028 9127 9279

Graduate Teacher Training Registry (GTTR),
Rosehill, New Barn Lane, Cheltenham,
Gloucestershire GL52 3LZ
Tel: 0871 4680 469

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