Kristina is training as a teacher through Teach First, and has written extensively on developments in the educational system and learning initiatives. In this post she explains the pros and cons of the different routes into a career in teaching.
Never before has teaching been such a popular career choice for graduates – a record 96% of all teachers now have degrees or above, meaning there are an extra 43,000 teachers with degree level qualifications in classrooms since 2010. The number of Oxbridge graduates teaching in state schools has doubled in the last ten years, whilst a record percentage of teachers (17%) now have a first class degree.
However, never before have graduate teachers been more needed – the UK is facing its worst ever teaching shortage, with 800,000 – 900,000 more pupils predicted to be in classrooms by 2020. Despite the government’s attempts to diversify routes into teaching, teacher retention rates still remain worryingly low; so if you are considering going into teaching it is vital to spend time picking the right route for you.
The traditional PGCE is a one-year higher education course which combines university study with placements in at least two schools in order to gain your QTS (Qualified Teacher Status). The tuition fees generally cost about £9000 and whilst there are plenty of loans and bursaries available these vary widely from subject to subject.
Fun fact: A PGCE route has the highest teacher retention rate, with 63% of graduates staying in teaching five years after completing their qualification.
Main advantages: The PGCE route offers graduates the most time for studying and reflecting, and therefore suits graduates who want to enjoy the benefits of academia a little longer.
Main disadvantages: On the flip side, the reduced timetable and emphasis on theory and pedagogy give graduates less time to develop their practical skills, or may frustrate grads who want to get stuck into the classroom straightaway.
2) Teach First
Teach First is a two year grad scheme based on the mantra that ‘no child’s educational success should be limited by their socio-economic background’. After 6 weeks of intensive training the charity throws graduates into schools in economically disadvantaged areas, and involves the completion of a PGCE alongside wider leadership skills training and an optional Masters degree.
Fun fact: Teach First is currently the largest graduate recruiter, and regularly comes in the top 3 of The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers.
Main advantages: Graduates are paid a salary and TF covers the cost of the qualification, making it the most financially viable route into teaching. There are also a variety of options for when you finish, as grads can be fast tracked into middle leadership roles or jobs in other social enterprises or educational policy.
Main disadvantages: Graduates have little choice over where they are placed (in terms of both region and the school itself) so you have to be flexible in terms of location. The workload can also be pretty tough as you have to handle a full, unqualified teacher’s timetable from September.
3) Schools Direct
Schools Direct is a one year school-based training programme recently introduced by former Education Secretary Michael Gove. Like Teach First, it is based on practical, hands on preparation, but unlike Teach First, it involves a more gradual timetable, starting with observations and then slowly building up your classroom hours.
Fun fact: Schools Direct has around 18,000 places available each year in schools across the country, and is growing year on year.
Main advantages: Unlike Teach First and university-based PGCE routes, graduates can directly apply to the schools they want to work in, and so have the most choice in regards to location.
Main disadvantages: The salaried route is only available to graduates who have been in employment for three or more years (in any profession), meaning you will have to seek out financial support. Places at top schools can also be incredibly competitive.
The most important thing to consider is whether you think a university or schools-based programme would better suit your personal circumstances, learning styles or priorities, and remember that you can apply to more than one route if you are still unsure and want to keep your options open. For PGCEs and Schools Direct, you apply through UCAS, whereas for Teach First you apply to the charity directly; however all 3 have similar requirements – a degree (normally a 2.1), and at least a C in GCSE English and Maths.
I personally chose to take the Teach First route as, having worked as a Teaching Assistant for 6 months, I was keen to immerse myself in a school again as quickly as possible; but I have plenty of friends who opted for the other routes, and sharing our experiences has highlighted the fundamental similarities between them rather than the differences. All in all, it is important to remember that teaching is undoubtedly a varied, rewarding career which will stretch you intellectually, emotionally, mentally, physically, whichever route you take.
The rewards, moreover, are felt as much by you as by the students you inspire, and on whom you make a lasting impact. When teaching is tough, it is worth remembering that.
Written by Kristina Murkett, who tutors English with MyTutor