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How to Become a Primary School Teacher

Primary school teachers are an essential part of society. It is hard to imagine a world where there is no need for teachers of young children. Due to this, it is a career which is going to continue to employ a large amount of people for a very long time.

What do Primary School Teachers do

The primary school teacher has an extremely complicated job. It has been made even more complicated in recent years, by the constant government interference which means that teachers are spending a lot of their time doing paper work and trying to reach government targets. This leads to them spending significantly more than their 37 hours per week working hours, doing school work.

Although teachers can choose to work in state schools, private schools, pay scales are roughly the same and the work is very similar, but there is no standard rate for non-state schools. Typical daily activities for a primary school teacher may include:

  • Creating lesson plans
  • Marking children’s homework
  • Looking after the children’s pastoral needs
  • Giving homework
  • Maintain records of student progress to meet government targets
  • Keep parents up to date with their children’s progress and any problems they may be having
  • Organising school outings and trips
  • Managing classroom behaviour.
  • Working with specialists such as special needs teachers to help students who require help


Primary school teachers may not be the most highly paid job, but it is a steady job with a good starting salary. However, the main attractions of becoming a primary school teacher are the relative job security and excellent pension scheme. It should be noted, however, that the government is currently doing away with the fantastic pension scheme, lowering the wage, and making it easier to fire primary school teachers. It would seem then that all the incentives for becoming a primary school teacher will be gone soon.

Newly Qualified Teachers (NQT’s) England, NI and Wales

£21,804 - £31,868

(£27,270 - £36,751 in inner London)

NQT’s in Scotland

£21,438 - £34,200

Distant Island Allowance of £2,100

Remote Schools Allowance of £2,100 or £2,124

Experienced Teachers

£34,523 - £37,124

(£41,912 - £45,450 in inner London)

Senior Teachers

£37,836 - £57,520

(£44,986 - £64,677 in inner London)

Head Teachers

£42,803 - £106,148

(£49,961 - £113,303 in inner London)

What Qualifications Are Needed?

You can take multiple routes to become a primary school teacher. While it is possible to teach at private schools without Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) it is not common and this guide will only deal with the standard route set out by the state. It is necessary to gain QTS in order to teach at a state school. In order to gain QTS you either need to get Bachelor’s Degree in Education (BEd), or a different undergraduate degree followed by a postgraduate, or work based course in education. There are several of these postgraduate courses available for primary school teachers. This is how the different methods of training break down:

  • Bachelors Degree in Education (BEd) 3 years
  • Alternatively, graduates in a relevant subject such as history or science can take a one year intensive PGCE course to become a teacher, known as a PGDE in Scotland.
  • Both courses contain vocational classroom training.
  • School Direct (Paid and Unpaid programmes) 1 year classroom based. Degree needed for both programmes. For the paid training route a minimum of three years’ work experience is necessary.  
  • School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) is one year a classroom based training programme for people with degree in a national curriculum subject.
  • Teach First two year charity run classroom based training programme for top graduates. Training is based in schools with bad socio economic conditions.
  • If you the pass any of these courses you will become a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT)
  • NQT’s are monitored for a three term probationary period
  • Once this probationary period is over you will attain Qualified Teaching Status (QTS)

It is extremely important to point out how intensive the process of studying to become a primary school teacher can be. No matter which route you take, you will be required to write lesson plans while at the same time do academic work. The (BEd) is probably the most forgiving option, but it is also the longest and most specialised. You have to be completely committed to make it as a teacher or else you will probably have a nervous breakdown either during the training, or once you start working. And no matter what job you have, it is always important that you enjoy your work.

Career Development

Primary school teachers have extremely good career prospects. There are numerous opportunities for primary school teachers to become coordinators in their specific area or a more broad area such as special needs. Teachers can also take courses at the National College for School Leadership which offers accelerated programmes for talented teachers entering management or leadership roles. This could include department heads, subject coordinators, deputy heads or first time head teachers. With this method it is possible for a talented primary school teacher to become a head teacher in ten years.

So although primary school teaching certainly has its good points, it is definitely not for the faint of heart. Unless you are completely committed to becoming a primary school teacher, it would be a waste of time. You would find it even harder to pass the training and even if you did pass, it is unlikely that your career would reach its full potential.  

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