Primary School Teacher

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What You Need to Know

  1. Primary school teachers work with children aged between five and 11 in both state and independent schools.
  2. As well as teaching subjects covered by the National Curriculum, as a primary school teacher you will also take charge of pupils’ social and emotional development.
  3. Responsibilities are varied and are likely to include planning lessons, assessing pupils’ work, maintaining classroom discipline and meeting with parents.
  4.  To work as a primary school teacher in England and Wales, you will need to hold Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)
  5. The quickest way of gaining QTS is through taking a specialist undergraduate degree in education.
  6. However, most people get into teaching with a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), with training available at numerous UK universities.
  7. Newly-qualified teachers start at the bottom of the pay scale with salaries of just over £21,000, or slightly more in London, with pay rising with experience.

What Do Primary School Teachers Do?

Primary school teachers work with children aged between five and 11 in both state and independent schools. As well as teaching subjects covered by the National Curriculum at both Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 levels, you will also take charge of pupils’ social and emotional development, either on your own or with the help of a teaching assistant.

The work of a primary school teacher is varied, with no two days being the same. Responsibilities may include:

  • Planning lessons and organising teaching materials
  • Assessing pupils’ work, for example through marking homework and tests
  • Working alongside educational psychologists and social workers to ensure the wellbeing of individual pupils
  • Maintaining good levels of discipline in the classroom
  • Attending parents’ evenings and feedback on children’s educational progress
  • Offering extra classes, including music or sports and games
  • Organising school events, including school trips, concerts and plays

Being a primary school teacher can be tough, especially if you work in a school where discipline is an issue, though for many, the benefits (see below) make it more than worthwhile.

Qualifications and Skills

To work as a primary school teacher in England and Wales, you will need to hold Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). While a few independent schools may recruit teachers without QTS, these are rare and getting rarer, so it’s vital you follow the correct career path in order to move into the profession. There are three main pathways to getting QTS. These are:

  • Undergraduate Degree: If you know you want to be a teacher before you even start university, then getting QTS as part of an undergraduate degree is the quickest way of getting started in the profession. A number of UK universities offer BA and BSc courses with QTS included, while Bachelor of Education (BEd) degree courses will also come with QTS. Undergraduate training takes three years full-time or six years on a part-time basis and to get onto a course you will usually need three good A-levels, including at least one in a National Curriculum subject, as well as solid GCSE results.
  • Postgraduate Degree: Most people get into teaching with a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). To get onto a PGCE course, you’ll need to have a good first degree in a subject area relevant to the primary National Curriculum and, in some cases, have demonstrable interest in teaching as a career. A full list of universities and higher education institutions offering PGCE courses is available through the Graduate Teacher Training Registry (GTTR) website (, and you can also apply for courses through the site as well. 
  • School Direct and Teach First: Previously known as the Graduate Teaching Programme, School Direct lets university graduates of any subject, with at least three years’ professional experience under their belts, gain on-the-job training in primary and secondary schools. To get onto the programme, you’ll need to apply directly to a participating school. These can be found on the Teaching Agency website ( If you are successful in getting a place, in return for your professional experience and skills, you will get a full salary while you train, though you will be required to work in the same school for at least a full year after you gain your QTS.

Meanwhile, Teach First is a nationwide charitable initiative aimed at giving smart graduates who may be unsure about teaching as a profession the chance to give it a go for one or two years. On-the-job training is available at a number of schools – all of them in locations ‘facing social and economic challenges’ – with more information available on the Teach First website. (

As well as relevant qualifications, employers will also look for some, or all of the following qualities:

  • A genuine enthusiasm for teaching and a keen interest in all the latest trends and developments in the profession
  • Excellent time management and organisational skills
  • High levels of patience, combined with a good sense of humour, creativity and a strong imagination
  • Extra skills such as good knowledge of IT, art, music, sports or modern languages
  • A clean criminal record, checked through the Disclosure and Barring Service

Career Progression

After finishing your training, you will be classed as a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) and be required to serve a probationary period of one year, during which time you’ll be mentored and assessed on your work. After this period, then you can either remain as a primary school teacher or you can push forward with your career. In particular, teachers are encouraged to invest in continuing professional development (CPD), with local authorities offering regular courses on topics such as special needs teaching, IT in the classroom, pastoral care and curriculum updates. 

As well as enhancing your skills and knowledge as a primary school teacher, you can also further your career by moving into management. The National College for School Leadership offers a range of courses geared towards helping talented teachers become heads or deputy heads.

Alongside teaching jobs with more and greater responsibilities, you may also progress into teacher training, schools inspections or into serving on the board of a local education authority.

Pay and Benefits

Newly-qualified teachers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland start at the bottom of the pay scale with salaries of just over £21,000, or slightly more in London. The scale for standard teachers goes up to £31,000 a year, with raises coming as your gain experience and take on more responsibilities. More up-to-date information on teachers salaries is available online at the Teaching Agency website here:

Aside from the pay, primary school teachers enjoy a number of other benefits. These can include:

  • Long holidays; teachers enjoy lengthy summer holidays, as well as time off at Christmas, Easter and half-term. However, you may be required to work through your holidays, for example preparing classes for the upcoming term.
  • The chance to work with children and play a role in giving them the best possible start in life
  • The ability to put your creativity and imagination to good use, as well as being able to share your passion for learning

Finding Work

The vast majority of teachers work for local authorities. If you’re an NQT, then you may have to apply directly to a local authority and then be placed in a pool of candidates a number of schools can choose from. Visit the website of your local authority to find out more.

If you’re already qualified and have several years teaching under your belt, then jobs for experienced  teachers are openly advertised in a number of places. For starters, check out the pages of the Times Educational Supplement (TES), the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph and local press.

Alternatively, sign up with a specialist educational recruitment agency such as Ranstad Education, Supply Desk or Eteach and let their consultants find you either permanent or supply work.


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hi I'm a qualified level 3 teaching assistant, I am currently volunteering at a school one day a week and working casual hours at a childrens centre but my position will be ending in march this year. please could send me some advice on any vacancies within the Chorley area. thank you kind reguards Maggie leach

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