Who do you want to teach?

It’s good to consider what kind of teacher you want to be based on your interests, skills and experience. You might need specific training or qualifications in some areas. This page explains more about the different options.

Teach in a primary or secondary school

The school system in England is split into age groups:

Primary (ages 5 to 11)

Children usually start primary school at 4 years old and this phase is called reception. This is the final stage of the early years foundation stage (EYFS).

There are a further 2 phases, known as key stages:

  • key stage 1 (KS1) covers years 1 and 2, with children up to 7 years old
  • key stage 2 (KS2) covers years 3 to 6, with children from 7 to 11 years old

The teaching content is broad, covering the whole range of national curriculum subjects including English, maths, science, as well as art and design, computing, geography, history, music and physical education (PE).

If you like the energy and curiosity of young children, and would be comfortable covering a wide range of subjects, you might prefer teaching in primary schools.

If you are interested in training to be a primary teacher, you could consider options for primary teaching with a subject specialism like maths or English. This will cover all of the subjects but with a focus on your subject specialisation.

Secondary (ages 11 to 18)

Children start secondary school when they’re 11. There are up to 3 stages in secondary school:

  • key stage 3 (KS3) includes years 7 to 9, with children aged 11 to 14
  • key stage 4 (KS4) includes years 10 and 11, with pupils aged 14 to 16
  • key stage 5 (KS5) includes years 12 and 13, with students aged 16 to 18 at secondary schools with sixth forms, or colleges

Pupils work towards national qualifications, which are usually GCSEs during KS4. Students take A levels or other similar qualifications during KS5.

Subjects at this level include core subjects such as English, maths and science, as well as many others. The full range of subjects available to teach at secondary level will depend on the school.

What you need to teach in primary and secondary schools

To teach in the majority of primary and secondary schools, you will need to achieve qualified teacher status (QTS). There are a number of routes to this. Find out what training you need to get QTS.

Once you have QTS, you’re qualified to teach in primary and secondary schools. However, if you want to change from primary to secondary or secondary to primary, you’ll need to be able to show you have relevant classroom experience.

How to decide which age group to teach

The best way to work out which age group you would like to teach is to get real life experience in a classroom.

Use our service to search for and organise a primary or secondary school placement in England.

If you’re studying for an undergraduate or master’s degree and interested in teaching chemistry, computing, languages, maths or physics, then you could do a paid teaching internship to find out if teaching is right for you.

Teach pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)

Most disabled pupils and pupils with special educational needs learn in mainstream schools. Wherever you train and work – whether it’s in mainstream schools, special schools, or both – you’ll work with pupils with a range of needs.

You can choose to apply for a teacher training course that specialises in SEND or you can gain the skills and experience as you train to teach.

Learn more about the routes to teach pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Teaching other stages

Nursery or pre-school

If you want to help young children under 5 years old to develop, you might consider becoming an early years teacher.

Early years teachers play an essential role in children’s development up to the age of 5 and provide high-quality early education.

Learn more about the routes to become an early years teacher.

Further education

If you’ve got industry experience and a passion for teaching young people over 16 and adults, then further education could be for you.

There are three key areas:

  • vocational courses covering areas like plumbing and health care
  • academic courses on subjects like English and maths
  • basic skills courses covering literacy and numeracy.

Learn more about teaching in further education.

Find out more about teaching

Explore how you can get into teaching primary or secondary, including top tips on making a successful application.

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