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How to become a primary school teacher

Rebecca G (primary school teacher)
14 May 2023
5 min read
How to become a primary school teacher

This article is about becoming a primary school teacher for people who don’t currently have teaching experience. If you’re looking to learn whether secondary teachers can teach primary – the short answer is yes, and there are lots of primary school roles that are open to secondary teachers!

Have you always wanted a job where you are able to educate, motivate, inspire and scaffold learners? If so, teaching might be the job for you. You can educate learners from all different backgrounds and ages with the correct qualifications and training.


Depending on which part of the UK you live in, there are slightly different routes to becoming a primary school teacher. In England and Wales you will need to have QTS (qualified teaching status), which means that you are then able to teach any stage of education legally. There are a few different routes to gaining QTS.


You can complete a university based course, such as a Bachelor of Education, which is an undergraduate degree lasting either 3 or 4 years. If you already have an undergraduate degree, you can complete the postgraduate course in education (PGCE), which usually takes a year to complete.

Additionally, you can now obtain your PGCE whilst working in a school and earning an unqualified teacher salary with The Open University.

Teach First

Another route is Teach First, a two year teacher training program that prepares top graduates for teaching positions in disadvantaged areas, known as challenging schools. Trainees undergo an intensive six-week summer training before assuming full-time teaching roles.


You could also consider SCITT (School Centred Initial Teacher Training) through the School Direct programme, which lasts for 1 year based at the school that accepts you on the training. The school partners up with an accredited provider, usually a University or SCITT consortium. Trainees are progressively introduced to the responsibilities of a complete teaching role, initially beginning with a limited teaching schedule while observing lessons. As they progress and grow in their role, the amount of teaching time gradually increases.

Assessment only route

The assessment only route to QTS is intended for those with extensive teaching experience within school or educational environments. The pathway is specifically designed for teachers who have been engaged in unqualified teaching or for overseas-trained teachers who have already been actively teaching in the UK.

As part of this program, you will engage in teaching responsibilities while also participating in lesson observations. Over time, your teaching responsibilities will progressively increase as you advance in your role.

Supply teacher benefits

After completing your teacher training, you have the option to try and secure a permanent teaching post – or you could consider working as a supply teacher.

There are many benefits of choosing to go down the route of becoming a supply teacher, as it can provide many opportunities for your career path. Supply teaching will offer you the opportunity to gain more experience in a variety of schools and teaching practices, providing flexibility and career development.

When working as a supply teacher you can continue to develop and learn your own teaching style, while learning about your own school preferences, if a long-term post is your end goal.

You can complete short-term supply in a variety of schools, working with different age phases, councils, state or private schools, along with special needs schools. When doing this, you are able to find out your preferred teaching age group before you commit yourself to a long-term post, and even have the flexibility to have a change where you are working on a day-to-day basis.

When supply teaching, you have the flexibility to take on work on your suited days, allowing yourself to take days off for appointments, childcare or to go on holidays during term-time. You will often have a choice of year groups and schools to choose from to work with on that day. You have the choice for day-to-day work – where you work in different schools daily on short-term contracts, with limited responsibility and paperwork – or long-term contracts. With long-term contracts, such as covering a maternity leave, you would typically have more responsibility and workload, but still more flexibility than in permanent employment.

Choosing an agency

There are many different supply teaching agencies to choose from – but how much do supply teachers get paid? The short answer is more with Zen Educate. With supply teachers in such high demand, an online platform like Zen Educate is a much faster way of finding vacancies than traditional agencies. Speak directly with schools in-app and find jobs in seconds.

As well as being easier and quicker, you’ll earn a higher rate of pay, as Zen Educate cut out the big fees taken by agencies. Sign up today to get started.

Zen Educate is transforming how schools find great teachers.

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