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Primary school teacher

  • Hours

    32.5 to 37 per week

  • Starting salary

    £21,804 + per year

In this job you will be helping to give young children the best possible start in life. If you like spending time with young children, and want to work in education, a job as a primary school teacher could be perfect for you.

A primary school teacher needs to have enthusiasm for the subjects they teach. You’ll need to be able to relate to pupils and their parents. You’ll also need patience and a good sense of humour.

One of the main routes into primary school teaching is to do Initial Teacher Education or Training (ITET) and get Qualified Teacher Status. To do this you must have GCSEs in English, maths and a science subject. You will also need clearance by the Disclosure and Barring Service.


The work

You would work with children aged between five and eleven in state and independent schools, and be responsible for their educational, social and emotional development while in your care.

You would teach subjects covered by the primary national curriculum at Key Stage 1 (ages 5 to 7) and Key Stage 2 (7 to 11) — subjects such as English, science, music and art. In some classes, you may have a teaching assistant to help you.

Depending on your qualifications and experience, you may work as a subject specialist teacher, where you would concentrate on a particular subject, for example maths or modern foreign languages.

 As well as teaching you would:

  • plan lessons and teaching materials
  • mark and assess children's work
  • manage class behaviour
  • work with other professionals, such as education psychologists and social workers
  • discuss children's progress and other relevant matters with parents and carers
  • attend meetings and training
  • organise outings, social activities and sports events.

As a primary teacher, you could also work with children under the age of five (Early Years Foundation Stage) in settings like a children’s centre or a reception class in a school.


Full-time teachers work an average 37 hours a week, with typical class times starting between 8.30am and 9.15am and finishing around 3.15pm to 4pm. Teachers may spend more time outside of normal hours, planning lessons, marking work and also taking part in activities, such as parents' evenings and outings.

Teachers normally work 39 weeks a year split over three school terms.


The main salary scale is from £21,804 to £31,868 a year (£27,270 to £36,751 in inner London).

Teachers who reach the top of the main salary scale may be able to progress to the higher scale. This ranges from £34,523 to £37,124 (£41,912 to £45,450 in inner London).

There are also separate scales for teachers who have advanced skills or progress into leadership roles, and additional payments for those who take on extra responsibilities.

See details of all the salary scales on the Department for Education website.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Entry requirements

The most common way to become a primary school teacher is to do Initial Teacher Education or Training (ITET) and gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). The following ITET routes lead to QTS:

  • undergraduate degree
  • postgraduate award
  • work-based programme.

For all routes you will need:

  • GCSEs (A-C) in English, maths and a science subject or equivalent qualifications. Check with course providers which qualifications they will accept
  • passes in numeracy and literacy skills tests
  • Enhanced background checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) - formerly the Criminal Records Bureau.

You can find information about the skills tests, what's in them and where to book one on the National College for Teaching and Leadership website.

See the DBS website for information about checks.

You will also need experience of working with young children through paid work or volunteering for example, at a local school or on a holiday play scheme. The NCTL has useful advice about contacting schools for work experience.

Undergraduate degree route

You can study for a university degree and gain QTS at the same time by doing one of the following courses:

  • BA (Hons) degree or BSc (Hons) degree with QTS
  • Bachelor of Education (BEd) degree course.

These are usually full-time courses and take three to four years. 

To get on to a degree course, you would normally need at least five GCSEs (A-C) and two A levels. Some universities may prefer to see A levels related to national curriculum subjects. Universities may also accept equivalent qualifications, like an Access to Higher Education course or a Level 3 Diploma. Check with training providers for their exact entry requirements.

Find out more about national curriculum subjects on the following website:

Go to the UCAS website to search for degree courses.

Postgraduate routes

If you have a degree in a subject area relevant to the primary national curriculum, you can gain QTS by doing a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) course. Courses are one year, full-time or two years, part-time. A small number of flexible courses are available mainly aimed at those already working as unqualified teachers.

You can search for all PGCE courses and apply online through UCAS.

Work-based routes

There are several options you can look at if you prefer to train and work in a school at the same time. These options are very popular and there is a lot of competition for places.

School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT)

SCITT is a classroom-based training programme that takes one year, and is aimed at those who already have a degree related to a national curriculum subject.

The programmes are run by groups of schools and colleges within a local area and you would spend time in one or more of the schools while doing your training.

School Direct

This option replaces the Graduate Teaching Programme and has two alternatives:

  • School Direct Training Programme
  • School Direct Training Programme (with salary).

You will need a degree for either option, and for the paid training route you will also need a minimum of three years’ working experience. The aim is to attract people into teaching, who can bring in skills and knowledge from commerce and industry.

You can apply directly to schools offering the programmes and work while you are training. Both options take around 12 months to complete and lead to QTS.

Contact the NCTL for a list of schools taking part in School Direct.

Teach First

Teach First is a charity that runs a two-year teacher training and leadership programme for graduates with a good degree (2:1 or higher). Training is based within schools located in areas facing social and economic challenges. See the Teach First website for more details.

Troops to Teachers

Troops to Teachers is a two-year programme aimed at non-graduates leaving the armed forces who would like to retrain as primary or secondary school teachers. To apply, you will need some prior qualifications and/or experience of delivering training from your time in the forces. You will also need a minimum of a weeks’ work experience in a school.

The programme combines work in the classroom with university study, and you would receive a training salary over the two years. Armed forces personnel who already have a degree can apply through the other teacher training options listed on this profile.

Visit the Troops to Teachers website for more details.

Overseas Trained Teacher Programme (OTTP)

Teachers who have teaching qualifications from another country should check the career opportunities pages of the Department for Education website for details about extra training that may be needed to work in schools in England and Wales.

Moving from further education into school teaching

Since April 2012, lecturers in further education who hold Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status, and are members of the Institute for Learning, can be employed in primary or secondary schools as fully qualified teachers. See the Department for Education pages on QTLS recognition for more information.

Visit the NCTL website for full details of all entry routes into teaching and funding for training.

Training and development

After your teacher training course, you would need to successfully complete three terms in a teaching job before you could gain QTS. During this time a mentor would support you.

Throughout your teaching career you would also need to continue training to keep up to date with new methods and ideas in education. You could do this by attending training days in school and local authority training workshops.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership also offers programmes for:

  • teachers who are taking on leadership and management responsibilities, including heads of subject or area and subject co-ordinators
  • deputy head teachers, assistant head teachers and those hoping to move up to their first headship
  • newly-appointed, first time head teachers
  • leaders in early years settings.

To find out more visit:

Transferring to another age group

You do not need to do further training to transfer to teaching another age group. However, schools recommend that you get some experience of the age group you are intending to teach. This could be on a voluntary basis.

Some local education authorities and teacher training institutions may offer short conversion or refresher courses. 

Returning to teaching

If you are a qualified teacher wanting to return to teaching after a career break you can find information on the NCTL website. This includes details of returners' courses and other available support.

Skills, interests and qualities

As a primary school teacher, you will need:

  • enthusiasm for the subjects you teach
  • the ability to develop good relationships with pupils, parents, carers and colleagues
  • a strong commitment to equal opportunities
  • the ability to work in a team and also use your own initiative
  • creative ideas to inspire the children
  • the ability to organise and manage time
  • the ability to manage classes and deal with challenging behaviour
  • excellent communication skills
  • patience and a good sense of humour.

More information

National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) - Get into Teaching (Opens new window)
Teaching Information Line (freephone): 0800 389 2500

UCAS - Teacher Training (Opens new window)



Most teaching jobs are in state schools but you could also work in independent schools, academies, pupil referral units, hospitals and schools run by the armed forces. Part-time and temporary teaching (supply teaching) is possible.

As an experienced teacher you may become an Advanced Skills Teacher (AST), supporting other teachers as well as teaching your own class.

In most schools you could progress to curriculum leader, deputy head teacher and head teacher. You could also choose to specialise in teaching pupils with special educational needs or move into private tuition.

You may find the following links useful for vacancies and general reading:

Job market information

This section gives you an overview of the job area that this profile belongs to. You can use it to work out your next career move. It can help if you’re looking for a job now or want to do some further training.

The 'Market statistics' charts are based on figures from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The list of job vacancies under 'Apply for jobs' is from the Universal Jobmatch database. The vacancies are not from the National Careers Service.

Median income: Education
Avg Inc
UK Sector
27017 36756
Gender: Education
Female Male
63 37
Working pattern: Education
Part-time Full-time Self-employed
35 53 12
Gaps in sector due to skills shortages: Education
This sector All vacancies
13.2 16.2
Employment forecast: Education
Forecast Employment Figures
Year Predicted nos. employed
2014 1171000
2015 1183000
2016 1201000
2017 1221000
2018 1242000
2019 1262000
2020 1281000

Jobs available on Universal Jobmatch

DateJob TitleCompany NameLocation
17/04/2014Early Years 2HY, Leeds
18/04/2014Early Years Teacher at Flowery Field PriJobsgopublic (Job Warehouse Only)Hyde
04/04/2014VAC - 1899 Early Years Teacher Required – Tunbridge WellsTerm Time TeachersRoyal Tunbridge Wells
05/04/2014Early Years
05/04/2014Early Years TeacherStrike JobsStockport

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