Primary education: teaching specialism
Primary schools provide initial compulsory education and include infant schools for 5 to 7-year-olds, junior schools for 7 to 11-year-olds, or combined junior and infant schools for all under 11s. In addition, many primary schools run a foundation class for pupils in the year before they begin compulsory education. Some parts of England operate a slightly different system in which 5 to 8-year-olds attend a first school then progress to a middle school (age ranges vary but fall between 8 and 14), before attending an upper school.
Teachers are responsible for the delivery of all subjects within the framework of the national curriculum, with particular emphasis on the core subjects of literacy, numeracy and science. Teachers are also accountable for testing that takes place at the end of key stages 1 and 2. Class sizes can vary enormously (from 20 to 40 depending on the size and structure of the school). If a class is relatively large, it may be split into a number of separate groups for different subjects so that the whole class is rarely taught together.
The role of support staff in primary education
Work/life balance for teachers has been improved by increasing the number of support staff in schools, which has reduced the number of administrative tasks a teacher has to do. A minimum of ten per cent of the working week is planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time, to ease teachers’ workloads.
Specialist training in primary education
To teach at primary level you will need to have qualified teacher status (QTS). Classroom teachers need broad subject knowledge and many primary teachers take three- or four-year bachelor of education (BEd) courses that give them the skills to prepare for the classroom. Alternatively, graduates can follow the PGCE, SCITT, Teach First or School Direct training programmes.
The government wants more primary schools to be able to employ teachers who can work as specialist subject teachers in the sciences, maths, languages or other subjects. As a result of this, primary ITT courses are available in a range of subjects. Graduates who take up primary maths specialist teaching are eligible for a bursary of up to £6,000 if they have a 2.2 or higher.
Recruiting men into teaching
The lack of male primary teachers has been a cause for concern, giving rise to fears that children were missing out on male role models at an early stage in their education. There are signs that this has begun to change in the wake of a drive to recruit more male graduates into teaching.
The ability to multitask is vital for being an effective primary teacher. Even if you're speaking to one child, you still need to be aware of what's going on in the rest of the classroom to anticipate and avoid potential problems. A good sense of humour can also be a bonus.
It's extremely rewarding to see how far a child has developed in the year you've been teaching them – it's great being able to help individuals achieve things they didn't know they could.