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Primary school teachers provide initial compulsory education for children up to the age of 11, typically teaching a broad range of curriculum subjects.

A science or technology background can be advantageous, as can extra skills such as music.

What does a primary school teacher do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Primary school teachers typically teach the broad range of subjects included in the national curriculum, with particular emphasis on the core subjects of literacy, numeracy and science. Some specialise in a particular subject, such as maths, languages or science, and there are teacher training courses to support this.

Primary school teaching is a rewarding career with good employment prospects. Teachers may be supported in the classroom by teaching assistants and can progress by taking on additional responsibilities, such as becoming head of year or taking on the role of special educational needs coordinator. It is rarely a 9.00 am to 3.00 pm job, as there is usually preparation to be done before and after school hours during term-time.

Typical responsibilities include:

  • lesson planning and preparation
  • checking pupils' work
  • attending parents' evenings
  • preparing for Ofsted inspections
  • running extracurricular activities
  • undertaking professional development

Our advice on primary education will give you more insight into what it is like to work in this area.

Typical employers of primary school teachers

Primary teachers are employed within state-maintained, voluntary-controlled (such as religious-aided) and private schools. Teaching vacancies are advertised in local authority jobs lists, the Times Educational Supplement, The Guardian and local newspapers. They are also advertised by individual schools, agencies, teacher registration schemes and databases for specific local authority areas, and pool application systems.

You can find out more about from our advice on where to look for teaching jobs.

Qualifications and training required

A degree is a standard requirement for anyone who wants to obtain qualified teacher status (QTS) and teach in state-maintained schools. There are several different postgraduate teacher training routes open to graduates in England who wish to train as primary school teachers. These include the PGCE (Postgraduate or Professional Graduate Certificate in Education), School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT), employment-based School Direct training programmes and Teach First. Teacher training routes can vary in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Overview of teacher training routes in England

Training to teach in Scotland

Training to teach in Wales

Training to teach in Northern Ireland

Most initial teacher training programmes in England and Wales use the UCAS Teacher Training application system and it is advisable to apply early in the final year of your university studies. You can apply to a mixture of primary and secondary teacher training courses if you wish.

Some teacher training providers prefer you to have a degree in a national curriculum subject if you are applying for primary teacher training. A science or technology background can be an advantage, as can extra skills such as music. You will need GSCEs or equivalent at grade C/4 in English, maths and science.

You will be required to pass a disclosure and barring service check.

To find out more about how you can get into careers in education via a school leaver route, go to the teaching section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.

Key skills for primary school teachers

  • Enthusiasm
  • Imagination
  • Commitment
  • Energy
  • Discipline

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