Job descriptions and industry overviews

Teacher (primary): job description

21 Jun 2023, 15:39

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

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

Primary school teachers usually 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.

Primary school teaching is a rewarding career with a range of opportunities to progress (such as becoming a head of year) and develop specialisms (such as taking on the role of special educational needs coordinator). It’s not always an easy job – hours can be long as there’s usually preparation to be done before and after school hours during term-time. However, you’ll be allocated time for your planning during the day, and you may well be supported by teaching assistants in the classroom. In your first two years, you’ll also have specialist support, including a mentor, to help you settle into your career.

Typical responsibilities include:

  • lesson planning and preparation
  • creating learning resources
  • checking pupils' work and providing feedback
  • attending parents' evenings
  • preparing for inspections
  • running extracurricular activities
  • undertaking professional development.

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


Your starting salary is likely to be £25,000 to £32,000. There’s a salary scale for teachers in state-controlled schools that’s negotiated between unions and employers. You’ll start at the bottom of the scale and work your way up as you gain experience. Take a look at our teaching salary guide for the latest pay scale.

Typical employers of primary school teachers

  • State-maintained and voluntary-controlled (such as religious-aided) schools
  • Private schools.
  • Pupil referral units.

Graduate teaching jobs are advertised on, and on local and central government websites. They’re also often advertised on national newspapers’ sites and specialist education recruiters’ sites.

Qualifications and training required

You’ll need a degree along with qualified teacher status if you want to teach in state-maintained primary schools. There are several different graduate teacher training routes available in England. 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.

Alongside your degree, you will need fives GSCEs or equivalent at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) in English, maths and science, and you’ll also have to pass an enhanced disclosure and barring service check.

Teacher training routes can vary in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Most initial teacher training programmes in England and Wales use the centralised teacher training application system . It’s a good idea to apply early in the final year of your university studies as teaching is a popular postgraduate option and places can fill quickly. You can apply to a mixture of primary and secondary teacher training courses.

There are bursaries available for graduates wanting to teach certain subjects where there’s a shortage of specialist teachers.

Key skills for primary school teachers

  • Excellent communication skills.
  • An understanding of how children learn.
  • The ability to think on your feet.
  • Leadership skills.
  • IT skills.

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