How to get the work experience you need to teach in a primary or secondary school

9 Oct 2023, 09:53

Find out about the expectations of teacher training providers when it comes to getting primary and secondary school experience.

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Training providers want to know that you have the skills and motivation to teach. You will usually be required to show you have work experience with children of the relevant age – preferably in a primary or secondary school environment.

What teaching work experience in schools do I need?

Getting classroom experience will help to confirm that teaching is the right career for you. Schools should be able to give you the opportunity to observe classroom teaching and pastoral work. Some providers may stipulate a minimum period of classroom experience, but it is always worth checking to get an up-to-date understanding of what is required.

If you're not able to complete the experience quickly, don't delay sending your application - but state in the application that you have experience arranged in the near future.

How do I approach primary and secondary schools to get work experience?

Use your contacts through family and friends. You can also contact schools directly to ask for work experience, observe classes or shadow teachers. Research where you could apply at Get Information about Schools .

You may be requested to obtain a DBS check.

What are other ways to get the work experience I need to teach?

What are other ways to get the work experience I need to teach?

Work experience in schools is popular and it may take time to arrange a placement, so try to plan in advance. Although you can approach schools speculatively (for example by writing to a local school asking for work experience), there are also a number of formal schemes which can help:

  • Get School Experience service (England only) : This is a programme for students and graduates interested in gaining experience in the classroom. School placements that range from one day to three weeks are available in all subjects (at secondary and primary levels) to those planning to apply for teacher training courses in the current cycle. You can apply online for the Get School Experience service.
  • Paid teaching internship programme (England only) : This offers a three week internship in a school paying £300 per week in June/July. It is only available in certain subjects and in 2023 they were: chemistry, computing, maths, physics and languages. Applications for 2023 are now closed. Applications for summer 2024 will open in early 2024 and information on applicable subjects will be released then too.
  • Undergraduate Ambassadors Scheme (UAS) : If you are a mathematics, science, technology or engineering undergraduate, your department may offer a classroom-based module. This would involve spending 3-4 hours per week working in school for around ten weeks. You will get credit that counts towards your degree while also gaining valuable classroom experience. There are currently participating universities in England, Scotland and Wales.
  • STEM ambassadors : It may also be possible for students of mathematics, science, technology or engineering to become STEM ambassadors. This involves enthusing school students about these subjects and the careers they open up.
  • Taster courses and open days : These are organised by schools, universities and others (such as Teach First) to provide an insight into teaching and teacher training. Taster courses tend to be targeted at shortage subjects or candidates from under-represented groups.
  • Paid work : You may be able to obtain paid work in schools as a cover supervisor, teaching assistant, laboratory technician or learning mentor, for example. These posts are usually advertised on local authority websites or through recruitment agencies.
  • Voluntary work : Most local authorities run schemes for voluntary mentors to work with pupils on a one-to-one basis - contact your local authority for more information. Many universities work closely with local schools to encourage pupils to consider higher education.

For advice on alternative ways to gain work experience for teacher training, take a look at our article becoming a mentor .

Tips for work experience in primary and secondary schools

  • Keep a diary of any work experience you do. This will be invaluable when it comes to writing your applications or preparing for interviews. Record the key skills you have gained doing your work experience; such as communication, leadership, presenting and organisational skills.
  • Write notes about anything that you experience. For example, if a lesson did not work - think about how you would do it differently.
  • Think about classroom control, different teaching styles and effective uses of technology.

Written by Chloe Evans, Cardiff University, July 2023

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Occasionally targetjobs will work with another organisation to provide impartial careers content. This is to provide you with the most relevant information to make the best decisions about your future. As such, ‘in partnership’ content has been written or sourced by the partner organisation and edited by targetjobs as part of a content partnership.

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