Your Career• 3 Min read

1st July 2019

How to become a secondary school teacher

Secondary school teachers educate children from the age of 11 to 18. It can be an immensely rewarding job – a teacher’s value to a student cannot be overstated.

What qualifications does a teacher need?

To teach in England and Wales in a state-funded school, you will need to have a Bachelor of Education (BEd) or a BSc/BA with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). 

To gain QTS there are a number of requirements:

✔ GCSE grades at least 4 or C in Maths and English

✔ A GCSE science grade 4 or C at least for primary teaching

✔ Passing x3 professional skills tests in literacy and numeracy (England) 

✔ A degree in, or related to, the subject you are teaching for secondary school teaching

✔ A completed Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) course if there is a national shortage for the subject you want to teach and your degree is not in that subject, but is closely related

✔ A criminal record check

In addition to these qualification requirements, you may be asked to fill in a declaration of health and a declaration of criminal convictions questionnaires.

Does a teacher need work experience?

Yes, teacher training providers expect you to have classroom experience and this is a way of finding out whether teaching is right for you, as well as gaining some new skills and knowledge.

There are various options available:

What skills does a teacher need?

Teaching comes with great responsibility; you will have the potential to change a student’s life for the better and make an impact on them for the rest of their life. To teach effectively, there are certain skills which will be beneficial, including:

Adaptability and understanding

Children learn at different paces and in different ways, so as a teacher you will need to have the skill to adapt a lesson for all abilities and personalities. 

Teachers must also have the skill to understand the cognitive, social and emotional development of learners. They need to observe and understand what is needed to ensure that all students needs are met and that the teaching is inclusive. Teachers should be continually learning throughout their career, participating in professional development to make sure they know the latest research to keep their skillset fresh and up-to-date.

Excellent literacy and numeracy skills

Your students will be looking to you as their guide, so it is essential that your literacy and numeracy skills are exemplary.

Preparation and organisation skills

Teachers spend many hours preparing lessons and this can involve extensive reading and research. With limited time and a long list of tasks, you must plan their time meticulously to ensure that classroom teaching and administration is done efficiently.

The ability to engage and motivate

As a teacher you need to be skilled in engaging and motivating your students this is essential for successful learning.

Creativity and imagination

A teacher needs to take the initiative to find new ways of learning so that the students stay engaged and focused. 

Expert communication

Teachers need to communicate to their students so they are fully understood. There is a skill in communicating in a clear and concise way, especially to students with different ways of learning. 


The teacher needs to maintain authority at all times and so leadership and people management skills are an integral part of the job. Students need a teacher to be in charge to set boundaries, guide them and set the tone of the class. 

What are the responsibilities of a teacher?

All students deserve to learn in a safe environment and the teacher has the responsibility to provide this. As a teacher you need to:

  • Present lessons effectively so students understand and absorb the information
  • Plan engaging lessons 
  • Provide constructive feedback to your students 
  • Support and encourage your students
  • Keep up-to-date with the subject/s you are teaching
  • Identify individual student needs
  • Mark the students work with care and attention
  • Follow Safeguarding and Health and Safety regulations
  • Teach all students without stereotyping or discriminating 
  • Keep student information confidential when needed
  • Act professionally at all times

What are the advantages of being a teacher?

As a secondary school teacher, you will see your students grow and develop from children into young adults and your role is to inspire them to become life-long learners as they go into further education or a chosen career. The difference that your hard work can make in a student’s life can be priceless. This is one of the reasons that people become teachers is to make a difference the rewards can be immeasurable. 

There are also other advantages, such as opportunities for:

Continuous learning as a teacher you will have to keep up-to-date with the latest teaching research and learning styles that will benefit your classes and individual students. Continuous Professional Development (CPD) courses are available. You will be constantly expanding your skill-set and increasing your experience and knowledge. You will also be able to come up with innovative solutions to problems that may arise. This continuous learning will add to your confidence and successes and provide job satisfaction.

Sharing your passion as a secondary school teacher you will be teaching in the field of your interest. As you are sharing your expertise and interests, you will naturally be enthusiastic and in turn, this will help to spark the students’ interest.

Convenient working hours although teachers often have to take work home with them, the convenience of the teaching hours and summers off with 195 days a year spent in school can be helpful for a positive work/life balance.

A fresh year, every year with a new start to each school year, and new students starting each September, you will find that each year brings new challenges and new rewards. 

What does a teacher earn?

Public schools have their own rates of pay for their teaching staff, but state schools follow a teacher pay scale.

Teacher salaries vary across the UK as there are so many different teaching positions within a secondary school and pay also varies from area to area (teachers in London, for example, can earn £5,000 more a year for the same role).

Newly qualified teacher from £23,720 to £29,664 

Qualified teacher:

England (excluding London) and Wales £23,720 to £35,008

Inner London £29,664 to £47,751 

Outer London £27,596 to £43,348 

The fringes of London £24,859 to £41,268

Northern Ireland £22,243 to £37,870 

Scotland £27,438 to £36,480 

Teachers who have exceptional success in their role can become lead practitioners with a Lead Practitioner Accreditation and for this additional role, they are paid more.

Headteacher salary:

England (excluding London) and Wales £45,213 to £111,007

London £46,318 to £118,490

Northern Ireland £43,664 to £108,282

Scotland £45,111 to £88,056

What are the working hours of a teacher?

The typical working hours for a secondary school teacher are 37-40 hours a week. However, longer working hours are well reported, so if you are choosing to teach as a career you will have to be realistic about the working hours and lifestyle. Most would agree that the rewards that can be found in this vital job are priceless to individuals, and society as a whole. 

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