Education Quandary: Can I be a primary teacher with a degree in business studies?

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The Independent Online

Hilary's advice

The only qualifications you need to train as a primary school teacher are GCSEs at grade C or above in English, maths and a science subject.

With a first degree you can do a one-year postgraduate training, or a two-year part-time one, or train on the job. Your degree is in no way a handicap and ought to be an asset. Schools are now expected to encourage their pupils to be entrepreneurial and financially literate, but these aren't subjects that most primary school teachers have much experience of.

However the more important question to ask yourself is: do you really want to do it? Teaching is a very rewarding career, but also a hard slog to get qualified, especially for someone, like you, who has children at home to look after. And there will be no guarantee of a permanent job afterwards.

In some areas, falling primary school numbers are making it very hard for teachers to find work. I strongly advise you to spend some time in your local primary and secondary schools, as a volunteer or a visitor. See and feel the texture of school life and try to work out if it is really what you want. Study the Teacher Development Agency's website (www.tda.gov.uk) to find out more about routes into teaching and also the short taster courses it offers, and visit any universities or colleges in your area which are offering PGCE courses. Think, too, about how you will finance your training.

Readers' advice

I am presuming from the way your query is worded that you are an older lady who is going back after a career break. I would therefore advise you to think carefully. I myself was in this position and, although I loved teaching, I encountered a lot of prejudice about the fact that I had not entered the profession until my forties. I had to undertake supply work for a long time before I found a school willing to appoint me.

Adele Brookes, Cambridge

Someone with your qualifications would be better suited to teaching in a secondary school, or a further education college where there is much call for people with a business studies background.

In my experience, women who have been out of the workplace bringing up their children often assume that it is the younger children they want to teach because this is what they know, but it can also be rewarding to be a specialist subject teacher for older age groups.

Mike Newbold, London N22

Teaching is a great second career and your degree and life experience will be a true asset in the classroom. Teachers need wisdom, patience, balance and maturity to get through this demanding vocation. I switched from a job in market research and have never, for a moment, regretted it.

You will have hard days, the same as you would in any job, but you are never stuck behind a desk, the job is about people, and no two days are ever the same. Do it. You won't regret it.

Meg Matthews, Hertfordshire

Next Week's Quandary

Our children go to a flourishing and happy primary school with good value-added test scores, but Ofsted has decided it needs to be in "special measures". Do inspectors have any idea of the damage such a public decision causes? Why can't a less destructive way be found of providing help?

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to h.wilce@btinternet.com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries are online at www.hilarywilce.com. They can be searched by topic.

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