How teaching became top choice for graduates

Teaching is now an exciting career that attracts the highest calibre of candidates. Why? Because the rewards it offers are priceless...

No one pretends educating today’s children and young people is easy – that’s why it’s a job for the top performing graduates of today. It’s a profession that will test you to the limit, draw on all your resources and challenge you to the hilt – but you are supported every step of the way.

“If you’re really ambitious and prepared to work hard, there are plenty of opportunities for promotion, even at an early stage of your career,” says Neil Dhanda, who became head of modern languages at a London comprehensive school after just four years.

As a career, teaching offers a host of career possibilities – from management to regional specialisms or a focus on pastoral care. “Applications with us have risen this year – in quality and quantity,” says Professor Debra Myhill, associate dean at the University of Exeter’s Graduate School of Education. “Teaching is a high level professional career of the utmost importance.”

Teaching appeals to the brightest graduates – last year’s entrants were the highest qualified yet, with the most 2:1s and firsts on record, says the Teaching Agency. “There’s never been a better time to teach,” says Lin Hinnigan, chief executive of the agency. “It’s a very different profession today. Bright graduates who go into the classroom can quickly gain increasing levels of responsibility and have a broad range of career progression opportunities.”

“It’s a demanding job,” says Kirstie Green, a teacher since 2009. “But it’s very special and so much more rewarding – you get such immediate feedback. Suddenly I’m looking at all these different routes I could take with my work.”

It’s challenging, but you are supported throughout your journey from trainee to the day you face your first class, with close mentoring and professional development as your career progresses.

“Teachers are mutually encouraging and open and happy to share their resources and knowledge,” says Green.

This is a sentiment reflected by many new to the profession. “I never have to hesitate about asking for advice on anything, because everyone is so supportive,” agrees Dhanda.

From guidance on applications through to strategies for managing behaviour, teacher training is targeted, practical and effective – nearly 90 percent of newly qualified teachers declare themselves highly satisfied with the quality of the instruction. As a result, trainees have never been better prepared to enter the classroom.

This year, graduates in sought after subjects such as maths, physics, chemistry and foreign languages are eligible for tax-free bursaries of up to £20,000 on secondary training courses. Bursaries for primary level are available up to £9,000. Training places are being snapped up faster than last year, so hurry if you’re thinking of teaching for a career, advises the Teaching Agency, because the current level of bursaries might only be available this year.

Knowing your subject is crucial – and here the agency can help with access to refresher courses.

“This is an endlessly fulfilling and challenging job if you don’t panic,” says Francis Gilbert, secondary school teacher and author of I’m a Teacher, Get Me Out of Here. He expects the focus on more creative approaches in schools will entice better quality trainees.

“That can only be a good thing for genuinely talented people who want to go into teaching,” he says.

Teachers in the sought-after subjects will also benefit from one-to-one guidance with a personal adviser who can help right from the start of the application process through to the start of your training.

“Teaching is a highly professionalised career requiring the highest calibre of professionals we can get,” says Myhill. “A good teacher can bring their own experience to the classroom, give the pupils a fresh outlook and show them what they can achieve.”

My first day

Katrina Crowley, 23, she began teaching in September 2011 at Holy Cross Catholic Primary in Walmley, Sutton Coldfield.

I was excited but apprehensive because it could all go wrong. I'd come in during the summer just to get used to the place. I'd heard you should have a straight face on the first day, but as soon as I saw my year one class I had to smile. They made such lovely, funny comments. A few tested the boundaries so we went through the classroom rules. When I sat in the chair, I got a real sense of the power you have as a teacher.

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