“I’ve never been out of work,” says Aaron Saxton, head of ICT at Ashton on Mersey School in Cheshire. He qualified four years ago and was taken on immediately by the school where he’d trained. Within four years he’d progressed to management level. “You definitely get a good grounding from your training. And you do feel more secure in your job.”
When work is scarce, teachers still have a good chance of finding the work they love. Teaching Agency figures show that nine out of 10 new teachers looking for a post find one in their first year after qualifying.
“Nearly all of our secondary level teachers who want a job will find one,” says Professor Debra Myhill from the University of Exeter Graduate School.
Figures released this spring show that more than a third of university graduates have no option but to take low-skilled jobs such as cleaning – up from a quarter of graduates a decade ago.
One in five new graduates is unemployed, says the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Not only are teachers more likely to get a job, they’re twice as likely to stay there, says the Teaching Agency. Some 44 per cent of graduates in popular non-teaching roles switch career within the first three and a half years, compared to just 21 per cent of teachers.
As job hunters, teachers can draw on direct experience gained during training.
Two or more substantial placements in schools equip trainees not only with references and a proven track record in the classroom, but might also offer the possibility of further work.
Many trainees are offered a job in the school where they completed a placement and others are advised of posts in other schools by supportive staff.
“Trainees are very well prepared for what they encounter,” says Myhill. “We try and get them through the ‘initial practice ’ element of teaching as early as possible during their placement so they are ready to push to higher levels. They continue to develop professionally.”
Maths teacher Kris Spreadborough found a job at Plymouth’s Marine Academy during a “brilliant time” on another placement, and was ready to start as soon as he qualified in 2011. “Between two placements at very different schools, I feel I was prepared for wherever I would have been employed.”
He’s preparing to begin teaching the academy’s sixth formers next year, and is mulling his options. “With this career I can see there is a path you can take to help you aspire. Your colleagues can help – we are all trying to get the best out of our students.”
Careers advisers recommend that you begin hunting for a job at the start of the spring term. “If you have difficulty finding what you’re looking for, don’t despair,” says the Teacher Support network. “It’s not unusual for some schools to wait until the beginning of the summer to advertise vacancies.”
“If you keep plugging away with applications, you’ll get a job: there are nearly 500,000 teaching posts in England alone,” says author and teacher Francis Gilbert.
As Saxton found, opportunities to reach more senior levels are there for the taking. Teachers are twice as likely to reach management level just four years into their career, compared to peers in other graduate careers, such as accountancy and law.
Starting salaries are competitive. A newly qualified teacher will start on an average £22,800. Experienced teachers can earn up to £64,000 in London and £56,000 in other parts of the UK, while head teachers earn an average £84,600 in secondary schools, and in some cases up to £112,000.
“As a teacher, you are highly employable. There are so many opportunities within teaching – it’s probably one of the most flexible careers you could choose,” says Myhill.
Case study: Kerry Tabb, 25
Kerry Tabb, 25 is in her second year of teaching at All Saints School in Dagenham. She completed a PGCE in 2010 at the University of East London after a first degree at Queen’s University Belfast.
“I’ve just found out our students are going to be involved in the opening ceremony of the Olympics. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – they were ecstatic.
It’s a wonderful feeling. They’ve been torturing me for days asking whether they’re in. I’m in charge of the Olympic organisation at school and that’s a great thing to put on my CV.
There are so many opportunities in London with so much going on there. Once I saw what was going on here work-wise, there was no going back. This is a great city to work in: the children have great personalities and there’s a big community of younger teaching staff so we all socialise together. I’m on a permanent contract.
At home (in Northern Ireland) I’d have been lucky to get even temporary work. Some of my (non-teaching) friends have emigrated or gone back to university as they haven’t found work.
I’ve always wanted to teach, and this was the second job I applied for. Out of my year group nearly everybody got a job.
Training helped massively; it gave me ideas and a sense of what type of school suited me. I like a smaller community school, where you can walk down the corridor and say hello to the students.
Just make sure you have as much experience as possible when you come into teaching. Be open to trying new things, have a broad range of strategies in your locker.”
My first day
Nirvana Plante is in her fourth year of teaching French and Spanish at Arthur Terry School in Sutton Coldfield.
“I was quite shaky, my knees were knocking, but once I had settled in I really did think ‘this is great’. It’s a good idea to get the background on your class, and a list of names beforehand. I took some time to do the introductions, I didn’t launch straight into instructions. All of the children wanted to know who I was and where I had come from, so it was good for building up relationships (to start with).”
To find out more about teaching, visit education.gov.uk/getintoteaching