How to get the work experience you need to teach

How to get the work experience you need to teach

Training providers want to know that you have the skills and motivation to teach, and you'll usually be required to have experience of working with children of the relevant age – preferably in a school environment.

Many training providers, particularly for PGCE courses, stipulate that this experience should have been for a minimum of two weeks and prefer it to have been done in a state school. Getting classroom experience will also help to confirm that teaching is the right career for you.

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 you get work experience?

Use your contacts through family and friends. You can also contact schools directly to ask for work experience or to observe classes or shadow teachers. EduBase has a list of all schools.

Work experience in schools is popular and it may take time to arrange a placement so try to plan in advance. There are also a number of formal schemes which can help:

  • School Experience Programme (SEP): This is a programme for final year students and graduates interested in gaining experience in the classroom and considering teaching mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, geography, history, English or a modern foreign language (MFL) at secondary level.
  • Student tutoring programmes: Some institutions offer student tutoring programmes through which you go into schools to help with classes. These programmes are often available through university careers services or students' unions.
  • 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 around 40 hours working in schools. It may also be possible for students of mathematics, science, technology or engineering to become STEM ambassadors, which involves enthusing school students about these subjects and the careers they open up.
  • Taster courses and open days: These are organised by universities and colleges offering PGCE courses 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 (LA) websites or through recruitment agencies.
  • Voluntary work: Most LAs run schemes for voluntary mentors to work with pupils on a one-to-one basis. Contact your LA for more information. Many universities work closely with local schools to encourage pupils to consider higher education (HE).

Tips for work experience

  • Keep a diary of any work experience you do; this will be invaluable when it comes to writing your applications or preparing for interviews.
  • 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 Paul Charman, University of Nottingham

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