The past few years have been a difficult time to be a teacher. From the immense challenge of the rapid switch to online teaching because of the COVID-19 pandemic, to the Spring disputes over pay and conditions, teachers – and the teaching profession - have found themselves under an unprecedented amount of pressure. With the United Kingdom seeing a trend in declining numbers applying to become teachers, policy makers and educators are focused on answering the important question....
Why should people consider entering teaching as a career?
Sarah Stewart, Director of The Open University in Wales’ post-graduate certificate in education (PGCE) programme gives her top five reasons.
Yes, it is quite simply one of the most rewarding jobs you can have. No day is the same, and like any job it has its challenges. But unlike any other job, teachers nurture and inspire the next generation, and over their career play a vital part in the lives of hundreds if not thousands of children. But most teachers will look back fondly on their careers when they think of the difference they’ve made to young peoples’ lives.
Many teachers are passionate about the things they teach. This could be a classic novel, a scientific discovery, or a period in history. To see a child get excited about something you’re excited about is as motivating as it can get.
Teaching can also be about helping grow a pupil's confidence or develop a skill they thought they couldn't do. At its heart, it's all about unlocking potential.
Few jobs can compete with that.
It’s called the teaching community for a reason.
When you become a teacher, you join a family of professionals. You’re working with the same young people, towards the same goals.
There are people like you who may be new to teaching, but have a wealth of life and career experiences. You can bring exciting new ideas and a different perspective, as you learn from and work alongside experienced colleagues. You'll be working alongside colleagues with decades of experience. As well as teaching young people, you'll be developing each others' careers.
But it doesn’t end there. Schools in Wales organise themselves into clusters and regional networks. This means that collaboration, training and planning happen as part of a wider system. You’ll be working with people on a much bigger scale – not just your primary or secondary school.
Many of the people you meet both in your school and in the community as a whole will be colleagues you'll value. Some may even become friends for life.
Wales’ classrooms are diverse, and our teaching workforce should reflect that. It's important for pupil development that they see people they can relate to as teachers. It's also important that they can learn from people from other backgrounds.
According to the most recent School Workforce Annual Census (SWAC) for Wales, almost three-quarters of the teaching workforce is female. This means that we need to see greater gender representation in teaching and Primary school pupils would also benefit from having more men teaching our young children.
Only 1.1% of teachers are of Black, Asian, mixed or other ethnicity. For many of Wales' 12% of children from a BAME background, they will not see themselves reflected by the teachers in their classrooms.
There are financial incentives for people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds to take up teaching. This is also true if you wish to study your PGCE in Welsh, or teach a priority subject.
It’s worth taking a look to see if you can help diversify the workforce.
Simply put, we’ll always need teachers.
Many other jobs, as rewarding as they are, can be vulnerable to external factors. It could be the performance of the economy, or changes to consumer trends. As a teacher, you’ll always have an employer and customers – children to teach.
The strikes highlighted the pressures that teachers can face. School leaders have urged government to continue to find ways to improve teachers' terms and conditions. Teacher pay, as with other sectors, may not have kept pace with the demands of today's cost of living, but other aspects, such as teacher pensions, remain appealing. Flexible working arrangements are becoming more normal, and holiday entitlement remains to be a real benefit for if you love to travel or have a young family.
In fact, it’s more flexible than ever.
It doesn’t matter where you live in Wales, universities across the country are offering a PGCE programme. Head over to educators.wales/teachers, and you can see a list of them there. (You’ll need an undergraduate degree to apply).
Each of these universities has an accredited programme which will give you qualified teacher status. In short – you can get a job as a teacher as soon as you finish it.
The Open University in Wales (where I work) even offers a two-year part-time route which allows people to study from home, at a time that suits them. This is great if you want to change careers, but still want to earn money while you study. There’s a salaried route as well for staff already working in schools.
Studying to become a teacher is still hard work – but it’s never been more flexible. Education reform in Wales means that you would be amongst some of the earliest generations of teachers prepared fully for the new curriculum for Wales and all its possibilities.
This is why we’re finding more people with varied experience heading to teaching as a career choice.
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