train to be a trainer
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Here, Teacher Active explains the paths you can take to train to be a teacher, the funding available, and the benefits your life experience will bring to the classroom

A recent survey showed that more than half of UK workers weren’t sure if they were in the right career, and 40% of them were confident they would change their career entirely in the next two years. If you’ve always dreamt of training to be a teacher, but were worried you’d left it too late, then read on.

Am I too old to be a teacher?

The answer to that, quite simply, is no. Many people make the move into teaching after having fulfilling careers in various other industries. Whether you’re a fresh graduate or have 30 years’ experience in an entirely different industry, you are still capable of being a successful teacher and can make a meaningful impact on the students you teach.

So, there’s no need to worry about whether you’re too old, or if there’s a cut-off age limit. However, if you’re serious about training to be a teacher, it’s important you understand the steps involved.

To get into teacher training, you’ll be required to have an A*-C in GCSE English and maths (in addition to science, if you want to work in a primary school), alongside a degree. If you don’t meet the entry criteria, then you may need to take an equivalent test to demonstrate your ability – your training provider will let you know if this is required.

In order to enrol on a postgraduate teacher training course, you’ll need a degree or equivalent qualification. If you don’t have a degree, then you have two options: start working as an unqualified teacher, whilst going down the assessment only route to gaining qualified teacher status (QTS), or go down the further education teaching route, where you can gain qualifications while you teach, despite not having a degree.

You can find out more about the routes to getting into teacher training later on in life here.

Can I teach a subject that isn’t relevant to my previous career?

There are successful teachers across the country that have come from various industries – travel, construction and finance, to name a few. Whilst it may seem natural to teach a subject that is similar to what you have worked in over the years, it’s also perfectly normal to want to teach a subject that isn’t relevant at all.

If your chosen subject is one you studied to a high level at school or University, you can take a Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) course, that will help to refresh your knowledge and build upon your skills.

SKE courses are fully funded, so you don’t need to worry about paying tuition fees. In some cases, you may be eligible for a training bursary of up to £5,600 to support you through the duration of the course.

You can find out more about SKE courses – including the different subjects, the length of time, and the delivery of them – here.

Can I receive financial aid whilst I retrain to teach?

If it’s your financial situation that’s putting you off retraining to be a teacher, then you’ll be glad to hear that there are options available to help you through your training.

There are three types of funding that are available if you’re training to be a teacher; and depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for all three:

  • Tax-free bursary/scholarship
  • Tuition fee loan and maintenance loan
  • Financial support if you have a disability, or are a parent

There are tax-free bursaries and scholarships available of up to £30,000 if you’ve trained to teach a core academic subject such as maths, science or languages. To be eligible for this, you’ll need to have gained a first, 2:1, 2:2, Masters or PhD, and you can find out the available funding for specific subjects here.

If you already have a 2:1 degree or above, you can start earning a salary with Teach First. This is particularly popular with career changers and enables you to take a two-year, paid position in a school, whilst learning receiving world-class teaching and leadership training. By the end of it, you’ll have received a fully-funded Postgraduate Diploma in Education and Leadership (PGDE), with the option to top it up to a Masters.

With Teach First, you’ll receive the basic salary of an unqualified teacher, and in the second year, you’ll be paid the salary of a newly qualified teacher.

The other option is School Direct, where you can combine learning with working, enabling you to earn a salary. At the end of it, you’ll have become a qualified teacher. You can find these courses on UCAS.

Bring your invaluable life experience to the classroom

If it’s concern about your age that’s holding you back from enrolling in teacher training, then you shouldn’t let it stop you. In fact, having experience under your belt can be extremely beneficial, as your real-world experience is priceless, as it can’t be taught.

Maturity, perspective and patience are all characteristics that are learnt over time in the working world and will help you a great deal in the classroom. Plus, you’ll have so many life experiences that you’ll be able to apply to your teaching – whether that’s through your previous career, the places you’ve travelled to, or the people you’ve met. This is truly invaluable and can make a huge positive impact on your students.

To conclude, it’s never too late to train to be a teacher, and there are so many options available to you to start retraining. 94% of newly qualified teachers are employed in teaching just six months after completing their training, and you could be one of them. Whilst teaching may bring about its challenges, it’s a truly rewarding job, so if you’re considering retraining to be a teacher, we would urge you to go for it.

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