Can I Teach Secondary with a Primary PGCE Qualification

Can I Teach Secondary with a Primary PGCE Qualification?

Researching and deciding you would like to teach at a secondary school in the UK means you’re moving from a lower to higher key stage of teaching. Possibly you’d like a new challenge, career direction or have a different goal teaching you’re subject.

For some people teaching one specialist subject is a main goal, cutting down on lesson planning or you wish to develop as a teacher educating older school children.

Qualified UK teachers with good subject knowledge, primary PGCE & QTS can teach secondary as you don’t need to retrain and there’s no conversion course in England or Wales.

Secondary teacher job role

For a secondary school to offer a qualified teacher a class teaching job in a specialist subject you must have:

  • Qualification related to the subject.
  • Good theory & practical subject knowledge you wish to teach.
  • Accurate admin skills to keep individual records of student progress, homework and testing.
  • Excellent behaviour management techniques.
  • Ability to lesson plan to engage learners of all abilities.
  • Able to motivate and inspire pupils in engaging lessons towards the best grades possible they can achieve.

The head teacher and interviewer will want to make sure you’re subject knowledge & behaviour strategies are excellent if you’ve not taught secondary students before.

Reading up on the curriculum and getting some teaching experience in secondary, possibly supply teaching will help with being offered a full time job as a secondary teacher.

Transitioning from primary to teach secondary school

Pupils and teachers leaving primary school teaching for the last time and anticipating what life will be like in secondary teaching older students & just one subject means a bit of uncertainty.

Much of a secondary teachers timetable is spent in an assigned own classroom, although you’ll require covering lessons occasionally for absent teachers.

All secondary teachers help new 11-12 year old pupils transitioning from primary to secondary enabling them to become more independent in many ways from travelling further to school, and following a timetable of where they should be for class on time. 

Expectations of school secondary educators

Expectations of school secondary educators

Expect to gain a tutor class from year 7-13 if you don’t have other school responsibilities.

Welcoming a class of 30 children at 08.30 and giving them back at 15.30 Monday to Friday is a regular school day. For 6 years I was a secondary school teacher of business.

During my time as a teacher I observed the majority of children coping and adapting from lesson to lesson, although for a few, dramatic changes in school life were a challenge.

You require compassion, understanding and able to identify any issues students have or pass the situation on to school management.

I remember one 11 year old child on the first day arriving at school coming up to me asking “Are you Mr ……. my teacher” Yes, I am your form tutor, and you have a number of different teachers.

Equally for primary teachers making the move to secondary you could have 8-10 different classes of children that you see more than once a week. Coping physically, mentally and emotionally teaching older pupils is essential in a school environment if you wish to succeed as a teacher to secondary school age children 11-18 year olds in UK.

Secondary form tutors give advice, guidance and instructions

You as a teacher require being knowledgeable in many areas of education and life skills to give guidance to school students including:

  • You move from class to class with just enough time to arrive.
  • Given a locker, otherwise you carry your bag around the school to each class.
  • More equipment to use in lessons that are more practical
  • Lot of teachers providing guidance, or telling you what to do.
  • Clubs at lunchtime, after school and other events to join or take part at least once.
  • Think more independently and organise for yourself.
  • Emotional time for a child and parents alike.  Support and encourage each other.
  • No need to be alone, speak to and hangout with friends you will make.

In your classroom when students arrive for a lesson and sit down you will get “Sir, I left my pencil case in the last lesson, can I just go and get it” No, here are some spares I have and when the lesson is over go and get the case.  Being organised and prepared for eventualities of secondary school life and pupils questions, requests and issues is important.

School pupils are told that there’s always someone to ask or to inform: form tutor, class subject teacher, and head of year for guidance or answer.

Pupils are placed in ability sets for lessons

Pupils are placed in ability sets for lessons

You teach children that are placed in sets according to academic ability for English, mathematics, sciences and other subjects, although possibly not in independent school. 

Secondary teachers require skills and lesson planning that differentiate between lessons for all academic ability school pupils. This means you’ll use different worksheets, learning objectives & outcomes for each class of pupils even for the same age of learners.

The school uses results from tests taken just before leaving primary school, and will place the brightest in top set to less academic people in lower sets.

Students can move up or down a set depending on progress, although my observation is that a head of department only moved a small proportion of children in a given year.

As a secondary subject specialist you’ll deliver top set lessons at a bit faster pace with extended questions, where set 2 and below standard lesson format in pace and difficulty is generally followed.

Impact of small class

Depending on the class size positive or negative factors exists for each lesson.

Generally, most classes will have 30 pupils, although for bottom set there can be as few as 12.  Downside is that when it comes to teaching P.E for example, there are not enough boys to play ruby. Timetable arrangements mean only mixed team games with girls & boys in the same class, where latter in the day you’re class sizes are larger and you can teach ruby, football and other team sports.

Smaller class sizes mean more space and individual guidance from you the teacher in lessons enabling more support to pupils that might need guidance help in lessons.

Homework each week teachers set & mark

Set homework days are negotiated between departments to avoid too much work being set on the same day by individual subject teachers. Twice a week I was instructed to give homework, each day what should take around 20 minutes for 11-12 year old (Yr 7/S1), 40 minutes 12-13 (Yr 8/S2) years up words.

Parents sometimes help with student’s homework.  As the years progress and students get older teaching concepts and problem solving in English, sciences and maths becomes more difficult. 

Specialist subject teachers

Qualified Secondary teacher

A teacher working in a secondary department such as English, DT, PE, science or music is normally a specialist in the subject. Sometime another teacher you work with may require you’re assistance or guidance as they aren’t a specialist in the department’s subject.

Shortage of specialist teachers for chemistry, physics, mathematics specialist, biology and computing exists in the UK and around the world.  In some schools the class teacher may not be a specialist, or not have an education background in the subject they teach.

Schools attract the best teachers they can, although each year teaching positions remain unfilled as they could not attract a specialist teacher. 

What happen then is that they will appoint a teacher to fill the role with the most suitable qualifications.

The teacher shortage is not the schools fault; it is a mixture of people choosing other careers, workload, and better pay elsewhere for similar skills.

What can a teacher change at school?

It is important to act professionally at all time, follow & implement school rules & policies and follow instructions on teacher work expectations that the school has for all teachers.

A school is set up in a given way for a reason, uniform, discipline, policy, homework, extra curricular lessons and sports clubs. 

No two secondary or international schools are the same, as a head teacher can choose to implement what they perceive is the best to achieve desired academic results and for school pupil discipline.

Teaching with practical equipment for lessons

  • Individual school subject departments supply all larger equipment pupils require, not much items that parents require to purchase.
  • Teachers should expect and form tutors check that each pupil each day has a bag that is functional, not one of these cool drawstring, pencil case, protractor, compass, black & blue pens, pencils, rubber, ruler, sharpener.
  • Casio calculator is sufficient for all 11-16 year old lessons in mathematics.  Hardly used a calculator in the first year of secondary in my maths lessons, use of mental maths is more important. Idea: Scratch initials on the back.

Specialist teacher assistant for booster lessons

One significant difference between moving from primary is secondary education teaching assistants specialise in a certain subject.  Teachers do sometimes work with a teaching assistant or an HLTA and you’re to work with school TA’s issuing instructions and checking on booster group learning progress.

Some pupils do benefit being taken out of class and given instruction from a higher level teacher assistant (TA).  Up to 12 in a group from science, English or maths pupils receive more individual attention to help them catch up and to achieve to the best of their ability.  School budgets are tight, with not that many schools able to provide TA’s for the entire class to achieve their predicted grade for a subject.

Seating plan in classrooms

As teachers we decide who sits where or which group of students form together for group work, it is not a debate between students or from parents. Seating plans are followed for each class, although someone could say “I work & achieve more with …..” and an exchange can be made.

Academic progress

As a secondary teacher you’ll write hundreds of report cards each year for all students in you’re classes. A pupil making steady progress from year to year generally is what happens, and for some the same A grade does not continue.

Children learn, accumulate knowledge, build analytical & problem solving skills at different ages and pace.  Learning & development does not always continue for a number of reasons form distractions, emotion or loss of interest.

See: Do I Need to Retrain to Teach Primary School Children

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