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Deciding between primary and secondary teaching

Guest posts

Faculty: Arts, Humanities, Education and Social Sciences
Course:Education Studies
Category: Education

8 October 2015

In the past couple of months I’ve been debating between primary and secondary school teaching. I initially started out on the course wanting to be a primary school teacher but after doing some volunteer work at a local secondary school, my mind has wavered.

Volunteering at a secondary school

It made me realise just how much I missed computing in general and a flood of memories of my two-year course at college came back to me. I’ve been doing bits and pieces of computing work that I enjoyed in college in my free time but nothing to this extent. Being around teachers who also enjoyed the subject made me want to teach it more. But being on an Education Studies course means that I wouldn’t be able to go into Computing teaching, not unless I changed my course. Though one of the teachers at the aforementioned secondary school said it was much easier to go from Primary school teaching into secondary school. But how much of this is true, I do not know.

So, I hope this post sheds some light on the area should anyone else be dancing around the subject themselves.

How to decide between primary or secondary teaching

  • If there’s a subject (like Computing for me) that you really enjoy and would enjoy teaching, go for it. It doesn’t matter what it is, whether it’s art or history or maths, go for it. The passion that you have for that subject is something that can and possibly will inspire students to pursue it themselves. I remember teachers from my old high school and college that were really into what they were teaching and I loved going to their lessons. Your passion counts for something, use it.
  • If you want to make absolutely sure, go and do some volunteer work in a high school. Even if it turns out you wouldn’t want to teach the subject, you still tried. Plus you may be able to pick up some skills from that experience that you can apply to other areas! This could also apply to primary school teaching as well. If possible, try and do both before deciding what course you want to do. Teaching is not something you just want to jump into.
  • If you do decide to do some volunteer work, you can always ask the other teachers why they decided to go into teaching in the first place. This could work especially well with teachers in a high school. More often than not they’ll have the same sort of passion for the subject as you do.
  • Ask yourself what age range you want to be around. There is a lot of difference between high school and primary school, but one of the main ones is that you’re going to be dealing with young adults in high school rather than primary school. They’re going through a lot of changes between the ages of 11 and 18 (depending on if they have a 6th form at the high school), so you may have to be ready to deal with some very grumpy teenagers. You also have to remember that not all the students will like your subject area, though that’s nothing personal. You may have to deal with other problems in primary school too, so keep that in mind.
  • Keep in mind that in a primary school, you’ll most likely be around one class all year. Whereas in secondary, you’ll be around multiple classes, with multiple students all year. You’ll have to learn somewhere between 100 – 200 (give or take) students names in the latter, but only 30 or so in primary. Though if you’re anything like me with names, you won’t remember half of them until the end of the year anyway!

But remember; there is no rush. You are not required to go straight from college/sixth form to University. You’re not even required to go to University. If it takes you a few years to figure out what you want to do, that is completely fine!

By Alice Siegwart
BA (Hons) Education Studies graduate

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