If you were to ask someone growing up in the UK 30 to 40 years ago what their teachers were like, the answer you’d get would probably look quite Dickensian. Wispy grey hair and a severe stoop would combine with an uncompromising sense of order. You might get an anecdote or two about harsh punishments dished out to nervous, shrinking students. Classrooms were portrayed as dead and devoid of positivity.
Fast forward a few decades and the UK education system has never been more vibrant. Knowledge is given out by caring and enthusiastic teachers who always have the students’ best interests at heart. It is a system that guides children through their educational journey not with lashes and stern reprimands but with gentle encouragement. Children are given all the help they need to make their own choices about where they want to end up when their education is finished.
Along with this fresh approach is a real drive towards removing the barriers to young teachers with potential. In some countries, the standards are set unjustifiably high. Graduates are being put off by the rigorous demands placed upon them before they can step into a classroom. One of the most exciting things about the UK education system, however, is that almost anyone - no matter what age or socio-economic background - can be given a chance to make their mark on the education of future generations.
Why teach in the UK?
Statistics taken from OECD’s Education at a glance 2015 report show that the UK has the highest proportion of primary teachers under the age of 30 of all developed countries where data is available. In secondary education, the UK sits in fourth place, far above the OECD average. More and more people are getting into teaching as a result of an increasingly open education system.
To begin with, there are a wide range of teacher training options available, for whatever stage you are at in your teaching career. If you’re just itching to get into the classroom and try your hand at teaching, there are many school-led training programmes out there that you can get into. You will be able to work alongside other, more experienced teachers and learn first hand what it takes to run the classroom. Alternatively, there are university-led programmes offering a variety of routes into teaching. You will be able to learn the fundamentals of teaching, as well as having the option to supplement your learning with school placements. These courses run full-time over one year, or part-time over two years. This flexibility is just one of the many reasons teaching in the UK is such an attractive proposition.
For those looking to get into teacher training, there is also a wealth of funding available throughout your studies. Trainee teachers have access to a range of different bursary options, depending on which subject you’re studying. These grants are tax free, and give you the support you need to take on your studies without getting into any financial peril. We’re all aware of the dreaded student shoestring budget, and its stigma can sometimes be enough to tempt people away from pursuing their studies. For this reason, generous bursaries of up to £30,000 are available to aid you in your training.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the financial incentives to teach in the UK. While the average UK graduate starting salary is £21,165, that of a teacher starting out is £24,783 - almost 15% higher. Along with salary advantages, there are also a host of other benefits designed to encourage people to take up a career in teaching in the UK. The pension contribution you will receive is far higher than the UK average, while you will be granted a very generous amount of paid annual leave. While workers on average have 25 days a year to take off, teachers enjoy 65 free days in the year. So there's still plenty of time for travelling and exploring the world!
It is no wonder then that young people are increasingly turning to teaching as an ideal career move. Not only is the training process wonderfully stress free and not intimidating, but the rewards to come after you’ve completed your learning are plentiful. With a rapidly globalising teaching culture, the demand for overseas applicants has never been higher. Teaching in the UK is bound to be one of the most enriching experiences you will have. Not only will you be working in some of the most prestigious and culturally significant schools in the world, but you will learn to live and experience what it’s like to live in a multicultural environment. So for anyone worrying about their age when thinking about applying for a teacher training course, remember that there are plenty of opportunities out there, you just have to know where to look!