Books, pencils and building blocks sit on a teacher's desk, with an apple on top of the books.
03 October 2019

How to Get Into Primary Teaching

If primary teaching is a career you’re thinking of getting into, there’s a variety of different paths you can take to get there. We spoke to a past student about his experience, and a primary teacher about how she got into her job.

Get work experience

Primary teacher, Emma-Jane Stewart, told us that in her interview for her post-graduate primary teaching course that the questions were focused on experience. “When I went to the interview for my PGDE, the whole interview was centred on the experience you have. Experience is vital if teaching is something you want to do. You can’t talk about how you would teach if you’ve not been around kids, you need to know what it’s like.”

Emma-Jane sought out experience wherever she could. “I was doing things like nannying, and I was a scout leader, to keep my contact with children up.” So if primary teaching is something you would like to try getting into, start by speaking to local community groups in order to start collecting your experience.

Return to studying

Going back to college or university might sound daunting, but there are courses designed to support those returning to education after time out. The Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP) is a partnership between colleges and universities and aims to support access to higher education for adults.

A former student of ours, Chris, studied a SWAP course at the College. About his experience, Chris says “For anyone wanting to go to university but thought that the opportunity had passed you by, or the work might be too much to handle, think again. The course is designed to help you and the staff provide all the support you need. But most importantly they want you to succeed! Based on my experience at Edinburgh College, I highly recommend the Scottish Wider Access Programme!”

Get the qualifications needed for university

Most universities require applicants to have Maths and English qualifications. If you left school without these, then you can come to College part-time to study these before applying to university. Two of the top qualifications that universities require for primary teaching courses are National 5 Maths and Higher English.

Be prepared for the challenges

Being a primary teacher can come with a lot of challenges. Before starting the application process, consider if this is the right job for you. Emma-Jane described the most challenging things about being a teacher: “It can be really time consuming in terms of planning, and if you care, which most teachers I know do, then you can end up planning for a long period of time to give the children the best experiences possible. Sometimes the children can be quite challenging too. My biggest advice is to make sure it is something that you really want to do. If you’re not passionate about it then it can be very difficult.” However, teaching has its rewarding elements, with Emma-Jane explaining you meet some very endearing characters, and signing off by saying “teaching is really fun”.

If you're interested in getting into primary teaching check out our Introduction to Early Years and Primary Teaching course or if you have been out of education for three years or more, our SWAP Access to Primary Teaching course could help you achieve your ambitions.