Secondary School Teacher (Scotland)

The Job and What's Involved

Secondary school teachers in Scotland work in state and independent schools, teaching children aged from 11 to 16, or up to 19 in schools with sixth forms.

As a secondary teacher you would usually:

  • Specialise in one or two subjects and teach these to classes of different ages and abilities throughout the school.
  • Prepare students for exams, such as Standard Grades (S grades), Highers (H grades).

As well as class teaching, you would also spend a lot of time:

  • Preparing lessons and teaching materials.
  • Marking and assessing work.
  • Putting up displays in the classroom.
  • Liaising with other professionals such as educational psychologists.
  • Speaking to parents and carers about their child's progress (both informally and at parent evenings).
  • Attending meetings and in-service training.
  • Organising outings, social activities and sporting events.

You will work a standard 35-hour week, 195 days a year. School times vary but are usually 9am to 3.30pm or 4pm. The amount of class contact time is gradually being reduced to 22.5 hours a week. You will also spend time outside class, preparing lessons, marking work and exams, and attending meetings.

Depending on the subject you teach, you will spend most of your time in classrooms, or in a gym, laboratory or music room. As a PE teacher, you would also spend time outdoors, supervising sports and games.

Classroom teachers earn from £21,438 to £34,200 a year.

Chartered teachers earn up to £41,925 a year and Head teachers earn from £42,228 to £82,542.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Teaching is an increasingly popular career for students and career changers. However, there is still a demand for more people to train as maths, science, modern languages, ICT and design and technology teachers.

Vacancies are advertised in local and national newspapers, specialist publications such as The Times Educational Supplement (TES), The Times Educational Supplement (TES) Scotland and The Teacher, on the websites and job bulletins of local authorities, and through specialist agencies.

Education and Training

To qualify as a secondary teacher you need the Teaching Qualification (Secondary Education) in a particular subject (or subjects) of the secondary school curriculum. You can do this by completing one of the following types of initial teacher education (ITE):

  • A four-year Bachelor of Education (BEd) in music, physical education or technological education, or
  • A combined/concurrent degree (lasting up to four and a half years) which includes studying a subject, studying education theory, and gaining school experience, or
  • A one year Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) – if you already have a degree related to the subject you wish to teach.

You can study some secondary PGDE courses part-time or by distance learning.

If you enrol on a combined/concurrent degree you do not need to decide until towards the end of the second year whether you want to complete a secondary teaching qualification. If you decide you do not want to teach, you can still carry on to complete a degree in the subject you have studied.

Before applying, you may find it useful to have experience (paid or voluntary) of working with children in the secondary age group.

Entry requirements for BEd and combined/concurrent degree courses vary, so you should check with individual universities.

For the PGDE you will usually need all of the following:

  • A degree
  • H grade award in English at grade C or above (or equivalent)
  • S grade maths at grade 1 or 2 (or equivalent)

Visit the Scottish Executive Education Department website for:

Full career and training information.

Details of universities offering training.

Information on eligibility for teaching jobs if you have qualified outside Scotland.

See the Student Awards Agency for Scotland website for details of funding your training.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

As a newly qualified teacher, you will be provisionally registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland, and must complete an induction year to meet the Standard for Full Registration. Visit the General Teaching Council for Scotland website for details.

You will need to agree an annual continuing professional development (CPD) plan with your immediate manager, and keep a record of your CPD activities.

When you have completed the Standard for Full Registration and become established as a teacher, you may be able to work towards Chartered Teacher Status. See the Scottish Executive Education Department website for details.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A secondary school teacher needs:

  • An interest in the education and welfare of pupils.
  • Enthusiasm for the subjects you teach.
  • Commitment to working with pupils of different backgrounds and levels of ability.
  • Organisational skills.
  • The ability to manage classes well and deal with difficult behaviour.
  • Excellent communication skills and 'people' skills.
  • Patience and a good sense of humour.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience you may be able to progress to principal teacher or chartered teacher, then to deputy headteacher and headteacher.

You could also choose to specialise in teaching pupils with special educational needs or in private tuition.

Get Further Information

Student Awards Agency for Scotland,
Gyleview House, 3 Redheughs Rigg,
Edinburgh EH12 9HH
Tel: 0845 111 1711

General Teaching Council for Scotland,
Clerwood House, 96 Clermiston Road,
Edinburgh EH12 6UT
Tel: 0131 314 6000

Graduate Teacher Training Registry (GTTR),
Rosehill, New Barn Lane,
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL52 3LZ
Tel: 0871 4680 469

Scottish Council for Independent Schools (SCIS),
21 Melville Street, Edinburgh EH3 7PE
Tel: 0131 220 2106

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