Getting into Primary Teaching

Getting into Primary Teaching

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Essential reading if you are considering making an application for primary initial teacher education or preparing to begin your programme. It introduces you to a range of perspectives on teaching and teacher education and guides you through the application process to ensure you choose the training route that’s right for you and achieve a successful result.

Key chapters cover developing your subject knowledge in English and mathematics, understanding the curriculum, the nature of learning, assessment, behaviour issues and inclusive teaching. Useful features such as jargon busters, progress checklists and case studies make the material accessible and help you navigate the ‘new landscape’ of teacher education. In addition the text encourages you to reflect critically on your school experiences of learning and teaching and uses example of theory, research and practice to help you develop an informed stance on important themes.  

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781909682276
Publisher: Critical Publishing
Publication date: 04/08/2014
Series: Critical Learning
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 200
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Cathy Burnett worked as an actor-teacher, primary teacher and literacy consultant before taking on her current role as a reader in the department of teacher education at Sheffield Hallam University. She has been involved in supporting the initial and continuing development of teachers for many years and has published a wide range of book chapters and journal articles with a particular focus on literacy education, new technologies and becoming a teacher. She is particularly interested in investigating classroom practices and in understanding the connections between learning in and out of school.

David Owen taught in primary, secondary and residential environmental education settings before working at Sheffield Hallam University as a teacher educator.  He led the primary and early years programme at SHU for seven years before taking up his current role as Deputy Head of the Teacher Education Department.  His research has focused on geographical education, e-learning and teacher education course development. 

Andrew Hobson is a research professor at Sheffield Hallam University. His research is concerned with the experiences of and support for the professional learning and development of teachers, especially trainee, newly and recently qualified teachers. He has particular interests in teacher mentoring and well-being, and he is editor of the International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education. Andy supervises research students in this field, in which he has published widely and led several research and evaluation projects.

David Owen taught in primary, secondary and residential environmental education settings before working at Sheffield Hallam University as a teacher educator.  He led the primary and early years programme at SHU for seven years before taking up his current role as Head of the Department of Teacher Education. His research has focused on geographical education, e-learning and teacher education course development. 

Andrew J Hobson is Professor of Education and Head of Education Research at the University of Brighton. He has previously been a teacher and mentor to newly qualified teachers. His research is concerned with the professional learning and development of trainees and more experienced teachers.

Read an Excerpt

Getting into Primary Teaching

By David Owen, Cathy Burnett

Critical Publishing Ltd

Copyright © 2014 Jane Bartholomew, Cathy Burnett, Naomi Cooper, Karen Daniels, Adrian Fearn, Janet Goepel, Andrew J Hobson, Julia Myers, David Owen and Sarah Williams
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-909682-27-6



David Owen

This book will support your application to be a primary school teacher and will help you develop the knowledge, skills and understanding to gain preparatory experience in a school and become a successful teacher. The authors of each chapter have all been successful primary teachers and have worked with many student teachers in initial teacher education, as well as supporting the continuing professional development of more experienced teachers. It is worth noting that, while much of the advice contained in this book will be relevant to those interested in teaching in various contexts, sections on policy and curriculum frameworks focus primarily on England. On occasion we do invite you to consider alternative frameworks in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.


Each chapter of the book has the following learning features to help you engage with the topics that are explored.

* Reflective tasks: these are activities, questions and stimuli for thinking about teaching. They will help you actively engage with the research extracts, case studies and examples from schools that are provided.

* Pupil/teacher/student voice: these case studies give you the opportunity to hear directly from pupils, student teachers and qualified teachers. You will have the opportunity to talk with such people on school placements during your initial teacher preparation programme, but this feature collects a wider range of views than can be found in a single school or small number of schools. These scenarios and classroom examples are also the basis for many of the reflective tasks.

* Research focus: here you are introduced to important research projects that have helped shape primary education.

* Jargon busters: do you know your NCTL from your NASBTT? Your summative from your formative assessment? Primary education is full of jargon and acronyms, and this feature explains and demystifies phrases you may hear in a school or read in a primary school curriculum textbook. Words highlighted are included in jargon buster sections at the end of each chapter.

* Taking it further: want to find out more about the issues discussed in each chapter? Follow up the accessible web-links and books explained in this section.

* Progress checklist: use this list to systematically prepare for an application for a primary course. Each chapter will give you the opportunity to audit your understanding and develop your knowledge.

In Chapter 2, Cathy Burnett draws on teachers' stories to explore the nature of teaching in the twenty-first century. She highlights the varied roles that teachers are expected to fulfil and the rewards, opportunities and challenges associated with these. Cathy introduces the idea of 'professionalism' and explores how teachers work alongside others, including parents/carers and other members of the local community, and colleagues in schools and in multi-agency teams. She describes the different contexts in which teachers work and introduces the range of career opportunities available to those with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). You are encouraged to reflect on the skills, knowledge and experience you might bring to teaching and to consider how values and beliefs are significant to how teachers teach and the kinds of experiences they provide.

In Chapter 3, David Owen provides practical guidance on making an application for an initial teacher preparation programme. While recognising that recruitment requirements and procedures vary between routes and institutions, he outlines key elements of the applications process: learning from school experience; writing a personal statement; evidencing subject knowledge in English and mathematics; preparation for, and taking, the skills tests; resilience and professionalism; understanding the application process; and success in individual and group interviews. The chapter provides guidance on writing applications and preparing for interviews, and draws on personal accounts by admissions tutors and head teachers.

Chapter 4 (also written by David Owen) explores how you learn to become a teacher. It introduces the National Curriculum in England (DfE, 2013) and gives details of the curriculum arrangements in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Teaching is a commonplace activity but can be difficult to explain, so the chapter reviews beliefs about teaching and how these beliefs influence types of teacher preparation programmes. It introduces the concept of the reflective practitioner and reviews approaches to reflection you can use as an adult learner. A common thread within any teacher preparation programme is the need to meet the Teachers' Standards (DfE, 2012) and these are reviewed and explained alongside the roles of school-based mentors and host class teachers.

In Chapter 5, Karen Daniels and Julia Myers explore the nature of subject knowledge in English and how this is relevant to your teaching. They begin by explaining the nature and centrality of language and literacy in daily life and present examples of children's use of literacy in their lives beyond the classroom. They then examine the changing nature of literacy and the impact of digital technologies on our understanding of what is meant by reading, writing and texts. Karen and Julia present an overview of aspects of children's development in speaking and listening, reading and writing over the primary years. They describe current approaches to the teaching of English and illustrate these with examples of classroom practice and commentary from experienced classroom practitioners. The role of children's literature and approaches to teaching early reading, including phonics, are also considered. The chapter highlights the knowledge required to plan, teach and assess children in English. It provides guidance to help you review and develop your subject knowledge prior to beginning or applying for a teacher preparation programme. Karen and Julia highlight the knowledge that all users of English bring to the subject and identify ways in which you can build upon and extend this through further reading, resources and activities.

In Chapter 6 Adrian Fearn introduces primary school mathematics and approaches to teaching and learning this subject. He highlights how important it is for teachers to be confident about mathematics and to have a positive attitude to mathematical learning. The chapter provides you with reflective tasks to clarify your own views on mathematics and learning. Adrian provides examples to explain the classroom teaching of mathematics, describes current approaches and illustrates these with examples of classroom practice and practical mathematical challenges. The final part of the chapter provides the opportunity for you to begin building subject knowledge related to children's misconceptions in mathematical reasoning.

In Chapter 7 Sarah Williams explores how schools develop curricula that are suited to the needs of their pupils. She examines creativity across the curriculum through exploring approaches to teaching and learning designed to engage and inspire learners. She focuses on the key concepts behind designing a creative curriculum. Sarah explores how a creative curriculum is defined, through reviewing practice and theory around engagement, enquiry and experiential learning. She provides case studies of creative teaching, which show how successful teachers develop and sustain an inspiring learning environment in their classrooms. Sarah invites you to consider the ownership of knowledge and the learning process, exploring the social context and the role of classroom talk, and the significance of motivation and flexibility in learning situations.

Next, in Chapter 8, Jane Bartholomew explores involving children in their development as learners through 'learning to learn'. This chapter considers what is understood by 'learning to learn' and encourages you to reflect on your own experience of and attitudes to learning. Drawing on case studies of classroom practice, the chapter explores how teachers can enable children to become effective learners across the curriculum and beyond, through: making explicit learning objectives and/or learning outcomes; focusing on skills and attitudes; developing pupil autonomy; and establishing communities of learning. Jane invites critical appraisal of some widely used initiatives, such as 'visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning (VAK)' and 'brain-based learning'. The chapter explores the role of assessment for learning and behaviour for learning. Throughout the chapter, Jane considers a range of practical approaches and contexts for learning.

Chapter 9 introduces the concept of inclusion, with several scenarios from practice to enable you to identify with the theme. Here Janet Goepel and Naomi Cooper introduce key vocabulary, such as barriers to learning, Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) and English as an Additional Language (EAL). The chapter also explores barriers to learning which are present in some primary classrooms. Janet and Naomi provide case studies of inclusive classrooms and inclusive curricula, through which they outline some of the benefits to all learners of inclusive environments (with a focus on children with SEN and children with EAL). Quotes and examples from children, parents and teachers help you to think about issues from different points of view. Finally, the authors provide questions to frame your thinking when you are visiting schools or engaged in practical experience.

The Conclusion summarises the key themes discussed in the book and outlines how preparing to become a primary teacher may change in the future. David Owen reviews the employment prospects (at the time of writing) for those training to be a teacher. He also considers how, after gaining a place on a teacher preparation programme, successful candidates can subsequently enhance their employment prospects.


Why teach?

Cathy Burnett


Being a primary teacher can be rewarding, exhilarating, intellectually stimulating, creative and good fun. It can also be frustrating, difficult and exhausting. This chapter explores what is involved in being a teacher, highlighting the rewards and challenges of this very complex role. It provides an overview of what you will teach and other aspects of a teacher's responsibilities. It explores what it means to be a 'professional' and emphasises the importance of working with others. At various points you will hear from five teachers at different stages of their career – Natasha Morris, Mark Bennett, Skander Hussain, Hilary Malden and Kate Cosgrove – who reflect on their own experiences of 'getting into teaching'. The chapter ends by outlining a series of possible career routes open to teachers.

There are many reasons why you may be considering becoming a primary teacher. You may have a deep commitment to supporting children's learning and want to make a difference to children's lives. You may have spent time in classrooms, perhaps as a teaching assistant or volunteer, and believe you have the qualities a teacher needs. You may really enjoy working with children, having gained experience through supporting after-school clubs or sports activities. Alternatively, you may recognise that teaching offers the opportunity to develop skills associated with leadership and organisation that you can go on to use in another career. Or you may have a young family and feel that school holidays will mean you can spend more time with their children. It is likely that a number of these reasons, and others, have led you to think more about the possibility of being a teacher.

Teacher voice

Deciding to become a teacher

Mark: I went to university because it was what my friends did, and initially studied sport, physical education and community studies with the intention of becoming a PE teacher. While at uni I volunteered for three years with an organisation that sent coaches into primary schools to run after-school clubs and PE lessons. This inspired me to work with primary-aged children and at the end of my degree I applied for a primary PGCE, but was rejected because I did not have enough experience of working in schools. I applied for a job as ateaching assistant, to get that experience and to see if teaching was what I really wanted to do (and whether I was cut out for it). The year I had as a teaching assistant really set me up for teaching. It made me realise I wanted to teach and also gave me the building blocks to hit the ground running when I started my PGCE, particularly in managing behaviour in classrooms.

Hilary: I've been teaching for about 30 years, with a break in the middle when I had my children. My mum was a teacher so that's why I think I thought of going into teaching. After school I did a psychology degree and then a PGCE. After ten years I did an MA and trained to be an educational psychologist but after working as an educational psychologist for a year, I went back to teaching as I decided I'd rather be in the classroom. I missed the relationships with the children and the creative side. I work part-time – three days a week. I went part-time after I had my children and have stayed part-time since then.

Skander: I always knew I wanted to be in a caring role as I had always looked after members of my family, but I didn't know exactly what route that would take. At 16 I completed a two-week placement at my former primary school and I fell in love with the whole experience. The school had changed a great deal since I was there. I thought maybe I too could achieve and be part of a change. I was also spurred on by being told I would not succeed by teachers who taught me. When I got the points I needed for university I felt really good about my achievement and I thought how good it would feel to help children to achieve what I was feeling. I came from an economically deprived area and I felt I'd disproved what people had said about what I could achieve. I was also really encouraged by my family, who wanted us to aspire to do the best we could.

Natasha: When I was doing my GCSEs I wasn't very motivated. I knew I could get by with the bare minimum and devoted most of my energy to the acting I was doing out of school. I didn't apply for uni when I left school because I felt despondent about school. During the following year I remembered that when I was younger I'd wanted to be a primary teacher as I'd really enjoyed primary school. So I took a gap year, working at the post office and spending half a day a week in a primary school. The decision to be a primary teacher was partly about childhood memories and partly about a desire to provide a good experience for children. I also thought it was a career where I would always learn and that school would be a place where I could apply all the drama I'd done and use creative approaches.

Kate: My first degree was architecture, though I didn't go on to practise as an architect. I found a job in a related field that lasted a few years and then the first recession hit the UK and I found myself out of work. I worked as a musician for a while, but then I decided to leave work to raise my children. I had always had at the back of my mind that I would like to teach, but I didn't really know what. My mum was a teacher and to be honest, it seemed like the family legacy, so I went to a few schools to find out what it was like and if I really wanted to follow in my mum's footsteps. I got a place on a PGCE. When I started I was a mature student and many others on the course were too, mostly mums returning to work after raising their children. The rest of the students were straight from a degree course, so we were a mixed bunch. When I started teaching, my subject specialism was mathematics. But in my first job the maths co-ordinator was very well established and the role of literacy co-ordinator came up ... It kind of fell to me, and I have been literacy co-ordinator ever since, in every school I have worked in.

Reflective task

* Which different experiences and motivations led these teachers into teaching?

* What experiences were valuable to them in helping them decide to be teachers?

* Which barriers did they have to overcome?


Being professional

Teaching is often referred to as a profession and considering what this means is an important part of becoming a teacher. Being a professional concerns how you relate to others and behave as a teacher. In everyday life we often refer to people as 'behaving professionally' and by this we tend to mean that they are conducting themselves in a way that is sensitive to our needs. This might mean being polite and efficient, but also making sure that everyone is treated fairly or equitably. 'Behaving professionally' is certainly an important part of being a teacher. However, many would suggest that 'being a professional' involves more than this.

Opinions about what 'being a professional' involves vary but it may be seen as including some or all of the following (Goepel, 2012):

* having the specialist knowledge needed to respond flexibly to different situations (for example, meeting the needs of particular learners, working with colleagues to decide how to respond to policy initiatives, deciding how best to work with other partners to support children's learning);

* continuing to learn through professional development activities;

* standing up for the interests of the children you work with while being open to new perspectives and possibilities;

* becoming part of a teaching community through working with others (in your own school or from other schools);

* acting within statutory frameworks, eg, linked to pay and conditions.

Research focus

Evans, L (2011) The 'Shape' of Teacher Professionalism in England: Professional Standards, Performance Management, Professional Development and the Changes Proposed in the 2010 White Paper. British Educational Research Journal, 37(5): 851–70.


Excerpted from Getting into Primary Teaching by David Owen, Cathy Burnett. Copyright © 2014 Jane Bartholomew, Cathy Burnett, Naomi Cooper, Karen Daniels, Adrian Fearn, Janet Goepel, Andrew J Hobson, Julia Myers, David Owen and Sarah Williams. Excerpted by permission of Critical Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction 
  2. Why Teach?
  3. Preparing to Apply for a Teacher Education Programme  
  4. Learning to be a Teacher 
  5. Developing Subject Knowledge in English
  6. Developing Subject Knowledge in Mathematics 
  7. Organising the Curriculum for Learning 
  8. Learning to learn: behaviours for learning 
  9. Meeting the needs of all learners: becoming an inclusive teacher 
  10. Conclusion  

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