When thinking about a career in teaching you may already know the age group you wish to work with. However, it is still useful to find out more about working in a specific school setting, so you have a better understanding of what to expect. Here we look in more detail at teaching in a Secondary School.
What are the different types of Secondary School settings?
In most areas of England and Wales, Secondary Schools are for children aged 11 to 16, covering Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 of the National Curriculum, ending with pupils taking their GCSE exams. Some Secondary Schools also have a Sixth Form, where pupils can choose to stay on to age 18, studying for AS and A level exams.
State schools are funded through the local authority or directly by the government, and most must follow the national curriculum. All children of all abilities in England and Wales are entitled to a free place in a state school, with the exception of grammar schools.
There are different types of schools within the state school system. The majority are maintained schools, funded and/or controlled by the local authority. Non-maintained schools operate without local authority influence. All maintained schools must follow the national curriculum, whereas non-maintained schools can follow a different curriculum.
- Community schools – these are owned by local authorities, who have control over funding and how they are run. This includes employing staff, admissions procedures and the services offered.
- Foundation and voluntary schools – these are funded by local authorities but are usually owned and run by a governing body who employ the staff, control admissions, and provide the services.
- Faith schools – these are like community schools but have links with a church or faith-based organisation. They can choose what they teach in religious studies and can have different admission and staffing policies.
- Free schools – these are funded by the government but run by an independent body such as a charity, university, faith group or business. They have more control over how they do things such as setting their own pay and conditions for staff, and changing the length of the school days and school terms.
- Academies – these are funded by the government and run by an academy trust. They have more freedom in how they are run and have trustees responsible for the performance of the school. They can set their own term times.
- Private schools / independent schools – these are not funded by the government so charge fees to attend. They are completely independent of any local authority control. They can set their own hours and term dates, and choose which exams pupils will take.
Other types of schools
- Grammar schools – these are only available in some parts of England. They can be run by either the local authority, a foundation body, or an academy trust. Pupils are chosen based on their academic ability and must pass the 11+ entrance exam to attend.
- Special schools – these provide education for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) whose needs cannot be met in a mainstream setting. At secondary age these schools can specialise in one of four areas of SEND. Special schools can be maintained or non-maintained.
You can find out more about the types of secondary schools here.
What is it like to be a Teacher in a Secondary School?
When thinking about working in a Secondary School, it is useful to understand the expectations of a Teacher in this setting. As children become young adults, there is less parent contact and involvement as compared with Primary School, so being a Secondary Teacher can be quite different.
As well as specialising in teaching a specific subject, you will be teaching pupils across a range of year groups at different levels of maturity, and you may need to adjust your teaching style accordingly. Secondary School children are at an age when they are beginning to take more responsibility for themselves, forming their own ideas and opinions. The experience can be quite rewarding, though sometimes challenging, for Teachers.
Read our interview with a Secondary School Teacher to find out more about working in this role.
An important part of secondary education is to ensure pupils gain the foundation of skills, knowledge and abilities for their future studies and careers. As well as learning the curriculum requirements to sit their GCSEs, pupils need to learn to study independently and get used to working under exam conditions.
Day-to-day tasks of a Secondary School Teacher may include:
- Planning and teaching lessons.
- Preparing teaching materials.
- Marking and assessing pupils' work.
- Taking registers, updating records and writing reports.
- Assigning tasks to learning support staff.
- Contacting and updating parents and carers about their child’s progress.
- Providing a safe environment and following safeguarding procedures.
Other tasks may include:
- Attending parents’ evenings.
- Attending staff meetings and training.
- Organising outings, after school clubs, exam revision classes and other school social activities.
A Teacher needs to have good leadership skills as you are, essentially, leading a group of young people. As a Secondary School Teacher you will need to be confident in your own subject knowledge and be able to share that in a way that interests and engages your pupils, so that they enjoy the subject and retain the skills and information you teach them. You need to be aware of different pupils’ backgrounds and cultures and may have to adapt some teaching accordingly. Patience is very important, along with the ability to remain calm in sometimes stressful and challenging situations. As well as working independently to teach your classes, you are also part of a team, working alongside colleagues within your department and the school as a whole.
The National Careers Service has some more useful information on being a Secondary School Teacher.
The role and duties for Secondary School Teachers may vary depending on the type of school you work in. If you work in an academy or private school, you may be teaching a different curriculum than in a community school. If you work in a SEND school then you will need additional skills and experience to work with pupils who have varying disabilities. Find out more about being a SEND Teacher here.
What job roles can be found in Secondary Schools?
There are a range of teaching roles in a Secondary School. As a qualified Teacher you will teach a specific subject, such as English, Maths, Science, a language, history, geography or music. With experience there are opportunities to move into Senior Leadership roles within your department and into other areas of school management.
Secondary Schools also have opportunities for Teaching Assistants and Learning Support Assistants. With this age group, these roles are often working with SEND pupils, enabling them to attend a mainstream school with extra support. Teaching Assistants may also assist in the classroom and with administrative tasks, as directed by the Teacher. Learning Support Assistants work one to one or with small groups of SEND pupils, helping them with specific tasks and assignments.
Cover Supervisors are also needed in Secondary Schools. Their job is to lead classes in the absence of the Teacher. Find out more about this job role here.
In addition to teaching staff, Secondary Schools also employ a range of other support staff, including Administrators, Technicians, Caretakers and Lunch Supervisors.
To see all our available Secondary Teacher and support staff jobs, click here.
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