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Fancy a Challenge? Be a Teacher

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Teaching is challenging and demanding, and in return it provides rewards unlikely to be matched in other careers. Watching a younger brother or sister complete their homework, swim or ride their bike after you have helped them may offer a glimpse of the reward. For teachers this happens many times a day as each of their pupils takes a step forward in their learning.

Teaching is a graduate profession. It requires people who can take challenging material and make it accessible, interesting, relevant and engaging. The degree does not have to be in a subject from the school curriculum, although that will give you a head start when you come to demonstrate that you have the ability and commitment to stand in front of a class of eager - or sometimes reluctant - children or teenagers and teach. So the choice of GCSEs and A levels can also be important if you want to teach.

Equally important is deciding between teaching primary or secondary school age groups. In simple terms, the choice is between working across a range of subjects with a class of up to 30 pupils, or specialising in one curriculum subject - perhaps teaching it all day and every day to up to 300 pupils, in a secondary school. No one can make that choice for you, so it is worth asking teachers you know how they made their choice, and the factors that influenced them. It is also worth taking part in a taster course or open schools visit.

One great thing about teaching is that whichever age group and subject you choose, a school is a large community which can offer opportunities for you to develop other interests. Many teachers get involved in sports, music or drama, or run clubs based around their hobbies, and are rewarded by pupils sharing their interests. The real reward comes as a qualified teacher in the classroom. You gain Qualified Teacher Status a(QTS) after a course of Initial Teacher Training.

That might involve three or four years at university to gain a Bachelor of Education degree, or, if you already have a degree, it can be one year's training for the Post Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE). Graduates aged over 24 can train while they earn a salary in a school. Your training will include up to 32 weeks practical experience in schools - and training does not end when you get your first job. A mentor will be appointed to help you through a period of induction when you will have a reduced timetable than experienced teachers, to enable you to develop particular skills.

You can be sure that the training will properly prepare you for your first day as a teacher, and Ofsted reports show the classroom performance of newly qualified teachers is improving. Then, with 25,000 schools across England a host of career opportunities are at your feet, especially if you want to take on additional responsibilities and work up to head teacher. Newly qualified teachers in inner London start on a salary of £20,595, while the top pay for head teachers is now more than £88,000 a year.

Teaching is changing fast. Most teenagers are surprised by the way their infant or primary school has changed - and those now deciding to go on to university and teacher training will enter into a classroom where information technology and interactive whiteboards are tools of the trade.

You can find out more about how to become a teacher by visiting the Teacher Training Agency's website at www.canteach.gov.uk. Then if you still have questions, the Teaching Information Line on 0845 6000 991 offers personal advice

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