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Is it possible to become an English teacher without an English degree?

Discussion in 'English' started by BrixtonBoud, Apr 2, 2013.

  1. Hi,

    I am in the process of researching the ways in which I could become a secondary English teacher. I have a 2:1 in International Politics and a B at English AS level (I did this as an evening class to get myself into university and in the end I didn't need the full A Level). I have just spent four years working in the wine trade in a job that involves teaching to large groups of people, albeit adults. On previous posts people have answered this same question saying that they have a variety of degree backgrounds and still became English teachers but most of these posts are from as far back as 2006. Have things changed completely? All the information available states you must have a degree that is at least 50% English related. What is the reality? I am 3 days into a few school experience days at a school and this has only made me more sure this is something I want to do. I have informal experience of working with children as I spent two years assisting my ex-girlfriend's mum who is a child-minder. I have also helped four of my young cousins through their English GCSEs. My subject knowledge is good in that I love reading, writing and everything else connected to the English language!

    Sorry for the long post but what I really want to know is:

    What are the chances of getting an ITT provider to take me on? School Direct (salaried) would be my preference but any route would be fine with me!

    If there is no chance, what would I need to do to get a provider to take me on in the future? I'm really serious about wanting to do this!!

    Please help me!!!!

    Thanks in advance
  2. The university that I did my PGCE at offered a two year course for people in this situation. The first year was developing subject specialism and the second year was a general PGCE. Hope this helps.
  3. wasteland

    wasteland New commenter

    I did my first degree in theology and after qualifying as an RE teacher I was employed in a school where I had to teach some KS3 English (I have an A Level in English) and a couple of units for KS4. I made the decision to study a second degree in English Language and Literature because although I was a good teacher, and like the original poster, I knew the curriculum and GCSE English specs. inside out (I was also tutoring in GCSE English, love writing, reading, etc.) I really felt it was important to know my subject at degree level. It ranks as one of the best decisions I have ever made! What I learned at degree level enhanced my understanding and teaching of the subject - something you don't get from the hundreds of study guides for GCSE English, set texts, etc.
    I think if you don't want to do a degree then it may be worth doing some OU English courses to top up your knowledge. I think some PGCE providers require candidates to do these courses if they don't have a degree in English.
    From my experience if you work in a department and aren't a specialist, your colleagues may not take you seriously. Also, as some other posters have said, the competition is tough out there. Every application I have completed for an English post has stated that a degree in English is essential not desirable - but that's just my experience.


  4. I am gobsmacked.
  5. GloriaSunshine

    GloriaSunshine New commenter

    English degrees vary so much in content that you could easily end up teaching texts by writers you never encountered while studying, or even from a period you hadn't studied. If you accept that most arts degrees assess skills as well as subject knowledge, you could argue that a good degree using similar skills is as valuable (or more?) than a lower second or third English degree. Last time I marked GCSE, my team leader was a PE teacher who had moved into English and was Head of Department and teacher of A' Level Literature. That said, for someone beginning their career, OU units seem a sensible option if you are hoping to compete with people who do have English degrees. Not only does it demonstrate subject knowledge, it also shows that you are serious about wanting to teach English.
  6. Wow, thanks for the replies everyone!! This is the best chunk of advice I've gotten so far! Thank God for the TES! I actually originally wanted to teach primary but started looking at English simply because I love the subject. I now realise at this point in my life I am not going to be an English teacher so I am going to throw all my energies into applying for primary which is just as exciting and for which I have all the qualifications! Thanks again for your advice!
  7. anteater

    anteater New commenter

    Well, leaving aside the OP's particular case, some of you are being a bit harsh! I agree with GloriaSunshine that degree content varies from place to place anyway.
    My HOD has a Music degree. My own degree is in English and German Literature. Most of the things I studied bear no relation at all to what I have to teach!
    I don't normally say things like this on here, but, VeronicaAmb, I am shocked to hear that you are a Head of English. I am not suggesting that everyone on TES should proof read their posts closely - life is too short - but I think you would be wise not to cast stones at other people's knowledge. You may be outstanding when it comes to helping children discover the richness of a novel, but
    about writing coherent, correctly punctuated prose.
  8. Don't be too shocked. I could name a head teacher who can't spell or do proper joined-up handwriting.

  9. GloriaSunshine

    GloriaSunshine New commenter

    Veronica's posts are often contentious and show limited grasp of teaching English although she claims to be a Head of Department. If you think her post on this thread shows a poor control of written English, try this one: https://community.tes.co.uk/forums/t/561570.aspx?PageIndex=1 Worryingly, there are many more.
  10. I'm just confused by the idea that at Secondary we don't teach children.
  11. wasteland

    wasteland New commenter

    I don't agree with VeronicAmb's harsh post! If the OP loves English and really wants to teach English please don't follow her advice that 'Your best bet is to give up while you still can'.
    My point is that if you want to teach English, do an English degree/OU English modules. I know people who have taught part-time and studied their degree part-time. This will most definitely increase your confidence, enhance your subject knowledge and help your job prospects.
    You clearly love English and have a great passion for it! All the best with whatever you decide.
  12. VeronicAmb

    VeronicAmb Occasional commenter

    Well that's fair enough, but is it fair on the students that they are being taught by a teacher who has no subject knowledge? How you teach it heavily relies on your subject knowledge also! I could consider it acceptable for KS3, but not GCSE or A-level!

    I agree with the last part, but I'm just having a moan on all the paperwork I have to do. I love my job and would not trade it for anything else!! But all the paperwork is just killing me -rant over- aha
  13. VeronicAmb

    VeronicAmb Occasional commenter

    This isn't a forum to ridicule someone's grammar, Jesus Christ! GloriaSunshine, you are such a ***! You have been on my case on nearly every single post I make. Just stick to the OPs question and keep your slanderous bitching to yourself!!!

    PS: it's a forum, not a critical essay, chill out!
  14. GloriaSunshine

    GloriaSunshine New commenter


    I ignore most of your posts. In this case, it wasn't me who criticised your poor grammar but I admit that I agree with them.
  15. anteater

    anteater New commenter

    Nor is it a forum to be so unpleasant on.
    It was me, not Gloria, who pointed out that your post was hardly a good advert for English teachers. I'm aware that it is a forum, not a critical essay, but there is a difference between a hurried post with a few typos and what you wrote.
    I just found it rather embarrassing and hypocritical that you, a Head of Department, should be criticising someone else's lack of English knowledge (the OP) when your own skills are clearly dubious.
  16. DalekTeacher

    DalekTeacher New commenter

    I must say that I was quite shocked by VeronicAmb post about English teachers and essentially suggesting that the OP should give up without a try. If you are a Head of Department, shouldn't it be part of your role to embrace and support those who wish to flourish to become excellent English teachers in the long run? I have had to fight long and hard to get to where I am and so suggesting to the OP to give up really hits a chord with me. In my opinion, if someone has the desire, passion and dedication to their career then they can do it.
    I do understand and value the argument about subject knowledge. It is an essential feature that we all need in order to guide students effectively. However, shouldn't subject knowledge be balanced against the ability to engage a class? Surely, a teacher can hold all of the subject knowledge in the world but if they cannot communicate this over in an engaging way, then isn't this just as much of an issue?
    A teacher can build their subject knowledge up and obviously this will impact on class choices until it secured but if they have the desire and passion then this is a positive feature that should be equally considered. It is the drive and passion to want to become better than makes us want to improve and the OP seems to want it very much.
  17. Well, sure, you are unlikely to teach the texts you studied at uni ... but what about critical approaches to texts? Strategies for textual analysis? Different ways of structuring an essay? Developing an understanding of important periods in literary history? etc etc etc.
    My point would be that to define the content of a literature degree as limited to a small number of texts, and to gloss over the importance of the skills and strategies developed, fails to acknowledge the nuances of the discipline. God help us all if English Lit can be reduced to a comparison of Curly's wife and Crooks - or what you need to do to get a C at GCSE.
    Now, many people with degrees in other areas could teach that essay, and do it well, but a teacher who understands what the study of lit is moving towards (at degree level) will be able to push talented students further.
    Call me aspirational ...

  18. anteater

    anteater New commenter

    In no way do I define a lit degree as being limited to a small number of texts. I took mine so long ago now I wouldn't be able to remember many of them in any detail anyway.
    I'm certainly not advocating picking other people to teach English over English graduates, although like a few other posters I think you need to look at a person's overall experience rather than just their degree. We seem to have a succession of perfectly lovely young teachers, but many of them are very weak when it comes to punctuation and grammar, and some of them have a very limited vocabulary and weak general knowledge. I don't know what universities they went to, but they all have degrees in English/English Lit. They are good at the classroom part of the job though - see dalekteacher's post on the previous page. Maybe the rest of the package will come with experience.
    I don't think I am arguing with what you say at all. The reason I waded in was because of what I saw as hypocrisy - again, see previous pages.
  19. Agreed.
    I suppose that I'm just very passionate about the primacy of subject knowledge - and discouraged by a growing trend of 'dumbing down'.
    I also agree with your points about the importance of being able to engage the students.
    In my perfect world we would set the bar higher (for students AND teachers) and work on the assumption that most students are capable of higher level thinking and clear, coherent and grammatically correct writing.

  20. GloriaSunshine

    GloriaSunshine New commenter

    I do think subject knowledge is important but that doesn't have to come from a degree if a teacher is motivated to fill in the gaps. I know that when I teach a text, I read a lot of criticism, think about different interpretations and consider the mark schemes before planning lessons. There are tired teachers cruising to retirement who avoid new texts because they don't want to do all that. There are new teachers who have the subject knowledge and good English degrees, but lacking the experience to apply it in a way that will engage students and prepare them for exams. The OP has a desire to teach English and lots of schools would consider her with something better on paper, but with only an AS, she is going to struggle. I know the OU used to do units on The Victorian Novel and Shakespeare - with these and a genuine interest in teaching English, open-minded HoDs would look at her application. We don't stop learning when we graduate - if you really want something, there's a way.

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