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Subject Knowledge

Discussion in 'English' started by flora35, Jul 1, 2020.

  1. flora35

    flora35 New commenter

    Hello, I’m hoping to apply for a teacher training place in secondary English in October.

    I have an A level in English, although my degree is in law. I’ve read most of the books listed on the TES SKE English book list, along with GCSE study notes and practice exam papers.

    However I’m not sure how in depth my subject knowledge should be to secure an interview. Could anyone help with this please?

    I’ve posted in this group as I anticipate the members of the group will have an in depth knowledge of the novels etc used for GCSE and A level.

    Thank you.

    ACOYEAR8 Star commenter

    It's been a while and other posters here may know differently but I'm almost sure you need a degree in the subject you are intending to teach ? I may be wrong. Law is definitely taught at secondary and is on the ' up' as a subject.
    In terms of books read etc, I would imagine that interviews would be secured on the ' take it for granted' level that you've read as part of your degree.... again, someone on the forum will know. Didn't want you waiting for an answer :)
    Good luck with teaching, it's boodly brilliant !

    I found this
    Entry requirements for teacher training
    To train as a teacher in the England, you need:

    • A degree (or equivalent) of a 2:2 or above. If you want to teach at secondary or post-compulsory level, your degree should be in, or relevant to, the subject you want to teach. If it's not, contact a training provider as you may be able to take a subject knowledge enhancement course.
  3. flora35

    flora35 New commenter

    Thank you, so pleased to hear you enjoy teaching so much!
  4. rachelsays

    rachelsays New commenter

    Hi Flora,

    You will need to check first with the training providers you're interested in that they will accept you without a degree in English. School-based training routes tend to be less fussy than university-based ones and are more likely to take candidates with unrelated degrees to the subjects they want to teach. However, English is not a shortage subject and there are always plenty of English graduates applying for teacher training, so realistically, it's going to be a challenge for you to get accepted onto a course. If you were looking to teach Maths or Physics with only an A Level in the subject, you'd still be snapped up, but with English and Humanities, there simply isn't the same lack of candidates, and training providers can usually pick and choose between well qualified graduates.

    If I were interviewing you, I'd want to know why you were interested in teaching English, why you hadn't done a degree in English if you were so passionate about the subject, and how much passion/enthusiasm and knowledge you could demonstrate for literature and language. I'd be expecting someone applying to become an English teacher to be able to talk about the latest literary releases, current debates in literature, recent theatre they'd seen, the writing or research they do in their own spare time, etc. I wouldn't expect an in depth knowledge of exam board syllabi or KS3 curriculums - what I would expect is someone engaged with the literary world and with a good broad general knowledge of literature, theatre and film, as well as someone who can model sophisticated written and spoken English. If you can demonstrate all of that, you might be in with a chance!
    ACOYEAR8 likes this.
  5. saluki

    saluki Lead commenter

    Sorry to contradict. However, you can teach FE without a degree in English. We had several teachers who had degrees in law and history who taught English. GCSE and Functional skills. To teach A level you would need a relevant degree. In FE we had a rule that you needed a qualification one step above that which you were teaching. So a teacher with A level English could teach GCSE. Some were brilliant. Some were absolutely useless. There are always squillions of students retaking GCSE. There's also great demand for Functional skills teachers.
    Unfortunately, lots of teachers are being made redundant in colleges at the moment so it's not a good bet.
    Do you want to teach secondary or would you consider middle years perhaps? Could Law be your second subject or English your second subject? Keep your options open. Good Luck
    jarndyce likes this.
  6. OneLooseCrank

    OneLooseCrank Occasional commenter

    I agree with Saluki. A degree in your subject is desirable but relevant experience is also accepted.
    I would add that even with a degree in English, and a discipline specific PGCE, I was not prepared for teaching at all and everything i teach now i learnt on the job. Experience is the greatest asset to a teacher, which is recognised through the progressive pay scale. So to a certain extent I would say, don't worry about it. The first few years are tough on everyone but you'll pick it up.
    jarndyce likes this.
  7. flora35

    flora35 New commenter

    Thank you for your replies. I do have a passion for English literature, however my concern is that it would be twice as hard learning to teach and learning the subject knowledge required to teach a subject that I do not have a degree in.

    I have a good understanding of businesses and feel I could quickly get up to speed on the subject knowledge required to teach business studies. I’ve set up and managed a business myself and would be quite keen to pass on my knowledge to students who are interested in this. Although I have a love of English literature, it may make sense to pursue a career in business studies instead.
  8. OneLooseCrank

    OneLooseCrank Occasional commenter

    The GCSE language course will be the challenge. You'll need to book up on classifications of language levels and grammar. There's loads of resources for learning this but I find most of them are geared more for EAL language learner , there's not many good channels for GCSE Language and preparing for unseen texts. I'm actually thinking about starting one...
  9. rachelsays

    rachelsays New commenter

    You're right - learning to teach is hard enough without having to learn the subject you're trying to teach at the same time! I have a BA and MA in English and when I started teaching, I still had a lot of subject knowledge to catch up on, so I can imagine for someone with only an A Level, it would be an uphill struggle.

    Business Studies is certainly a growing GCSE and A Level subject as well as being offered in other formats such as BTEC. You could also look for opportunities while you're training to get experience in A Level Economics, as this is popular and offered by many more schools than A Level Law (and many schools do lump Business and Economics together as a department, too). The more specialist subjects you could offer at GCSE/A Level, the busier your timetable and so the less chance of you having gaps that would need to be filled in with random KS3 teaching. I say this because training to teach post 14 option subjects does carry a risk that you will be called on to teach beyond your specialism if you work in an 11-18 school. The uptake of Business will be much lower than in other 'core' or 'facilitating' subjects post 14, so it is likely that you'll find your timetable cannot be filled with just lessons in your subject. Business Studies teachers in my last school had to be prepared to teach pretty much anything they had an A Level in at KS3 to fill their timetables. This can be quite challenging if you're stuck teaching a subject you aren't confident in. Obviously you could also work in a sixth form college, where this wouldn't be an issue, but sixth form college provision really varies across the country and depending on where you live, there may not be many job opportunities available in this sector.

    If you're really committed to teacher training, you just need to ensure you're going in with your eyes open to the potential issues you might face depending on the subject you choose to specialise in. If you chose to go with English, you'd have a lot of learning to do initially, but you'd have a sought-after specialism, pretty much guaranteed employment, and limited chance of ever being asked to teach outside of your subject. If you went with Business, you'd be less employable as your subject is less sought-after, you would have reduced options as to where you could work (as not every school offers Business, but every school offers English!) and you'd have to be more flexible in terms of what you'd be prepared to teach, as it would be rare indeed to find that Business Studies would fill an entire full time timetable.

    I hope that's useful.
    jarndyce likes this.
  10. flora35

    flora35 New commenter

    Thank you so much for the replies; your advice is really useful.
  11. jarndyce

    jarndyce Occasional commenter

    I disagree. It really isn't that challenging. There are some slightly odd requirements in the reading section for various exam boards, but hardly requiring an English degree to figure them out. The subject knowledge @flora35 has from A Level Literature will be more than enough to understand the content of GCSE English Language.

    As for being able to teach them - well, that's what teacher training is for... :)
  12. jarndyce

    jarndyce Occasional commenter

    Just another thought.

    The lack of an English degree will probably put you at a disadvantage when shortlisting, although not necessarily. If you have a first in Law from a top university and an A in A Level Lit, then that could work in your favour. Law is also not an entirely unrelated subject, after all!

    So, you've been shortlisted. The references say you've done brilliantly on your PGCE placements. The interview allows you to communicate a sense of your passion for literature, and indeed your intelligence.

    Now for the interview lesson. I observed dozens of lessons as a HoD - PGCE/TeachFirst trainees, a GTP, interview candidates, etc - and I don't think there was ever a moment when I thought "ooh - now, that level of subject knowledge proves she got a First in her English degree". You can, of course get a sense of a candidate's general intelligence, but this might not necessarily translate to good classroom practice. The moments that impressed me, and gave the trainees a great observation report or got the candidate the job, were when they used their pedagogical skills to illuminate a concept, tease out understanding, bring up the lower-achievers and extend the top end. And, as I remarked in my last post, those are skills learned on the job or as a trainee, not in your English degree.
  13. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    When I did my PGCE 6 years ago, I think two people (out of about eighteen or twenty of us) had law degrees and law backgrounds, although one of them was also heavily involved in one of those evening and weekend drama clubs.

    On a recent thread, a PGCE course leader said 20% of English trainees don't have English degrees (https://community.tes.com/threads/geography-pgce-with-no-geography-degree-jobs.804299/), so you're not that unusual!

    Try to show your love for the subject in your application and interview. Try to get some AS/A-level experience during the PGCE, if you're accepted.

    Good luck!

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