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Torn between secondary and primary PGCE

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by Simonesd, Mar 9, 2011.

  1. Thanks for the advice.... Have just written a list of pros and cons and seem to have more pros on secondary, but only just! I am very worried about the primary jobs situation... Keep hearing horror stories and I can't afford to be without a job. As has been mentioned, I am sure they are very very different jobs, which seems to make the decision even more difficult.... I wish I could do a month on the primary PGCE and then a month on the secondary and then decide.....
  2. DaisysLot

    DaisysLot Senior commenter

    If you have the time I would do a few voluntary days in both sectors.... and speak to more than those friends who seem to have badly advised you. Primary does involve stress and planning, much as secondary does - there is no easy option. Not sure who told you primary school teachers work 5 hours less than secondary..... Every teacher is contracted for 195 days a year - 1265 hours over those days.
  3. Speaking as a primary teacher the workload is as high as for secondary teachers but in a different way. The previous poster is right there is less marking but planning for all of the subjects, some of which you will be less confident in in sufficient detail and resourcing all of them takes a lot of time, particularly as you will want the tasks to be as practical as possible. Can't really say to my Year 1s turn to page 10 of your textbook!
    As a Primary Teacher your pastoral role is very great. You will be more involved in talking to parents on a daily basis, finding lost possessions - jumpers, shoes etc!, dealing with playground incidents, tears and tantrums so you must be willing to be involved in that side of it. However, the pastoral side is also one of the most rewarding aspects as you are working with the same children so you get to know them really well.
    A thought is that you could go for the Secondary route but run a lunchtime/after school club so you can share your interest in another area of the curriculum with pupils.
    Good luck whatever you decide.

  4. Thanks all, this is really helping. I really wish I could spend more time in both settings before committing, but I only have until this Friday to choose which route to go for. The idea about the lunchtime/after school club is an interesting one......thanks. I am definitely more inspired by the academic than pastoral side of things. If I think what attracts me to primary it's the idea of giving the kids a real head start academically. I wonder though if I could happily teach any year group at primary.... I am pretty certain I couldn't do reception for instance .... I would want to be teaching year 5 or 6, so is it wrong to go into primary on that basis?

    Thank you for your advice
  5. DaisysLot

    DaisysLot Senior commenter

    Probably - You are unlikely to get any choice and in some schools teachers follow a class through from year 3 to 6...
  6. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    Once you are a primary teacher your HT can put you in whichever year group s/he wishes. You don't always get a lot of choice. so be careful on that one.

    Also there is a huge surplus of primary teachers. The chance of getting a job at the end of your course is far higher in secondary than primary.

    It is perfectly possible to swap from one stage to the other at any point in your career. However it is easier, in terms of training and convincing people you have a clue, to go from secondary to primary rather than the other way round. I moved from Secondary to primary.

    Not sure if relocation is an option for you, but if you were to train as a secondary teacher and then go for posts in middle or prep schools you might find you had the best of both worlds.

    The workload is about the same in both sectors, but is distributed differently.

  7. Thank you! I have to say it has felt a bit like a soap opera to me as well, living it this last fortnight. Felt like such a dramatic crossroads in my life and such a tough choice. This thread has been absolutely invaluable to me though in deciding what to do... can't thank those who have contributed enough. I had a worried weekend of last minute doubts and second thoughts having committed to the secondary course....but in the main I am pretty excited and do think I have made the right choice. Secondary here I come.....!
  8. hey there, i am having a similar problem (only i've not managed to get on a PGCE yet!! so OP well done for that!)
    I was interviewed @ Warwick last year for Secondary Drama with English PGCE. My microteaching assessment went really well as did my written task...i totally failed the interview. I wasn't prepared and hadn't done enough research about my current educational issues.

    It totally put me off and I decided that I wanted to teach Primary - for an easy life. Less marking, younger kids who won;t give me abuse (the secondary school I went to was pretty horrendous with students taking drama as an easy option)....I have secured work experience at a local primary school that can run alongside my current fairly well paid job in HR....

    However, as the time looms to apply again I'm starting to rethink my options
    1) I'm worried that there's less primary teaching positions available
    2) I'm worried that I have chosen primary for 'an easier life' when reading through the posts the role of a primary school teacher is just as hard as a secondary!
    3) Im worried that if I do re-chose Secondary Drama with English that Drama will be cut from the options.....and the new government will nto see Drama as a worthy subject?
    4) One school only ever erally needs 1 drama teacher so that cuts down my chances of gaining employment after
    5) some of my friends gained a place on the Drama PGCE @ Manchester and I know that I have considerably more experience than them...so I should be able to get onthe course fairly easily....being that with the GTTR if you faily your 1st choice, then then send your 2nd choice and it's already full up by then and you have to wait a full year....
    6) I'm from the midlands so can move back to my parents to study but ideally i'd love to stay in Manchester...however if i do choose secondary then would it be better careerwise to choose a PGCE in Drama AND English?
    can anyone advise on these worries!
    and and p.s im really glad that OP decided secondary and i wish you all thevery best!
  9. Sorry this may sound a little harsh and perhaps I'm playing devils advocate but if that is your attitude are you really sure you want to be a teacher. Primary teaching is NOT an easier life. You need to think this through very carefully. Work experience is an excellent idea and it will give you a feel for the classroom but don't forget there is a massive difference between work experience and being a teacher.
  10. Hello,
    I've read your post from March 2011 and wondered if you could give be a bit more information about your experience in changing from primary to secondary.
    I am currently on a Primary GTP course started in Sept 2011 and have one half term to go until I finish. I am at an outstanding school with very high expectations of the children and the staff and there are no opportunities for me to introduce my style of teaching as everything is planned for as a a team and lessons are delivered in a very specific manner - as a trainee practioner some of which I feel is not progressing the children's skills. I'm working pretty much every hour of my life. I'm in a situation where I know this school isn't the place I want to work in and have applied for other positions and been interviewed twice, unfortunately haven't secured a job yet but the feedback I've received has been excellent from both - but the second they observed me in my current school and they said ' they didn't see a true me'.
    I just wanted to give that background. All that a side when I first decided to change from my 7 year career from Environmental Management roles and Community Development roles I had a similar complex decision to make whether to go for primary or secondary with science as my subject. I hold a BSc Biological Sciences and MA Sustainable Development.
    I chose primary for the variety of subjects and an opportunity to really change lives. My experience so far has been limited in the variety of subjects with literacy and numeracy the main foci of the primary curriculum. I'm disappointed by the low percentage science features in the primary curriculum.
    I am really considering changing to secondary to pursue the opportunity to teach sciences and become involved in whole school pastoral projects. I'm in a Y56 class at the moment.
    At the moment I'm in a period of reflection really considering the career change to teaching and should I have done secondary. I know given my current situation this may seem reactive, but it has been something I've thought about for a few months and I really need to make sure my future direction in education is the right one.

    Thank you in advance for sharing your experiences. Private message me if you prefer

  11. Hi - I'm currently in a similar dilemma to the one you were on, can I just ask how you were able to apply for both? I have written my personal statement for PGCE primary (applu=ying through UCAS teacher training, and it seems I'd have to do a whole new application for the secondary route..is that the case? Cheers!
  12. lrw22

    lrw22 Established commenter

    Chalky face, are you trying to wind primary teacher's up? I am in school for 7.45 at the latest and don't leave until 5.45 at the earliest. My partner, a secondary school teacher, rolls out of bed as I am leaving the house. I am tired of listening to his complaints on the days he has to work a full timetable as he doesn't have any 'frees.' Lots of secondary schools in this area finish at 3 whereas the primaries don't finish until 3.15 or 3.30.
  13. For anyone unsure whether they want to teach primary or secondary, some places run middle years PGCE, 7-14. You still specialise in a secondary subject, but one placement you take in secondary, the other in primary. It was excellent to get the experience with both, though I settled on secondary pretty early on. I was worried schools might find me indecisive, but explaining that I've always wanted to *teach* and wanted to keep my options open age range wise didn't seem to put people off, and having the experience in primary has been a huge asset, not just personally but professionally. I'd thoroughly recommend it for anyone in that situation.
  14. I'm replying late in case my own experience is of any help/interest to anyone. I did four years of secondary MFL. I knew during my PGCE that I wasn't looking forward to the job, and I scraped through the NQT and then drifted through the next few years. I really didn't like it, and was (just) a 'satisfactory' (no longer!) teacher. It wasn't for me, but neither was JSA or starting at the bottom elsewhere, with a baby and a mortgage. I then hit the jackpot, and thanks to a few successful days covering a Y6 (through supply) was offered a one year contract in a primary school. During that year I never worked so hard in my life!! Longer school days, much, much more planning and marking. But- for me- so much more job satisfaction. I had a lovely lovely class who I cried about leaving; since then I have now found another primary job. And found out that actually I had it easy planning-wise in the first primary as second primary requires everything from scratch! But ask me now if I would exchange all the extra planning/preparation etc for the ability to leave school at 3.15 as I did some days in secondary- no way! Each to their own- I found my perfect job, but I wish I hadn't made the wrong choice at the start by NOT listening to my own inner voice. (I foolishly believed that a bloke choosing primary it would look like 'wimping out' of behaviour management; this cost me several years of being in the wrong job) I was lucky to change but it's not easy. Good luck to all torn between the two; be true to yourself; and yes, they're both hard work!
  15. Hi Thomas,

    As a student who is currently applying for teaching schemes, what particularly is it that you prefer about working in a primary school compared to your time in a secondary school? I ask because after having undertaken work experience in both settings I cannot decide which one I would prefer!

    To the OP, if you are still reading this thread after all of this time how have you found working in a secondary and do you still feel like you have made the right decision?

    Many thanks for your help!
  16. School Boy Error

    School Boy Error Occasional commenter

    I know the OP has made a decision but for anyone reading this in a similar situation ignore EVERYTHING Chalky has said. What a load of nonsense. I have never met a Primary teacher with another job. I have never met a Primary teacher that arrives at 8:45. I have never worked in a Primary school that has a shorter day than the local secondaries.

    However, don't take my word for it. A report published last year showed that Primary teachers work nearly 4 hours on average a week longer than their Secondary counterparts.

    "For secondary head teachers, it stretches to an average of 63.3 hours per week - the longest of any of the teaching jobs. Primary classroom teachers worked longer hours - 59.3 hours - than their secondary school counterparts, who worked for 55.7 hours per week. The hours in a secondary academy were slightly less, at 55.2 hours."
  17. Sebmum

    Sebmum New commenter

    Oh the life of a primary teacher is SO much easier.

    Most secondary schools in my local area teach 5 one hour ' periods '. 25 hours a week. My primary school starts at 8.50 and finishes at 3.20. Take out assembly, break and lunch that's 25 hours a week.

    Marking - we are expected to mark all books, with moving on comments/questions/activities by the time the children use them again. So 60 maths and English books a day. 300 a week. My children also have RE, science, art, guided reading, topic and SPAG books. Another 180 books a week. That takes me to 480 a week. But they are primary children, how much work do they do anyway? Well the same as the level 3/4/5/6 children in secondary.

    Planning - 25 hours a week to plan for. None of these can be repeated because you don't have three similar year 7 groups. Most primary schools don't set by ability either, so each lesson may need to cater for children across 5 or 6 NC levels. Without text books. And preferably no worksheets.

    Most primary teachers often have to lead a subject. Unless you are maths or English lead you can't expect any leadership time but are wholly accountable when Ofsted turn up and decide they are going to grill you.

    Then there is the lost plimsoll leaky lunch box, snotty nose and stolen rubber to deal with.....

    But, having trained and worked as a secondary maths teacher before moving to primary, would I go back? Not unless you let me dress in a ridiculous costume for world book day, spend an afternoon in the woods making monster soup or let me turn my entire classroom into a rainforest - complete with sounds!
  18. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    This is an old post so this is in reference to Sebmum

    I think it is way too simplistic to judge all primary and secondary jobs on the same level. I think Sebmum is right. In general Primary is not easier in terms of workload. I would imagine it depends on stage though. My friend teaches Y1 and by his own admissions does not have to do a great deal of work at home (does stay at work until 5-5.30) because he has taught that year group for a few years and knows what he is doing. He also admits that marking is easier as there are limits as to how much written work they actually do. Planning is often done in collaboration as well. What if you teach reception? How much marking honestly would you do? It surely is not comparable with Y6?

    My experience in secondary is different as well. I teach a 'written' subject. Workload is higher than in other subjects therefore. Far more marking than PE for example (and planning) I think this ought to be taken into account when allocating PPA myself... I do take your point about different groups in the same year. Less likely to happen in core subjects though.. Correct, to a point, with subjects like RE.
  19. Sillow

    Sillow Lead commenter

    I haven't taught Reception but my impression is that there is a lot more to do in the day in terms of setting up stations and activities. The work after school tends to be printing out photographs, filing post-it notes, sticking things in record books, writing up quotes from children, ticking of ELGs for each child and putting the classroom back together again. It's time-consuming and either involves lots of moving bits of paper from school to home and back again or doing it all at school.

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