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Transition to primary teaching?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by Bonnie23, Nov 1, 2016.

  1. Bonnie23

    Bonnie23 Occasional commenter

    Some of you will know my posts previously and that I've been struggling with many personal things.

    However after reflecting on my job I know I want to stay in teaching but what I've also looked at is what I love and hate about my job.

    Two main things came up:

    I LOVE teaching KS3, the pupils are so enthusiastic, up for a challenge and the personalities of the classes are fantastic.

    I worry so much about GCSE and A-level classes, I worry about the progress made. I worry about the targets etc etc.

    I'm wondering how easy it is to transition in to primary school teaching.

    I know teaching primary will have its own challenges and it is not as easy as many secondary teachers make it out to be, there's a LOT to learn and the breadth of knowledge is really intense but the pay off I feel would change all of this.

    Basically: What strategies can I take to transition into primary teaching? Would I need to take a new course? Would I need to have placements in primary school?

    Any advice would be great as I'm a bit lost with this one.
  2. Bonnie23

    Bonnie23 Occasional commenter

    I should add my main worry is that although I know how to read and write etc I've never taught English as a formal subject and with this being a key core subject that may impact on my performance in that job.
  3. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Try a middle school if you are able to move to areas that have them...very few these days.

    Or try a prep school, then you get to keep year 7&8 teaching, but probably teach some year 3-6 as well and only have to teach your subject...plus possibly a second one that you are happy to have a go at.

    You could always then move on to a primary school later once you have KS2 experience.
    SLouise91 and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  4. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    I agree with you on the nature of worrying about exam classes. It is the nature of our job. It is one of them difficulties that it is hard for those in primary to comprehend (outside of Y6)

    I worry you are making snap judgement though on a lack of experience. You worry as (if i remember) you are a new teacher. You probably don't have a great deal of confidence. It will get better. Whilst GCSE/A Level is hard, I know i would miss the intellectual challenge of it. It is why we opted to do it surely?

    For every KS3 class who are nice. There are some who aren't.

    Also I think you are underselling the innate issues in teaching primary. I think it is no surprise most dilemmas on here come from this phase...
  5. bflat

    bflat New commenter

    Secondary trained here and now working as a prep school as a subject specialist. Primary teachers have it HARD. The scrutiny, the marking, the preparation, the expectations. SATS are brutal, if you work in a grammar borough you have parents questioning you from year 2 about tutoring and how to get them through the 11+ The pressure is intense. I have it relatively easy as the music specialist.
  6. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Listen to @DYNAMO67 and @bflat

    It needs to be a positive choice. Not something you pick because you feel like you're floundering. No.

    Plus other humanities.

    Probably more break duties for you because schools are smaller. Minimum 30 in your class.

    You have to want to do it for its own sake. It's not a second choice.
  7. Bonnie23

    Bonnie23 Occasional commenter


    Maybe my wording has come across as a 'this is an easier option for me'. I realise it's not. I understand that primary schools have just as much pressure as secondary schools. What I am looking for is the more enjoyable areas of it. The classes as they are younger are more enthusiastic, the love for learning and the priority that that takes. I understand primary schools will have to prepare for SATS and students will be under scrunity for progress more than secondary schools will be.

    What excites me about the possibility is getting to know a class, properly. Being able to teach a huge range of subjects with different challenges each day and different ways to incorporate things with what I'm teaching rather than the same run of the mill stuff where you teach the same class with some changes 5 times in a week.

    It's not about the subjects, it's not about the scrutiny, I genuinely believe I would enjoy my job more and I think my style of teaching is more suitable for a younger audience.

    This isn't a 'it's definitely going to happen' more of an investigation to see whether it is truly suitable for me.
  8. install

    install Star commenter

    Primary is tough @SLouise91 - and the pressure of ensuring progress and attainment is not any easier...some might say its harder.

    Talk to primary school teachers - get into a primary during your hols if you can. And all that marking and planning and all those observations for soooo many different areas...
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2016
  9. bflat

    bflat New commenter

    I totally get what you're saying about it being nice to teach a range of subjects etc and I'll be honest I quite enjoy covering English or maths lessons occasionally because the novelty of teaching fractions is quite fun.

    I am always delighted to get back to music because quite frankly it's easy to teach a specialist subject to primary aged kids that I have a masters degree in. I can open the planning on the system for a year 4 lesson and know all about the skills and information they need to know without really worrying about it. Teach a term long project on rock and roll? Easy peasy! Teach a term long project on the Tudors for year 6 history? That's going to require a lot more work... What were Henry VIII's wives called again...?! ;-)

    As PP have said, spend some time in a primary school, look at the marking schemes, look at the books, ask about the data and diagnostic testing they are required to do and analyse. Ask about progress made and value added, ask about how the new curriculum and SATS have affected the standard that the children have to achieve.

    Hats off to primary teachers, I know that I couldn't do it. Having worked in both I certainly wouldn't recommend it as the option that has less pressure.

    Good luck with what you decide - from a practical note if you have QTS it's valid in any school, so there's nothing to stop you applying if that's what you wanted to do!
    bevdex, grumpydogwoman and DYNAMO67 like this.
  10. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    I wonder if this is an idealistic view. Really do. Some classes maybe, some kids maybe, but i really don't think this is the case for all primary classes. I hope primary colleagues on here can clarify!

    Maybe. Without meaning to sound glass half empty though this is exciting if they are a nice class! not all will be. As won't all of the parents.

    Speak to the current year 7. How much of the foundation subjects did they do in the last few years? My guess is very little. SATS, SATS, SATS.

    I really think you have a case of 'grass must be greener' here. By all means look into it, but at the moment i think you are making snap judgments about the nature and culture of primary schools without the knowledge to back it up.
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  11. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    I would like to add to DYNAMO67's comments.

    Certainly many children of Primary age are more enthusiastic, but there are also others who most definitely are not.

    I've known children in year 1 who crawled under the table pinched/kicked others, and become so violent the teacher had to remove all the children in the class outside. Even when the Head arrived said child attacked the Head.:eek:

    If you asked Primary teachers how many minutes of time every day they spend 'sorting out playground squabbles' as they return to class from play/lunchtime you might be astounded. Sometimes even parents coming in and threatening staff or other parents when they collect/drop off their children.

    Marking has to be done for English and Maths every day, as it often affects what you teach the next day. Some schools have very specific marking policies requiring detailed feedback and of course with young children this has to be done orally with the child and then 'noted' in their books.

    Your point about 'getting to know one class of children properly' also may have downsides in that if you have one of those troubled children, or even 4 or 5 in a class (it has been known) you have no respite with another class.
    bevdex and grumpydogwoman like this.
  12. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    I'm afraid your view of primary kids is a little naive.

    As @Lara mfl 05 says, you can have 4 or 5 difficult children in a class. Very easily. Those classes are virtually unmanageable - or they take all your energy to keep a lid on.

    My grandson (YR4) is supposedly in the top 3. He's a great lad but he doesn't have much love of learning. He's well-behaved but he moans about the work. He doesn't find it interesting and doesn't much enjoy school any more. That's the effect the relentless pressure for results has on a kid with a pretty decent background.

    My granddaughter is in YR1 and sometimes refuses to do things. She's not an academic child. She's sociable. She simply doesn't want to sit over her spelling words. She's not naturally good at spelling - unlike her brother. School has effectively put her off and made her feel stupid. She's 5!!!!

    Visit a lot of schools. Talk to a lot of primary practitioners. Oh, staff turnover. It's a nice school. The one my grandchildren attend. They still have a very high turnover. That tells you something.

    Don't dismiss it as a possibility but do yourself a favour. Go round some. During the working day.
    DYNAMO67 and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  13. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    That is so sad @grumpydogwoman. I'm sure you're of an age to remember when many children felt like this about school. Then things got better and certainly in my early career years most children no longer dreaded coming to school. But over the past 10-15 years I've seen this attitude start to become the 'norm'. So sad.
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  14. Eamaz

    Eamaz New commenter

    I moved from teaching secondary to primary a few years ago. I genuinely haven't looked back since.

    I'm now in lower KS2, and I must admit I do think that the overwhelming majority (if not all) of the children I teach have an innate enthusiasm for learning. They are difficult to manage in many other ways - but I feel their enthusiasm is something that makes me enjoy the job the most.

    I was lucky to have an amazing year group partner when I made the move - I found planning and delivering subjects I hadn't taught before very challenging. However, with the right guidance and support, you'll pick it up. I found the challenge quite enjoyable eventually.

    PM me if you have any questions etc.

    Good luck!
  15. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    I moved from secondary maths and wouldn't go back if you doubled or even trebled my salary.

    Primary is easier just because I enjoyed it more. I was perfectly good at teaching secondary pupils and then seemed to enjoy the lessons as well as learn what they were supposed to. However maths in secondary school is never going to engender the same "Wow" moments you get teaching years 1-3 when they experience something for the very first time.

    Prep is easier still because I don't have to teach all those tricky subjects like music (sorry @bflat ) or PE and yet see my class achieving great standards in those.
    SLouise91 and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  16. Bonnie23

    Bonnie23 Occasional commenter

    Thank you all that have replied. It has definitely given me food for thought. Teaching will never be easy and many of the issues you have raised such as the 4 students in a class that won't want to be in education are things I've thought about and you can't count on luck to get you a perfect setting.

    It will be something I will investigate over time to consider. I'm definitely not jumping into anything without guidance about it.
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  17. bflat

    bflat New commenter

    I think I have the best of all worlds being s subject specialist in a prep school. The majority of my colleagues love the fact that they don't have to teach music, do singing practice, sort out the hymns for assembly or organise the school productions and nativities because I am there to do it for them! And I love the fact that I teach a subject with almost zero marking, that involves loads of singing and dancing about. Today I have pretended to be a singing sheep, started learning Christmas carols, taught an introduction to African drumming, run two choir rehearsals and an assembly practice. My days are certainly not dull!

    However my heart lies in secondary, I love grotty teenagers and budding rock musicians, teaching A level and really getting into proper specialist knowledge. But at the moment for personal and family reasons, prep is the best fit for me.
  18. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Your account makes me want to go back @bflat

    I started as a music specialist in primary. I play the piano so it was inevitable! :)

    I want to go back and sing with Reception and listen to music together and make extraordinary noises and bash out a stirring hymn on the piano and get kids to sing a descant!

    (But I don't think I will as nobody values that these days. Except, as you say, in a prep school.)

    *goes off to google local prep schools*
    bflat and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  19. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Weird how we form impressions of people that turn out to be completely wrong...
    I would have had you down as someone who would go near a private school about the same time as hell freezes over.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  20. Catjellycat

    Catjellycat Occasional commenter

    The best way into primary would be to do some supply. Your QTS means you'd be 'allowed' to do primary. However, there's a recruitment crisis and you might want to start applying to primary schools and bigging up your more primary-based skills in the supporting statement. You only need one school to take a punt and see you teach an interview lesson well...

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