Moving from secondary to primary

11th July 2013 at 01:00

Moving from Secondary to Primary



I teach drama in a comprehensive school and find that I enjoy teaching Years 7 and 8 much more than the older year groups. Should I do some re-training so that I can apply for a job in a Primary school?


I find that moving from Secondary to Primary is quite a common aspiration. But not, I’m afraid, one that is easily achieved. Sorry!


Firstly, there is no re-training available.

You have QTS, that actually qualifies you to teach children of mandatory school age – from five upwards. There are no longer Primary conversion courses, which were cancelled some years ago when there was an over-supply of trained Primary teachers and thus many applicants for each vacancy.  This may be changing in some parts of the country, but there are still no official courses.  


Secondly, you might struggle to carry out the role effectively.

Although you are legally qualified to teach Primary, you probably aren’t actually going to be very good at it. Not your fault here, it’s all due to a lack of training and experience. Primary teaching involves teaching the whole of the curriculum, not just your specialist subject that you feel comfortable in. That means that you would have to teach, and teach well, literacy, numeracy, history, science, even perhaps P.E., music or French. 

The same about probably not being very good at it applies in the other direction too, of course: a Primary teacher faced with your year 9 or 8 classes would doubtless go weak at the knees. It’s the training and experience that makes the difference in both cases.

So here it comes to the crunch. Can you teach all subjects, from English to science to maths to P.E. to French?  Are you familiar with the full primary curriculum including being able to teach reading, phonics and basic numeracy to the less-able pupils?


Could you lead others in a curriculum area or two?

In a Primary school there are usually around 20-30 areas to co-ordinate and usually fewer than 20 teachers to co-ordinate them, so you would have to lead colleagues from day one in at least one and maybe 3 or 4 curricular areas of which you have little or no experience or training at all.

And with no TLR for all this subject co-ordination.  There are fewer TLRs available anyway in Primary schools. You would also run at least one but usually more extra-curricular activities for no extra money either.


The competition will be tough

And my final point I have already touched on above. A school advertising for a primary teacher will probably receive a large number of applications from candidates who are primary trained and experienced, so is unlikely to run the risk of considering you for the post. By a large number, I mean in some parts of the country they are still receiving numbers of well over 50.  Not all schools and not all areas - some parts of the South-East are finding it harder to get applicants. But where they have 60 applicants, or even 40, or only 20, in those circumstances, you can guess which application will go to the bottom of the pile . . .

And with Ofsted liable to ring one afternoon to announce their arrival the next morning, it could be a real risk, to say nothing of the impact an untrained and inexperienced teacher could have on the learning and progress of a class of children.


This is all a bit depressing, and not what you wanted to hear, so I’ll end on two more positive notes.


Positive point number one: it can be done.

There are Secondary teachers who have gained primary experience through supply and then persuaded a Primary school to appoint them, and have gone on to be very successful.  This would involve giving up your guaranteed income in your Secondary school, and persuading an agency to take you on for Primary supply, so could be a bit risky.  But it can be done!


Number two: there's a half way house

Well, two of them really.  You could investigate state Middle schools or independent Prep schools that teach children aged 8 to 13; these might be good for you. Start by reading some articles about the Independnet sector, to see if it might be right for you.

An overview of the Independent sector

Independent Sector FAQs

How much will I earn in the independent sector?

Moving from state to independent

Teachers talk about what it's like working in one Indy School

Best wishes