Ask Tes Institute: arranging your school work experience before applying for teacher training

Tes Institute Team


Ask Tes Institute: arranging your school work experience before applying for teacher training

Gaining classroom experience before your initial teaching training is essential, not only in helping you decide that a teaching career is right for you but in order to be awarded QTS you must have had, or be on a path which gives you opportunities to teach in school.

You may have already gained experience within a school, but it must be both recent (in the last two to three years as a general rule) and relevant to the subject or age you are intending to teach. Needless to say - the more experience, the better your application, especially within the more competitive subject areas. It is also advisable to gain experience in a wide range of teaching environments: if you were educated at a country school for example, undertaking a teaching placement in an inner city school could help widen your perspective and improve your application.

There are several ways in which you can complete your school work experience and the below list suggests a number of options for you to consider when arranging your teaching placement.

School Experience Programme (SEP)

The School Experience Programme offers a short classroom-based school experience, involving a mixture of teaching and lesson observation, and opportunities to talk to teachers and students. The programme is on offer to shortage subjects (subjects currently in demand by the government) and non-shortage subjects, however priority would likely be given to shortage areas.

If you are interested in the SEP programme then you need to register your details on the Get Into Teaching website and selecting local schools who participate in the scheme who will then be contacted on your behalf. Teaching placements are initially agreed for one day but dependant on both the school and the individual, further days can be agreed (up to a total of ten days). SEP is a great addition to your initial teacher training teaching application.  

Contacting schools directly

Using connections can be a good way to find a placement in education, whether that be friends who work in teaching or perhaps the school you used to study at.

If you do not have a school in mind however, you can search all England and Wales schools here to find and contact local schools. It is certainly worth contacting more than one school, going about it in a methodical way by making phone calls and visiting the school if necessary to demonstrate your interest.

Paid work

Paid work may also be available, dependent upon your experience, and it could help you to decide whether a school environment is right for you. Teaching support jobs can range from: teaching assistants, cover supervisors, lab technicians and learning mentors. If you are indeed looking for a teaching support job, take a look at Tes jobs - one of the leading job sites for teaching professionals and support staff. Once you have gained enough experience in a support role the school may be willing to give you a small teaching timetable and you could be suitable for Straight to Teaching, which would help you gain QTS without leaving that school.


Many Universities work with schools to help students encourage pupils to consider higher education. Volunteering for these types of mentoring schemes are not only useful to help forge links and gain experience within schools but to also add value to your teacher training application.

Further options

This is of course, not an exhaustive list of ways to gain experience. A few other ways may include: student tutoring programmes, the Undergraduate Ambassador Scheme (UAS) or if your field is in Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths then you could become a STEM ambassador.

During your work experience remember to:

  • Keep a log of positive and negative experiences: evaluating what you would have done differently
  • Behave in a professional manner
  • Take responsibility, offer to help and take initiative
  • Observe different teaching styles

Completing your school work experience

In order to be accepted for an initial teacher training course you must have already completed or be preparing to complete your school work experience, so if you are looking to move to a career in teaching, make sure to start researching your options today - and we can help you to find the right route into teaching.