Being a teaching assistant is undoubtedly excellent preparation for becoming a teacher – you will be starting your training ahead of the pack, with an in-depth knowledge of how classrooms work, as well as the challenges faced by teachers and students.
If you don’t have a degree
If you decide to make the change, the route you take will depend on whether you already have a degree. If not, you will need to get one; you could either study for a general bachelor’s degree in education (BEd), which will give you qualified teacher status (QTS); or a bachelor of arts with QTS or bachelor of science with QTS, allowing you to focus on your subject and get your teaching qualification at the same time.
Alternatively, you could study an undergraduate degree in a subject relevant to the one you would like to teach and top up with a postgraduate teaching certificate (PGCE).
If you do have a degree
If you already have a degree, you can decide whether you would prefer a university-led or a school-led route.
The university pathway – studying for a PGCE – will enable you to learn the theory of teaching before putting it into practice in the classroom during two placements in schools, totalling at least 24 weeks. There are fees to pay, but you are able to apply for bursaries and scholarships (depending on the subject you will teach), as well as student loans.
If you prefer a more practical, school-led approach, there are several options. You can take the School Direct (unsalaried) route, which is very similar in structure to the PGCE, except that your training is managed by a network of schools rather than a university.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to go back to full-time study, there are several routes that allow you to get into the classroom straightaway: School Direct (salaried) and the Postgraduate Teaching Apprenticeship will both pay you to train, while you work on a reduced timetable to make time for your studies as you work towards QTS.
If you have a 2:1 or higher in your degree, you can apply for the Teach First programme, which places you into a school for a minimum of two years, where you will be paid to teach as an unqualified teacher in your first year (after which you will earn QTS) and then as an NQT in your second year.
If you would like to work in your current setting, it is worth talking to your headteacher about which option could work best for you and the school.
Does my classroom experience count?
If you can provide evidence that you have teaching experience then this can be considered by some of the training providers. Teaching must include planning (including resourcing), delivering, assessing and reporting on pupils’ progress.
Zofia Niemtus is a freelance writer
Tes Institute offers a course specifically designed for those already working in classrooms. Find out more about our Straight to Teaching course.