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Teaching in primary schools

Education and training

Teaching young children is a responsible and rewarding job. Early-years teachers can develop a child's enthusiasm for learning, which may remain with them for the rest of their lives. To teach in a primary school, you need to gain Qualified Teacher Status. This involves studying to at least degree level. 

The teacher's role

For the youngest children, the emphasis is on learning through play, through doing, and through experience. The Foundation Stage curriculum allows children to learn by exploring, talking about their learning, practising skills and being active. It consists of seven areas of learning. The three prime areas of communication and language, physical development and personal, social and emotional development are particularly crucial for igniting children's curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, and for building their capacity to learn, form relationships, and thrive. Developing these prime areas help to support children as they access specific areas of learning in literacy, mathematics, understanding of the world, and expressive arts and design.

In every case, the teacher aims to develop and expand the child's curiosity and knowledge by offering them a curriculum that is responsive to their personal needs. As they gain experience, teachers may take on responsibility for co-ordinating a particular subject, e.g. Science or assessment across the whole school.

Teachers of young children:

  • organise carefully, planning what they want particular children to do

  • use resources imaginatively and often develop their own materials
  • assess each child’s progress

  • may have the support of a nursery nurse or an Education Support Officer, and are responsible for managing the way in which these people work

The teacher in a primary school facilitates learning by establishing positive relationships with pupils and by organising learning resources and the classroom learning environment effectively. In some schools, two teachers may share responsibility for a larger group of children, to allow for flexibility in activities. Teachers in primary schools are responsible for teaching all areas of the primary curriculum, including developing basic core skills in Reading, Writing and Mathematics. In addition, pupils in Year 5 and Year 6 have the option to study the Manx language. Throughout the academic year these subjects are planned and organised in a manner that enables the school to provide a broad and balanced curriculum.

On the Isle of Man, in recent years, there has also been a move towards focusing on developing children's key skills. The Curriculum for Learning and Achievement aims to inspire learners to flourish in life. The curriculum statement, 'Essentials for Learning' (E4L) provides broad parameters for schools to develop flexible, exciting and memorable learning experiences and positive learning dispositions.

Primary schools

Schools in the Isle of Man vary in size from small village schools with a few dozen pupils to the largest primary schools with almost 400. In a small school of around 80 children, there would be mixed age classes across the school, depending on numbers. A larger school may have two or more classes for each year group of children.

What it takes

Teachers of young children need:

  • to like children and to have concern for their mental, physical and moral welfare

  • a patient, tolerant and sensitive approach to the young

  • enthusiasm and a wide range of abilities, interests and skills (art and craft, Physical Education, music and drama skills are always welcome)

  • good communication and listening skills

  • a sense of humour

  • good health – teaching is demanding physically, and teachers are exposed to all sorts of infections

How to qualify

The main route into primary teaching is through the Bachelor of Education (BEd) degree, or a BA or BSc with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). You will normally need two A levels or equivalent for entry to a degree course. There are also primary Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) courses.

All would-be primary teachers must have GCSE English Language and Mathematics at grades A*to C, or equivalent. For students born on or after 1 September 1979 wishing to teach in primary schools, a GCSE in a science subject at grades A*to C is also required. Some course providers may also require this of older applicants. You will need to check with the course provider about the acceptability of anything other than standard science courses.

In England you will also need to have passed the professional skills tests.

Whichever route you are applying for, you should try to gain some classroom experience with the age group you wish to teach, so that you can show an understanding of the teacher's role. Most providers now require a minimum of two weeks classroom experience before you start your training. You may be able to undertake work experience in a primary school if you are unsure of your commitment to teaching.

First-degree courses

On a first-degree initial teacher training course, you will study a primary-level National Curriculum subject in depth, as well as train to teach across all other subjects of the primary curriculum.

The National Curriculum subjects for primary level are:

  • English

  • mathematics

  • science

  • design and technology

  • ICT

  • history

  • geography

  • music

  • art

  • physical education

You can also train to teach religious education.

You usually need to state a particular subject when you apply for training. Admissions tutors will look for subject relevance in the A level or equivalent courses you have studied. If in doubt, check with the course provider.

Postgraduate courses

For the PGCE route, your first degree (or degree-equivalent qualification) should be relevant to the school curriculum. Institutions will advise on their specific entry requirements.


When training, you specialise in a particular age range. The options covering the nursery, infant and junior range are generally:

  • 3-8 or 5-8: includes specialist training for Foundation Stage (nursery and reception); you may specialise in a National Curriculum subject, or in Early-Years teaching. (It is not possible to qualify as a teacher of under-fives only)

  • 3-11 or 5-11: trains you to teach across the primary age range (Key Stages 1 & 2)

  • 7-11: for the upper end of primary schools (Key Stage 2)

  • 7-13: the upper end of primary and the lower end of secondary (Key Stages 2 & 3)

Notes for adult entrants

Adults who do not hold sufficient qualifications for entry onto a degree course could consider an Access course as a preparation for higher education.

Some universities and colleges allow adults to take an equivalence test in lieu of a qualification in English, Mathematics and Science.

Adults with the equivalent of one or more years of higher education may be admitted to a shortened two-year training course.

Pay and prospects

In 2014, newly-qualified teachers started on a minimum of £22,023 on a scale which progresses to £32,187. Salaries can be boosted by performance-related pay, payments for additional responsibilities, etc. With experience, there are good opportunities for promotion, e.g. to deputy head-teacher or head-teacher. Head-teachers of the largest primary schools carry considerable responsibility and can receive salaries in excess of £55,000.

On the Isle of Man we offer a comprehensive package of support to all newly qualified teachers in their first year of teaching. This includes mentor support in school, release time from class and a dedicated Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme. CPD is then ongoing, supporting teachers throughout their professional lives, and includes a successful programme for developing the leadership and management skills necessary to allow all teachers to play an active role in leading aspects of the school's work. All primary teachers now enjoy dedicated release time from their classes to allow them to carry out planning and preparation for lessons and to undertake assessment of pupils' work. Despite a recent increase in the number of applications for primary teacher training, there is still a shortage of male teachers and teachers from ethnic minority backgrounds - important as role models for young children.

Further information

The Education Improvement Service

Department of Education Sport and Culture

Hamilton House

Peel Road



Telephone:+44 1624 685353

Email:Send Email

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