Geographical Association

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The leading subject association for all teachers of geography

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is teaching just for those who can't think of what else to do?
2. What qualities make a good teacher?
3. What benefits are there in teaching?
4. What are the different routes into teaching?
5. Is it possible to train on the job?
6. How much does it cost and who pays?
7. What financial support can I get?
8. What is the NQT salary?
9. I can't decide between primary and secondary. What should I do?
10. What if I haven't got a degree in Geography?
11. Does it matter if I did my degree a few years ago?
12. What if I am worried about the level of subject knowledge needed for schools?
13. What can I do to prepare myself for applying and for the interview?
14. What other experiences or life skills are useful?
15. What training courses can I do to qualify as a teacher?
16. How do I get experience in schools?
17. When do I need to apply by?
18. What are the QTS skills tests I have heard about?
19. When I am on teaching practice how much teaching will I have to do?
20. Will I be on my own in the classroom or with a teacher?
21. How much fieldwork is done in schools?
22. Will there be jobs available after I have trained?
23. What else can I do with a PGCE?




1. Is teaching just for those who can't think of what else to do?

Certainly not! The long standing joke about 'those who can't - teach' is certainly not true today! When you have been into a school to get a flavour of what happens in the vibrant atmosphere of a successful classroom, you will see that a good teacher has skills that have been learned and developed over a number of years. This can only happen if s/he was certain that they wanted to be a teacher.

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2. What qualities make a good teacher?

There are lots but maybe some key qualities are:

  • Being enthusiastic about geography – this will rub off on your students
  • Enjoying working with and being in the company of young people
  • Being organised
  • Resilience
  • Being able to make connections with the students
  • Having a sense of humour
  • Willingness to try out new ideas with students

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3. What benefits are there in teaching?

In addition to your basic salary there are also:

  • A clear career path. Teaching and Learning Responsibilities (called TLRs) are an extra payment if you apply for extra responsibilities.
  • The teacher's pension which is a good pension scheme and one of the biggest in the country within the public sector.

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4. What are the different routes into teaching?

Website: GA - Teacher Training Course Options

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5. Is it possible to train on the job?

Yes. This is one of several possible routes into teaching. There are a few ways of doing this. The courses are called:

  • SCITT - School-centred initial teacher training
  • School Direct
  • Teach First

Website: GA - Teacher Training Course Options

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6. How much does it cost and who pays?

PGCE tuition fees are currently around £9,000 although you should check with the training provider for accurate figures. Bursaries and other forms of funding support are available if you meet certain eligibility criteria.

Website: Teaching Agency

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7. What financial support can I get?

A range of incentives and financial support are available both during and after your training. All financial support is subject to conditions and although you are not guaranteed funding, you may be eligible for financial support.

Website: Teaching Agency

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8. What is the NQT salary?

Starting salaries match well with many other professions. The salary is fixed by the Government and the pay scales are updated each September. The starting salary in September 2012 was a minimum of £21,588.

Website: Teaching Agency

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9. I can't decide between primary and secondary. What should I do?

You should visit both types of school and spend at least a few days in each to see what you think will suit you best. Perhaps you need more patience with young children. Do you want to develop adult relationships with older students? Do you want to use your degree in your teaching?

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10. What if I haven't got a degree in Geography?

Maybe you have a joint degree e.g. Sociology and Geography, or a degree in a related subject such as Archaeology, Human Geography, Physical Geography or Environmental Science/Studies. None of these rule you out of a course in Geography but you will need to check with the place you are thinking of applying to. Many ask that at least 50% of your degree is in Geography. If you have a geography degree but studied some time ago, or if you feel you have gaps in your knowledge it is possible to take a subject booster course in Geography. These are organised through the TDA.

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11. Does it matter if I did my degree a few years ago?

This should not be a problem although it would be advisable to refresh your subject knowledge before applying. The course providers will be more interested in what work you have done with children. See questions 10, 16 and 14 for further information.

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12. What if I am worried about the level of subject knowledge needed for schools?

This may be an issue depending on various factors such as:

  • If you want to teach A-level students you may want to apply to a provider who offers experience in 11-18 age range schools.
  • Your degree may have concentrated on Human Geography or Physical Geography. At A-level you would be expected to teach both. If one of these areas is weak you can do a booster course before the training course starts. This is commonly ten days or two weeks long and is free.

Website: Teaching Agency - Subject knowledge enhancement

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13. What can I do to prepare myself for applying and for the interview?

Have a look at our hints on how to apply.

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14. What other experiences or life skills are useful?

You may have worked with children in the past in various ways and this will be something that course leaders will take into account. For example a youth club, scout/cubs/girl guide/brownie leader or helper, sports coach or instructor, working with children overseas perhaps in a gap year, volunteering to help in schools and so on. People who have had an opportunity to travel also find these experiences can help them teach about other places more effectively.

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15. What training courses can I do to qualify as a teacher?

Website: GA - Teacher Training Course Options

Have a look at our hints on how to apply.

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16. How do I get experience in schools?

The simplest way of doing this is to spend some time in a school observing experienced teachers and watch them use teaching skills that help the students learn. Many schools will be happy to let you visit for a few days - perhaps you could even become a volunteer classroom assistant.

You could become a Geography Ambassador which gets you in to schools to talk to students about geography.

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17. When do I need to apply by?

This varies depending on what type of course you are interested in and where you would like to study.

Website: GA - How to apply

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18. What are the QTS skills tests I have heard about?

The tests cover the core skills that teachers need to fulfil their wider professional role in schools, rather than the subject knowledge required for teaching. The three skills areas which are tested are literacy, numeracy and ICT and questions are set in the context of your professional role as a teacher. All questions have been written using real data and information which teachers are likely to come across. They have been extensively trialed and piloted by trainee teachers and teachers.

The tests are computerised and can be taken at any of approximately 50 test centres throughout England. You will need to obtain a pass mark of at least 60% for each skills test. You can retake these tests any number of times until you reach the required standard.

Website: Teaching Agency - Professional skills tests

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19. When I am on teaching practice how much teaching will I have to do?

We use the term 'school experience' rather than 'teaching practice'. The number of days spent on your school experience will vary depending on what teacher training course you will do. The following is an extract from the Initial Teacher Training requirements:

'Training programmes are designed to provide trainees with sufficient time being trained in schools and/or other settings to enable them to demonstrate that they have met the QTS Standards. This means they would normally be structured to include the following periods of time to be spent in training in schools or other settings:

A four year undergraduate QTS programme
160 days (32 weeks)

A two or three year QTS undergraduate programme
120 days (24 weeks)

A secondary graduate QTS programme
120 days (24 weeks)

A primary graduate QTS programme
90 days (18 weeks)

Employment based schemes Determined by the training programme. '

There are other flexible training schemes, such as the one run by the Open University where the amount of time in schools is flexible depending on your previous experience.

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20. Will I be on my own in the classroom or with a teacher?

This will vary from school to school but a common pattern is that you will observe the geography teacher with the class you are to teach for two or three lessons. When you teach them for the first time the class teacher is likely to be present but as you become more experienced you will be left alone. You would need to discuss this with your University tutor and with the department staff at the school. As you spend more time with your classes you will do more and more lessons on your own. The teacher will make a formal observation about once a week and should always give you feedback after each observation.

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21. How much fieldwork is done in schools?

This varies from school to school. At secondary level, fieldwork is essential for GCSE and A-level courses and a requirement of all examination specifications. Many schools also make sure that fieldwork is part of the KS3 (11-14) curriculum. In Infant and Primary schools there will often be more visits undertaken and these will combine various subjects.

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22. Will there be jobs available after I have trained?

The majority of geographers do find jobs in schools although this cannot be guaranteed as you will be applying for jobs along with others who have qualified. You will have to apply to schools and be interviewed. It may be necessary to move to another part of the country to get a job.

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23. What else can I do with a PGCE?

If you finish the training course to the required standards then you will have achieved a postgraduate qualification which has academic currency in its own right, as well as your Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). Many training institutions award a certain number of Masters cedits when you complete the course successfully so you can use these as a basis for going on to do a Masters degree in the future. You could use the degree to work in a field studies centre or in other jobs involving working in educational settings with young people.

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1 Comment

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john downes

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14:33 - 15/12/13

i wonder if you could help me contact Geoff Worth who was a geography teacher at Trinity School, leamington Spa in the 1970s. i feel it's important. my email is [email protected]

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