Career as an Art Teacher

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Gemma Burney is an art teacher at Hall Green Secondary School in Birmingham. On one day she might be showing children how to work with clay; on the next, she could be creating sculpture using wire and plaster.

What is a typical week?

I teach all age ranges across the school and have a full timetable of teaching apart from three double periods a week. With the younger children, I work on a variety of skills and techniques, using clay and threedimensional construction. With the older children, I set projects and briefs for designs and also help them prepare for their mocks and exams.

I also have my own form first thing in the morning and get involved in literacy, numeracy, citizenship and extra-curricular activities like fund-raising.

What is involved in teaching a class?

A normal class size can range from 16 to 23, all of different abilities. Art lessons are 70 minutes long, which allows enough time to get really involved in the work. There is a lot of planning and preparation for each lesson. I have to sort out all the materials I need for that day, check I have the right equipment and ensure I have enough space for everyone to work safely.

What skills do you teach?

At Year 7 I demonstrate a range of basic clay skills, including rolling, coiling and modelling. In Year 8, we look at the cultural and social aspects of art, such as aboriginal art, identity and typography. In Year 9, young people make and decorate art deco boxes and make figures of famous people.

I have been introducing GCSE students to wire sculptures. I try to show them new materials and techniques.

What do you like about your job?

I love the variety and the fact that I get to interact with a whole range of people – colleagues, parents and children. It is a fantastic feeling when you have been teaching something and a student suddenly understands it!

What are the hard parts?

Not having enough hours in the day to do everything. Preparing and organising lessons can be mind-boggling because you have to think of every eventuality. You also have to spend time after school finishes doing paperwork, attending meetings and planning.

Gemma's route to her career as an art teacher

  • Part-time diploma in arts and crafts.
  • Degree in design crafts.
  • Part-time job as an art technician.
  • One-year School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT).

Gemma's art teacher tips

  • Working as a technician initially is a good way to see how a school works.
  • You must be flexible, organised and able to work under pressure.

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Art teacher salaries

  • As a newly qualified teacher (NQT), you can expect to start on a scale that ranges from £18,105 to £26,460 (£21,522 to £30,000 in Inner London).
  • In Scotland, you would start on at least £18,000 and be on a scale that reaches £28,707 working as a classroom teacher in a state school.

Becoming an art teacher

  • Teachers in schools need to achieve Qualified Teacher Status. This means they usually have a degree that includes a teaching qualification or a degree followed by a one-year, fulltime teacher training course.
  • Entry requirements are at least two A levels and three GCSEs (A-C) grades in other subjects.
  • There are two employment-based training routes: the Registered Teacher Programme (RTP) – you should have completed at least two years full-time degree study (or the equivalent) or the Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP).

Modified: 16 June 2013

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