Young teacher with primary school children

Students and trainees

Whether you’re starting your training in a school or at university, the National Education Union is here to support you throughout your teacher training and your career. 

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We are delighted you have chosen to join the profession. Teaching is a great job. As a teacher you can change children’s lives. However, you train to teach, you can rely on the National Education Union (NEU) to support you throughout your training, induction and career.

As the UK’s largest education union, we provide support, training, and advice to thousands of trainee teachers every year.

What is a trade union?

A trade union is an organisation that represents workers. Its main goal is to protect and advance the interests of its members.

Why join a union? In short, because it means you don’t have to deal with any issues that affect your job on your own. As a union member, by coming together with your colleagues, you will have a stronger voice when tackling issues that are important to you at work, including negotiating your pay and conditions of employment.

In addition, union members can access advice, support and workplace representation, and professional development, as well as a range of benefits, including insurance.

It is highly recommended that everyone who works in education joins a union before entering the workplace.

Frequently asked questions

The National Education Union would advise you not to intervene. On occasions like this, you are present to observe, learn and note. However, you should definitely discuss what you observed with the teacher afterwards to establish how much of what you saw was actually noticed, and the reasons why the teacher managed the class that way.

Inspections tend to be brief and tightly focused, and inspectors will discuss with a headteacher which lessons they need to see to get a picture of the school or college.

If an inspector should find themselves with a student teacher, they will apply their criteria regarding the experience and training of the teacher or lecturer being observed. Whether you are a student or not, you are entitled to feedback and this should be given with sensitivity to status.

There is no specific and consistent job description that applies to the role of a mentor and the word is often used to describe many different roles. However, you should expect to have a regular allocated time in which you can discuss, plan, get advice on and review your work to date. 

As a trainee if you feel you are not being given adequate support, speak to both your HEI tutor and/or the most senior person responsible for initial teacher training and student teachers in your school as early as possible.

You must be sure that you are specific about what support you feel you should be receiving, you have listened to and acted upon advice when it has been given and you have clearly described your problems to your mentor. No matter what stage of teaching you are at, everyone needs a good mentor and, just as no one forgets a good teacher, no one forgets a good mentor either.

All teachers, including those on the way to gaining QTS, have a ‘duty of care’ towards their pupils. According to this duty of care, you are required to apply your education and acquired skills to safeguard pupils, demonstrating reasonable and careful professional standards while you are at work. The School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) sets out the duties of teachers employed in maintained schools. It also applies to teachers in academies, independent schools and free schools where the STPCD has been incorporated into their contracts. In addition to those concerned with classroom teaching, these include the maintenance of good order and discipline among pupils and the safeguarding of their health and safety.

You should always avoid discriminating against colleagues or pupils. The NEU believes that providing and promoting equal opportunities for pupils and staff is at the fundamental core of an effective education service.

Each year the DfE sets the training bursaries for certain subjects in England, when they are deemed to be shortage subjects. Read the information for the 2023-24 training year here

There are a number of places to look and any job suitable for a new teacher should state that, as the school must offer you the ECF package (NQT package in Wales) of CPD and support. Look in the following places:

The Guardian job section – most jobs will be advertised in multiple places including the above.

The NEU’s publication Finding your first teaching job is packed with further advice.

  • Visit your school in advance and use the visit to meet the teachers who you will be working with
  • Find out who will be your teacher-tutor or mentor and ask about the support available
  • Find out the names/contact details of key staff, for example the head of department and the special educational needs coordinator (SENCO)
  • Find out about the school’s customs and routines, for example, times of sessions, break and lunch times and how teachers are addressed by pupils and parents
  • Ask what equipment and other resources you will be able to use and in what quantity
  • Find out about safeguarding procedures and the name of the designated safeguarding lead
  • Ask for copies of the school’s code of conduct or behaviour policy, the school handbook or prospectus, the equality policy, health and safety information, and any plan of the school, if it is a large or split site school
  • Find out the age range of the pupils you will be teaching, what is being taught and the stage reached by the pupils, and ask the class teacher or phase co-ordinator/head of department for copies of the schemes of work in use
  • Consult closely with the teachers about individual pupils’ needs and the most effective ways of organising children to work
  • Discuss reasonable adjustments that you may need to consider for pupils with special educational needs and disabled pupils with the school/college SENCO
  • Find out who your NEU representative is and introduce yourself

Anti-Racism Framework

Anti-racism is not covered in the current teacher training in England and there is no current guidance for ITE/T providers on anti-racism in ITE/T. The NEU commissioned research on anti-racism in teacher education that led to this anti-racism framework. 

We suggest that you draw on this framework alongside the Teacher Standards and Core Content Framework in ways appropriate to your course context.

Read more

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Starting out in teaching (Bilingual)

This guide in English and Welsh is aimed at anyone in Wales working towards QTS (Qualified Teacher Status), whether you’re on a school-based route or at university.

Female teacher with teenage pupils raising hands

Behaviour tips

Tips for trainees on managing behaviour in the classroom, including tips for your first lesson and managing conflict.

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Education, the law and you

Teachers in England work within a legal framework involving rights and duties. These lecture notes provide information on the legal framework for teachers beginning their careers.

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Education, the law and you (Bilingual)

Teachers in Wales work within a legal framework involving rights and duties. These lecture notes in English and Welsh provide information on the legal framework for teachers beginning their careers.

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