We understand that starting out in teaching is an exciting first step on one of the most rewarding careers there is. But we also know it can be daunting and you might have a lot of questions. The resources and FAQs on this page will help you to find your feet as you start out in teaching.

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Frequently asked questions

  • As a student, if I’m observing a teacher or lecturer working with a class I will eventually take over and the class is not behaving as I would wish, should I intervene?

    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.

  • As a student, if my school or college undergoes an inspection, will my lessons be observed by inspectors?

    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.

  • What level of support should I receive from my mentor?

    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. 

  • What can I do if I feel my mentor is not giving me sufficient support?

    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.

  • What are my legal responsibilities as a student/trainee teacher?

    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.

Top tips

  • 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