Teaching can be one of the most rewarding professions. Teaching statistics in every phase of education is particularly rewarding as teaching statistical understanding and know-how ensures that the next generation – citizens, parents, voters – have important life skills. As a teacher of statistics you will also be providing your students with employability skills which we know employers in every sector are seeking from new recruits, be they school leavers or graduates.
Statistics is almost always taught as part of mathematics so as a teacher of statistics, you will, almost certainly, be teaching GCSE and/or A level Mathematics. You may also be teaching GSCE Statistics and/or A level Statistics. Or, if you are in one of the small but increasing number of schools which teach the International Baccalaureate (IB), you may be teaching the increased statistics content of this qualification.
The situation is different in Scotland, where nearly all schools follow a different curriculum structure; but there is still some statistics to be taught.
Many other subjects make use of statistics as one of the tools of the trade. Examples are biology, geography, psychology and the wider social sciences and sciences.
General information about school curricula and examinations is available on the websites of the government regulatory authorities for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. More detailed information about syllabuses for GCSE and A-level examinations is provided by the separate examining boards. The International Baccalaureate Organization maintains its own website.
Schools and colleges rarely, if ever, seek to appoint statisticians as such, though they welcome applications from statisticians for mathematics posts in the maintained or independent sector and in all phases of education.
Statistics is taught at primary and secondary levels. At secondary level, statistics is taught as part of mathematics curricula and used in many other subjects across the curriculum.
Like all teachers, statistics teachers spend a significant amount of time outside of lessons preparing and marking work. As statistics is taught across the curriculum and very much an applied subject, some schools are concerned with developing strong data handling and statistical work on a school-wide basis and may give statistics teachers some form of co-ordination role in order to bring real data collected by students as part of a biology, psychology or geography course, into the mathematics classroom too. By collaborating on their teaching in this way, they make teaching and learning statistics more meaningful for students.
Many teachers also have some role in the management of their schools (an activity in which statistical skills are particularly useful) and most have a significant pastoral role, acting as a tutor, mentor and support to a group of pupils. Furthermore, many schools and colleges have an extensive extra-curricular programme including sport, drama, outdoor activities and educational trips.
School teachers are required to have an undergraduate degree and a postgraduate certificate of education (PGCE). A great deal of information about the PGCE can be found on the website of the Graduate Teacher Training Registry, which also deals with applications for PGCE courses.
The ideal, of course, is that the undergraduate degree is in the subject to be taught. However, in shortage areas it is not uncommon for teachers to have degrees in adjacent subjects. So for example in mathematics, which is certainly a shortage area, there are teachers with degrees in engineering or physics.
See the information on university courses for undergraduate degree courses in statistics, including courses where statistics is combined with other subjects (such as mathematics).
A PGCE requires an additional year of study after the undergraduate degree. Much of that year is spent in schools on teaching practice. A PGCE student works with the teachers in a school, initially observing their lessons. The roles are then reversed: the student teaches under the guidance of the regular teacher. Schools have mentors who are specifically trained to offer advice and counselling to PGCE students. The process of learning how to teach continues into the first appointment: newly qualified teachers (NQTs) are given a reduced teaching load and further mentoring during their first year.
Independent schools do not always insist on a PGCE, though they are likely to encourage those without a teaching qualification to gain one by part-time study over their first few years in post.
In making staff appointments, some schools are more highly selective than others. A highly academic school is likely to appoint only those with good degrees from good universities. A higher degree may be weighed in the balance when competition for a post is strong, but it is unlikely to be a determining factor in itself. In all cases, schools look for good teachers – people who are not merely relative experts in their subjects but also have the ability to impart their knowledge and enthusiasm to others.
Most teaching jobs are advertised in the Times Educational Supplement. Some schools have their own websites on which vacancies are posted and where you can register your interest in case a suitable vacancy arises. Most vacancies are for September, the start of the academic year. So the peak time for advertisements is the spring.
A newly qualified teacher (NQT) will earn a minimum of £21,588 (£27,000 in inner London) but could start higher up the scale depending on previous experience. Some independent schools might pay up to about £5,000 more than that.
Subject to satisfactory performance, teachers on the main pay scale move to the next point on the scale each September and may advance by two points if their performance is excellent. In this way, classroom teachers can expect to progress to about £31,500 after five years (just over £36,000 in inner London). Qualified teachers who reach the top of their main pay scale can apply to be assessed against eight national standards, and if they meet these standards, cross the ‘threshold’ to the upper pay scale. Upper pay scale salaries extend to £ 40,300 (£ 45,000 in inner London).
Advanced Skills Teachers – teachers who have a role sharing good practice with others – earn from £ 38,500 to £ 58,000. (£44,500 to £64,000 in inner London)
Leadership group teachers earn £38,500 (minimum). Headteachers earn from £43,500 to £106,000 (equivalent figures for inner London leadership teachers are £44,500 (minimum) and a salary range of £49,500 to £112,000 for headteachers). Salaries in the independent sector are substantially higher.
Promotion within schools and colleges often involves spending less time in the classroom, either by specialising in pastoral matters or in school management. A career with a pastoral emphasis might involve becoming a head of year, then a head of section of school and then a deputy head with overall responsibility for pastoral matters. Management posts include administration of examinations and timetabling. There is also plenty of scope for statisticians to get involved in analysis of examination results and other performance measures throughout a school. Promotion through the academic ranks might include becoming a head of department, a head of faculty and eventually deputy head with responsibility for curriculum.
Many teachers also work for examination boards, usually beginning as markers for GCSE or A level papers (or the equivalent in Scotland). This can lead to higher responsibility: co-ordinating teams of markers, deciding on the awarding of grades, setting and checking examination papers, and developing new syllabuses and assessment methods. Those with considerable experience as senior examiners may be invited to work with one of the government bodies that monitor academic standards set by the examination boards. See the Department for Education’s Teacher Agency website for further details.