Career Opportunities - The advantages of a career in middle schools.
Read the reflections by middle school teachers below and it becomes clear that teaching in a middle school offers many advantages. Middle schools offer teachers a unique blend of subject specialist teaching and a child centred approach, combined with a stimulating environment for professional development.
Some providers of initial teacher training offer middle years courses covering the middle school age range - see list. However positions are open to other teachers who have primary or secondary training in their background.
St Edwards CE Middle School, Staffordshire
Have I died and gone to heaven? No. I have been accepted to work in a Middle School after 15 years at senior schools. What a difference the whole atmosphere appears to be. Not only are the adults so friendly, but the children also. Last week as I thanked a pupil for opening the door the retort was "You are welcome Miss”. Was I hearing right? Yes I was!
There certainly seem to be benefits for the children following the Middle School system. There is an air of academic achievement within the classes. The children are well aware of the importance of completing tasks set and are given full instructions and guidelines as to what is required to achieve a particular level. Encouraging independent learning is apparent in all areas, as well as getting a team spirit attitude to problem solving tasks. There is great enthusiasm from the children.
The Year 5 pupils, who started the same week as I did, seem to have adjusted quickly to the environment. Their role models, the older children within the school, are still keen to achieve. The Year 7 children are not frightened by the sheer size of Years 9, 10 and 11s in the corridor. Many of the Year 8 children are involved with nurturing the younger pupils.
Although there are over 750 pupils in the school there is a feeling of calm and order. Every child is encouraged to voice their opinions through the School Council. There is an ethos of encouraging good manners with the emphasis on developing the individual to successfully achieve their full potential and become a good citizen within the community. The regular full assemblies are delivered with a purposeful and relevant way to enhance the understanding of the need to consider others within the community and in the whole of the world. This is certainly preparing them for the skills that will take them into their future lives.
I do so hope that the Middle School system is not abolished. This is an environment that can still encourage the 'child' in the pupil, but also develop the emerging adolescent and guide them towards becoming a caring and capable adult.
Mill Vale School, Bedfordshire
In 2001 I made the decision that I wanted to join the teaching profession. I had given a great deal of thought to the teaching path I wanted to pursue, primary or secondary, but had not yet made up my mind. I asked teaching friends of both tiers and was presented with advantages and disadvantages of each, I was none the wiser. It then occurred to me that by joining a middle school I could get hands on experience of key stages 2 and 3 which would give me a valuable insight into at least part of each tier.
I have spent four years with Mill Vale and have not regretted it at all. I have taught ICT and Technology across Years 5 to 8 and now have a much clearer picture of which age groups I wish to teach. Middle schools are particularly good for NQTs as they are generally smaller than high schools but nearly equal in terms of their resources, equipment and staff expertise. As a result you get more time and support from your peers, which helps with your training and confidence. I would definitely recommend a middle school as a place to cut your “teaching teeth”.
Amanda Watkins (26)
Mill Vale School, Bedfordshire
P.E. teacher in a middle school for 5 years
Despite being secondary trained, I opted to teach in a middle school as I feel it is the age that the pupils are most receptive and responsive.
From a Physical Education point of view, I believe that the 9-13 year old age group is the crucial time when pupils’ interests and hobbies, both inside and outside of school, develop. If the pupils have teachers who possess vast sporting knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject hopefully, this motivation will be transferred to the pupils thus encouraging them to join sports clubs both inside and outside of school. Trying to convert secondary pupils into being ‘sporty’ when they have not had the grounding at primary school would have been a far greater challenge and perhaps would have been less successful than I have witnessed.
I’m confident that by the time the Year 8 pupils leave Mill Vale they have received a variety of sporting opportunities and activities and will hopefully have been inspired to pursue their sporting interest at upper school and beyond.
At Mill Vale we provide extra-curricular activities for all year groups including Netball, Hockey, Badminton, Basketball, Football, Rugby and Fitness Club. All clubs run throughout the year and are excellently attended. All year groups have the opportunity to represent the school in regular external tournaments at Key Stage 2 and weekly fixture for pupils in Key Stage 3.
Ashton C of E Middle School, Bedfordshire
I trained for a Science Middle years PGCE, as I was unsure whether I wanted to teach primary or secondary. I preferred the enthusiasm of the younger children but really wanted to specialise in science. When looking at joining a primary or secondary school I thought I would end up having to choose between teaching the age range I wanted and teaching my subject.
I now work at Ashton Middle School in Dunstable, where I teach Science and Design Technology, which for me is the best of both worlds. I have a year 5 tutor group and get to watch them gain independence and experience opportunities that they may not have had at a primary school, especially in Science and DT where there are many resources available to them. It is also great to be able to see the pupils through Key stage 2 and their KS2 SATs and into KS3.
The middle school environment is great, there is the ethos of a secondary school with the family feel of a primary school, and I have been offered so much support during my induction year by the other teachers and support staff.
St Edwards CE Middle School, Staffordshire
Coming to the end of my Primary PGCE course I, like all of my fellow students, started the daunting task of applying for jobs. I saw an advert for an English teacher at a Middle school – I thought it sounded like an interesting prospect. It would give me the opportunity to teach my specialist subject (something I"d thought you could only do in a Secondary school) to an age-group I would enjoy teaching. I applied for the job and got it.
Four years on, is it a decision I regret? The answer is a heart-felt ‘No’! Whilst I initially found the Y8 pupils a challenge, I soon adapted and learnt valuable lessons in class management that I could apply to any year group. Teaching my specialist subject is also very enjoyable. I now teach Numeracy and Science (as well as English) and I have benefited enormously from working with a group of professionals who are all specialist teachers.
Teaching in a Middle school really is the best of both worlds for me. I get to combine teaching the subject I am passionate about with the age-group I most enjoy teaching. If I had to make the decision again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Helen Morris – Middle School Teacher
Maiden Beech School, Somerset
I knew at eighteen I wanted to be a teacher and opted for a primary course rather than a secondary course at St. Lukes, Exeter University purely because of the age of the children. I preferred the ethos of a primary school and didn’t want to teach older children. As I finished a very successful final teaching practice, however, I was questioning whether I wanted to be a primary teacher. The thought of teaching the same class all day every day and all subjects in the curriculum just didn’t feel right and I decided at this point to take a year out.
While trawling through the TES I came across a job in a middle school. To be honest I’m not even sure why I looked at the page as I knew very little about them at the time but I liked the idea of teaching 9 – 13 year olds and even though the job advertised was for a specialist in English and Humanities I decided to go for it. I got the job and started at Fisherton Manor in September 1998. I was a Year 5 tutor and taught my class English and Humanities and then I taught Maths, P.E. and Music across the school. This certainly suited me - I had an A-level in all these subjects (except music – grade 8 clarinet). This I think is significant. A good teacher can question effectively and this can only really be achieved if the teacher is totally confident with the subject matter. I also felt I still had the close relationship with my class which I would have as a primary teacher.
The middle school system is special. It takes the best parts of a primary and secondary system. Year 5 and 6 pupils get specialist teachers and specialist rooms for practical subjects. Year 7 and 8 pupils still get specialist teachers but have the primary ethos for a couple more years – an important two years in their maturity.
I soon found I there were opportunities at Fisherton. During my time there I was responsible for More Able pupils and Emotional Literacy. But more significantly I became Head of Maths.
I stayed at Fisherton until 2003 when I moved to another middle school in Somerset – Maiden Beech School. This I felt was a positive career move, as it not only allowed me to be Head of Department again but in a bigger middle school.
I cannot imagine working anywhere but a middle school. I am a middle school teacher because it utilises my strengths to the full and I believe it gives 9 – 13 year olds a great all round education. In the future I would love to see the KS3 SAT at Year 8 rather than year 9 and I would love to see middle school pyramids becoming stronger through greater liaison and understanding. We need to promote middle schools at every opportunity. This is the only way middle schools will strive and grow and I sincerely hope they do.