“You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself.” - Galileo
The UK is one of the few countries in the world where fewer and fewer people are encouraging their children to become teachers.
Despite that, British people rank primary school teachers and secondary school teachers higher than any other major European economy. It goes to show that while we respect teachers, few of us are brave enough to do the work they do. After all, there’s a lot of work to become a teacher.
In this article, we make a case for teaching, in general, and then, we’ll look at how important art education is to our students' development. Finally, we'll show you how you can become an art teacher.
Statistics on Teaching from Around the World
After the Galileo quote, we really opened this article with a bang, didn't we? Unfortunately, as scary as it is, that wasn't just an off-the-cuff remark we tossed out to get your interest. Several studies indicate that people are turning away from teaching in droves, not just in the UK but around the world.
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You might think the reasons are straightforward: globally, teachers don't get paid enough and don't get enough classroom support - materials, help with administrative tasks and managing ever-larger class sizes. These are the issues the news media most often report on but the truth of the matter is far more nuanced than anything we can conclude from the information given us.
Another alarming social trend the media report on these days is that, in many regions of the world, people are having fewer children. Fewer babies being born means fewer future students needing teachers. It also means that the smaller number of babies will result in a smaller number of teachers available to educate future generations.
That is one scary statistic for more than one reason, but that's exactly what's happening right now in Japan, South Korea and some European countries. Indeed, even the US recently reported their lowest birth rate in 50 years...
Some countries have an abundance of teachers but those professionals don't want to teach the levels that most need teachers. That results in a simultaneous overabundance and a dearth of teachers in the same country. Oddly enough, it's early education and primary education that lacks proper staffing. Worldwide, more teachers seem to want to teach at higher levels than lower ones.
Finally, there's the matter of younger people not being attracted to the teaching profession. Perhaps scared off by the mainline narrative of low pay, long hours and poor recognition for their efforts, more and more educated youths are embracing more progressive careers in FinTech, computer programming and cybersecurity, among others.
Like so many other career fields, the global teaching ranks are ageing out and not being replenished. This natural attrition is sounding alarm bells throughout the global educational community.
Study after study has shown the same trends. The information we cite comes from a 2018 report on Education International Research but there are many others, and they all say the same thing.
It's time we make a case for more teachers.
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Why We Need More Teachers
Despite fewer babies being born which, logically, will lead to fewer students to educate, the need for more teachers has never been greater. It's not because of the large student groups today's teachers have to manage - although that is a part of the reason, the real proof of this need is that there is so much more to teach.
Compare all the things we know about today versus our knowledge stores from a century ago, or even 50 years prior. The human genome was not mapped. Computers occupied entire rooms and processed data so slowly that they were only useful in certain, narrow applications. We didn't understand as much about our environment and the interplay between elements and organisms that form ecosystems.
And, every day, we're learning more about technologies that can prolong human life and reverse environmental damage.
Yet, our schools remain grounded in the Three Rs: reading, writing and arithmetic. We teach biology and physics fundamentals... but how many textbooks talk about dark matter or delve into the theories that explain black holes? How much of today's textbook content translates into practical knowledge that could be applied to today's real-life challenges?
Why has the concept of teaching not fundamentally changed since the dawn of compulsory education?
And, on the artistic side of the education spectrum...
Technology has done so much to advance artistic expression. Software programmes like Photoshop and CAD - computer-aided drawing/design, hardware devices like Wacom tablets and 3D printers. Entirely new artistic concepts such as non-fungible tokens - those NFTs that currently sell for millions of pounds (or dollars).
Are NFTs the future of artistic expression? If so, shouldn't we teach our students about them?
New media to sculpt with: Lego bricks and silly putty and even clays made of flour, salt and water. And all of that is beside the existing materials that our current art programmes, such as they are, hardly - or don't touch on: paper for origami, natural pigments like beet juice and henna for painting.
Advances in photographic equipment. Photography is a legitimate form of art, after all, and the last 20 years' technological developments in photographic equipment have been astounding.
Granted, if Tiktok and Instagram are any proof, plenty of students are showing themselves totally capable of discovering on their own what their cameras can do; they also display their artistry in the work they create. But... why not teach those skills to all students?
Not only would teaching such progressive skills - skills that students are interested in learning, get kids excited about learning and school, it would likely help to reinvigorate and rejuvenate the teaching profession.
Although it's seldom (never?) mentioned, there's a good chance that the teaching profession, not having changed in about 300 years, plays a role in keeping the best, brightest and most motivated minds out of schools.
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Why Taking Art Out of Schools Is a Bad Idea
Something else that's quietly disappearing from schools: art programmes.
Academic hardliners the world over all seem of the same mind: school is for learning concrete facts and how to discover them. That means maths, sciences and rhetoric. There are no facts to be found in art; therefore, teaching art in schools is not necessary.
That's not actually the reason given for the global waning of school art programmes; funding is.
Thanks to the recent economic crunches - the 2008 downturn and, more recently, the COVID pandemic, we all know what it's like to use the financial resources we have wisely. When it comes down to buying food versus buying new shoes or clothes (that aren't strictly necessary), obviously, food wins out, right?
The same thing is happening in schools everywhere. Faced with ever-diminishing financial resources, the courses that are seen as less valuable get cut: music lessons, art classes and, in most countries - but, notably, not in the US, physical education and athletic programmes.
To pragmatic thinkers, that logic is inverted.
What will courses in higher maths and advanced physics do for students who are unable to think critically? Who lack the ability to problem-solve and have little to no spatial awareness? Whose fine motor skills and cognitive abilities are on the decline?
Already today, the medical community is decrying student doctors' inability to suture because they lack the motor skills needed for precision work. Elsewhere in business, employers are desperate for job candidates with demonstrable critical thinking skills and the ability to problem-solve.
These are the skills students cultivate when they learn how to create art.
It takes a controlled hand to apply paint exactly where it is needed on the canvas, and nowhere else. It takes imagination to create something or make something appear where, before, were only raw materials or an empty page. And it takes substantial brain power to resolve how to make disparate elements come together to create an aesthetically pleasing work.
As we're stuffing students' heads full of facts - or, at least, attempting to, we're failing to help them develop their natural curiosity, their ability to imagine and visualise, and their ability to think adaptively.
Aren't these the skills and qualities most needed at this point in the human experience? How are we going to come up with innovative solutions to some of the world's greatest challenges if we can't imagine any solutions? If we can't break out of our rigid thought patterns to find new ways to solve new problems?
You, with your palette and brush in hand, hold the answers.
Armed only with your sculpting knives, pottery wheels and two-sided origami paper, you possess the talent and abilities needed to turn out legions of thinkers with exactly the skills needed to meet tomorrow's challenges, today.
As a society, we have to look beyond the rational - maybe even overlook the rational, to favour the fanciful. We need to develop students' minds, not just their intellects. The best way is by making art classes, led by qualified art teachers, available to them.
That begs the question...
How Do You Qualify as an Art Teacher?
Generally, art teachers will need postgraduate qualifications and qualified teacher status (QTS) to work in a secondary school in the UK.
However, first, they need a qualification in their subject area. Usually, this will be a bachelor's degree in art. Once they have this, they can complete postgraduate courses (usually the Postgraduate Certificate in Education or PGCE) or teacher training.
Most UK universities ask for a lower second-class undergraduate degree (2:2) in art and design-related subjects or equivalent for an art PGCE.
Find out how to become an art teacher.
Getting Onto an Art PGCE
To become a qualified teacher, you'll usually be expected to complete the PGCE in which you'll gain professional skills while studying and learn more about the teaching practice. Similarly, PGCEs include school-based work placements for aspiring teachers.
However, before you can do all this, you need to be accepted onto the course. Much like with undergraduate degrees and almost everything else in higher education, your application will be dealt with through UCAS.
Sadly, a PGCE isn't free but there are a few things you should know about the fees and funding. When you find a course and are accepted onto it, you should look to see whether or not you're eligible for a tax-free bursary, tuition fee loan or maintenance loan, or additional financial support. Bursaries go up to £9,000 and are available for those with a first, 2:1, 2:2, Master's, or PhD.
Before you start looking for a PGCE, we recommend that you check the QS World University Rankings to see which are the best universities. For example, certain universities are better for primary education while others excel in undergraduate study but fall short in postgraduate study. Similarly, most universities will sing their praises when it comes to their department of education or school of education.
You might want to also consider attending an open day once you've settled on a few universities that you're interested in.
Here are some of the best universities for PGCEs:
- University of Birmingham
- University of Bristol
- University of Cambridge
- University of Durham
- University of Exeter
- Loughborough University
- University of Manchester
- University of Nottingham
- University of Oxford
- University College London
Find out more about the qualifications art teachers need.
Passing the Art PGCE
In comparison to most degree courses, the PGCE can be testing. A lot is expected of those who want to make their way into primary or secondary education and teacher education in the UK reflects this. You'll be expected to study a lot!
As the PGCE is tough, make sure you rely on your support network. Friends, family, and, most importantly, university tutors and placement mentors are on hand to help you with guidance and assistant. If things get difficult and you start to struggle, make sure you reach out to those that can help you.
Similarly, you won't be the only person on your course so make sure that you make friends with the other PGCE students. After all, you're all in the same boat and it can be useful to work together as you all have shared goals. We're not saying that you should copy off them, but you should help each other and support one another.
One of the hardest parts of your PGCE will be the placement. While it's challenging, you should also try to make the most of it. We can't stress enough just how much you'll learn from this time and you should make sure that you're constantly learning from every challenge that's thrown your way.
The entry requirements for the PGCE might make you think that it's quite easy but it's quite the opposite. Ask anyone who's completed it and they'll tell you it was one of the toughest years of their lives. That said, it doesn't get much easier (or any easier) once they start working in primary or secondary schools. Teaching isn't for the faint of heart.
Find out how much art teachers earn.
Finding Work with an Art PGCE
Just because you've got your PGCE, is doesn't mean that you'll just automatically walk into a job teaching art in a state school. As we said earlier, you'll usually need an art degree, QTS, and, the hardest thing to get, experience.
When looking for work, you'll need to do your NQT first. NQT is short for "newly qualified teacher". This means that you've got your QTS but are yet to complete the "induction for newly qualified teachers", which is a 12-month programme.
Put simply, when you get your PGCE, your first year of teaching full time will be your NQT year. This means that you'll need to be looking for NQT positions when applying. Once you've completed your NQT year, you can start searching for art teacher jobs of all types. However, like every other career, certain online tutoring jobs UK will require more experience than you have.
You can find jobs for art teachers on the gov.uk website under the teaching vacancies service. Similarly, jobs are posted to other sites like indeed.co.uk, totaljobs.co.uk, and teachin.co.uk, for example. Make sure that you apply to jobs that you're capable of doing and qualified for.
Find out what makes a good art teacher.
If you're interested in becoming a private art or drawing tutor, consider signing up to Superprof and creating your profile. You can offer three different types of tutorials: face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials. As there are pros and cons to each for both the student and the tutor, you need to think carefully about which combination of them you'll offer before you start.
Face-to-face tutorials are just between you and your student. With just one student in the session, every session needs to be tailored to them. Of course, this means that you'll need to prepare a lot outside of the lessons. However, you can reflect this in your rates as you're offering a tailored bespoke service to the student. Face-to-face tutorials are usually the most expensive type of tutorials but they're also the most cost-effective for students so make sure that they're aware of this.
Online tutorials are also between you and your student but you won't physically be there in the room with them. Instead, you'll teach them remotely using a computer, webcam, and video conferencing software like Skype. Much like face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials are a tailored service and you'll have to spend time planning each session but you'll save a lot of travel time as you only need to make it to your computer rather than the student's house. With all the time you save by not travelling, you can add even more tutorials into your schedule. With fewer outgoings and increased earning potential, you can charge more competitive rates for your tutorials.
Group tutorials involve teaching several students at the same time. Of course, with several students to keep happy, you won't be able to fully tailor the tutorials to each student. However, with several students paying for each hour of your time, you can charge less and still earn more at the end of each hour. Of course, this only works if your classes are full and the more students you have in your class, the less appealing your tutorials will be. Furthermore, group art tutorials will require a large space so if you don't have a studio or dedicated space available, you may have to look into renting a space for your lessons.
Finally, don't forget that many of the tutors on Superprof offer the first hour of tuition for free. This is a great opportunity for tutors to show off their teaching skills, meet potential students, and discuss what their tutorials will be like. Students will use these sessions to try out several different tutors so make sure you stand out when you meet them.
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