From education to employment

The people charting a new course as they embark on second careers in teaching

The 2020/21 cohort from Transition to Teach (@t2teachuk) are charting a new course into teaching from redundancy, early retirement and career change, and dispelling many of the myths that exist about entering the profession.

Christina Grainger, 41, from Preston is training as a primary school teacher supported by the Department for Education-funded Transition to Teach programme, following pandemic related redundancy from her previous career as a solicitor.

“I qualified as a solicitor in 2006. It was a really busy job. After having my children though my priorities began to change and I started to wonder whether I was still in the right industry. When the pandemic hit, the firm of solicitors I was working for lost a bit of work, but even then, when redundancies were announced it was a shock.

“The redundancy was a blow after how hard I’d been working, especially while juggling childcare throughout the pandemic. Around the time of the redundancy notice, I saw something from Transition to Teach asking whether it was time to get into teaching. I didn’t have the first idea whether I would be eligible as I thought I would need school experience, but it wasn’t a barrier to me being accepted onto the programme.”

Transition to Teach supports eligible career changers into teaching, with a particular focus on those at risk of redundancy, and prior teaching experience is not required. Redundancies reached a record high in the last three months of 2020, a trend that is continuing into 2021. Figures released by the Resolution Foundation in February 2021 showed that 1 in 12 employed workers expect to lose their jobs in the next three months, or have been advised that redundancy is on the cards. 

As well as redundancy, the numbers of people in employment in the last three months of 2020 were over 500,000 fewer than 2019. Across the ages, the employment rate was 75% but the employment rate for people aged 50-64 has decreased by a record 1.6% to 71.1%.

Former hedge fund manager Dean Fletcher, 53 is one of the many proving that teaching is a viable career choice for those in their 40s and 50s. Dean took early retirement from his job in the financial industry, and is now in the final stages of his initial teacher training year at Leeds Beckett University:

“I worked in London and New York for a hedge fund. It was full on with 6.30am starts and 10pm finishes. Despite the financial benefits, it wasn’t much of a life, especially with a family. My friend became a maths teacher at 41 and she said to me ‘you’ve got to look into teaching’ and was so positive about the experience, I knew it was something I had to look into. Now, my children are older and at university themselves, I decided to start my teaching journey. I was accepted onto the Transition to Teach programme, who are supporting me through my initial teacher training year and my first year as a newly qualified teacher.

“I hope my experience will help me to inspire young people and show them the types of careers they can achieve with maths. I think my experience of dealing with people will also be key and skills I’ve learned, such as public speaking, will be useful in the classroom. Controlling a class is similar in some ways to trying to control a dealing room! I think it’s vital that we have experienced, older people who have had other careers in other industries moving into teaching.”

Another myth about entering the teaching profession is that you need to teach your degree subject. Subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) courses may be available to bridge any knowledge gaps prior to starting the teacher training year. Tom Riley, 29, from Lincoln, is a former video game shop owner who decided to retrain as a secondary maths teacher in 2020. Tom completed a 20 week SKE course whilst running his business during the first lockdown:

“My degree was in business and accounting, but when I was at university I decided that I couldn’t work in an office. I was working part time in a shop and when the owner moved on I ended up buying the business, selling retro video games. The part of the business I enjoyed was interacting with people but as the focus moved more to online, I was spending more time on the side of the business I didn’t enjoy as much. My work life balance wasn’t the best and I got stuck in my ways. As I approach my new career, trying to achieve that healthy work life balance is something I’m aiming for.

“There tends to be two types of people on my course. Those that went into initial teaching training straight from university and are 22-23, and those like me who have come from a different path. When I had my business, it meant dealing with all different types of people, handling difficult situations and wearing multiple different hats. These are the skills that I take into teaching with me.”

Stephen Henry is a guidance and development adviser with over 25 years’ experience in education and works with Transition to Teach to support people like Christina, Dean and Tom into teaching. Stephen believes their prior career experience makes them ideal candidates for teaching:

“When you enter teaching with another career behind you, you’ve learnt how to deal with things effectively and don’t obsess about issues that aren’t important. It’s a myth that teaching is a young person’s game, it’s actually beneficial to be older in many cases. When I was first teaching 18 year old students at only 24 myself, it was difficult to get that distance and attain the necessary authority.

“People moving into teaching often worry about the teaching side and how they’ll control a class. They imagine that they’ll spend all their time worrying about their students, but actually, once you’ve learnt your craft, the teaching becomes second nature. Far from being a worry, the children will actually be the very best thing about your job. Teaching is one of the most rewarding jobs there is, and I for one am delighted to see more candidates with rich life experience joining the profession.”

Transition to Teach is a Department for Education funded initiative that supports eligible career changers into the teaching profession, with a renewed focus for 2020 of supporting those who have been made, or are at risk of, redundancy. The project is part of the UK government’s commitment to invest over £10 million to support career changers into the teaching profession. The Transition to Teach programme was developed to promote, identify and support new career opportunities to successful professionals interested in changing their careers. The scheme focuses on encouraging potential teachers to recognise how their existing skills and experience can be applied to the classroom environment, to make a positive impact on young people and to provide an outstanding level of education across the country. Transition to Teach is delivered through Cognition Education.

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