There is no doubt that teachers are leaving the teaching profession. Quite how dramatic the figures are is hard to know for sure, but we have all seen the headlines; the myriad teachers who have been driven away by workload and excessive stress, or the thousands of UK teachers attracted to teach overseas in schools where workload is eminently more manageable and the lifestyle more attractive. But is this the whole story? Is the flow only one way?
Returning to teaching has always been a feature of the profession in the UK. Taking time out to do something else can offer teachers tremendous learning and development and the break from teaching does not need to be permanent. A return to teaching may see new horizons opening up, too, depending on the skills and knowledge developed and gained during time away from the classroom.
There does seem to be a belief among some of those who have been out of the classroom that the return would just be far too complicated. Concerns include not wanting to commit to excessively long hours and worrying that the transition back into teaching will be too challenging. But this needn’t necessarily be the case.
If you are considering a return to teaching these thoughts may help:
- Get up to date with the changes that have happened in education in recent years by registering for updates with the Department for Education here
- Make sure you are familiar with the latest version of the National Curriculum or locally agreed syllabuses for RE if relevant.
- Take time to identify the skills, experience and knowledge you have acquired since you were last working in the classroom. Be thorough about this. The aim is to be able to demonstrate clearly how this will benefit your teaching in the future.
- And directly from that, get your CV up to date and in great shape. Sell the experiences you have had since you were last employed as a teacher. Your FEjobs profile will build you a CV from your work experience if you do not have one already.
- Be clear in your mind about why you chose to pursue a career outside the classroom and what factors are driving you back into the classroom. You’re bound to be asked in interviews!
- If wellbeing is a concern, consider how you will ensure that your working life doesn’t bleed too heavily into other aspects of your life. How will you create and maintain balance in your life?
Returning to teaching is eminently possible and, anecdotally, it seems that the experience is positive for those who choose their jobs carefully. While there may well have been issues that drove you from the profession in the first place, these will not necessarily persist in a new role in a different school or college. If you have any thoughts of returning to the classroom at some stage having spent time working elsewhere, it would be well worth exploring the possibilities that are open to you.
Case study 1
Returned teacher Paul Trainor is currently Vice Principal at Manchester Health Academy. Here is his story…
Before I left teaching, I was a deputy head in a secondary school in Lancashire. I wouldn’t say anything “drove” me from the profession. In my Deputy Head and previous role as an Assistant headteacher I was doing a significant amount of training and professional development. As a result, when the amount of work I was being asked to do in schools, colleges, businesses and sports teams had increased to a certain point, I could take the jump to set up my own business. I have always been someone who is keen not to have regrets, so I went for it!
My own business had two main strands – training in schools and colleges on teaching and learning. I was fortunate to be invited to speak at a large number of conferences, which I greatly enjoyed. The second strand was working in businesses and sports team on developing high performing teams, which was amazing, working within different sectors.
I was tempted back into teaching when I realised I missed working in the same school and with the same students, and seeing the results of day to day hard work from staff and students. I missed things such as walking around the corridors of my school, standing on the gate in a morning greeting the students, seeing students flourish and working with colleagues to develop their practice. The business went very well and was successful but I was often away for four or five days per week. I have two young children, so was missing out on them growing up.
I didn’t find it difficult to find a new post when I decided to return to the profession. I initially returned to a school role as an interim leader on a short term basis, which ended up being permanent, and I stayed two years before moving schools in September 2017. I am currently Vice Principal at an academy in Manchester.
If there is anyone out there considering a return to the teaching profession after time out doing something else I would say do it, if it is the right thing for you. Seek out the right job for you via a reputable source like eteach.com, and look after yourself when you find it. Search leadership roles on eteach.com
Case Study 2
Associate assistant headteacher Amanda Fleck returned to teaching after working as an educational consultant. This is her story…
I was working as a head of science and science lead practitioner before I left teaching. After 17 years in the classroom I got the opportunity to work as an educational consultant. I worked mainly as a PiXL Science associate. This involved visiting science departments across the country looking at raising attainment in science and writing science specific resources. I also did freelance consultancy delivering teacher CPD together with other freelance writing work. After a year I went back into the classroom for 1 day per week. I missed working directly with young people and being part of a team. I also felt like I needed to be in the classroom again to really understand the demands placed on classroom teachers. I also have over 20 years left to work before I retire and I wanted to have career progression. I found it was quite difficult to secure a position once I decided to return to the classroom as I was looking for a leadership role. The feedback I received was that I could not prove my recent impact in the classroom as I had been out of it for 2 years. I was really disappointed that after a relatively short break in an almost 20-year career that my impact in the classroom was questioned. However, I am now working as an Associate Assistant Headteacher with responsibility for science and whole school assessment.
If you are thinking of returning to the classroom after time spent doing something else I recommend choosing the schools and the role you apply for carefully. Ensure that you are aware of the current educational climate and DfE requirements in your subject. Make sure that you negotiate the role, pay and job title if offered the role. Apply early and don't just go for the first school that offers you a role if it is not right for you.
Find out more…
The Department for Education Get into Teaching website carries extensive information and advice on getting back into the classroom, including support for languages, maths or physics returnees, support for those returning from caring-related career breaks and resources for returning teachers.
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About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.