Switching to teaching

Many people are considering a career transition to teaching in the present jobs climate. That includes older workers like former laboratory chemist Dr Paul Beagley.

Pharmaceutical Industry


The number of people switching to teaching has been rising in the wake of Covid-19, according to the Transition to Teach programme. They include many older workers from sectors such as retail, science and pharmaceuticals, IT, engineering and manufacturing.

Transition to Teach is a Department for Education-funded service delivered by Cognition Education supporting eligible career changers into teaching, with a revised focus for 2020 on those at risk of redundancy. Transition to Teach expects to support over 100 people this year prior to, and during, their initial teacher training and during their first year as newly qualified teachers.

Research from The National Foundation for Educational Research has reported a 16% increase in initial teacher training applications, largely driven by regions with the biggest increase in recession led unemployment benefit claims; the West Midlands, London and the North West.

Head of Programmes at Cognition UK, Yvonne Malpass said: “All of the individuals we are supporting are degree educated and bring a whole host of transferable skills from their previous careers into the classroom. The range of support we offer varies, from bespoke advice regarding routes into teaching, to coaching and mentoring throughout training and the first year of teaching.”

“We’re committed to working with individuals at risk of redundancy, and companies whose staff are at risk of redundancy, to offer support throughout the initial teacher training year and the first year as a newly qualified teacher.”

Switching to teaching after decades in other careers

Many of those who are changing careers have spent decades in other fields. They include former laboratory chemist Dr Paul Beagley,  who is currently undertaking initial teacher training at the University of Sheffield, specialising in chemistry. He took voluntary redundancy from his position with a research organisation.

He says: “As a chemist, I was performing research for a range of pharmaceutical, petrochemical and biotechnology companies, my role included line management, lab research and project management. I’d always thought of teaching as a meaningful career but the starting salary at the time of £24,000 meant it wasn’t feasible. Starting salaries and bursaries during the training year for teachers have since increased.”

“I was involved in some teaching while undertaking post doctorate research at the University of Cape Town and while working became involved in staff training. During this time, I started to consider teaching as an alternative career; encouraged by both my brother and sister who are also teachers. My decision to make a change came when my company restructured and my position came up for redundancy.”

“I’m not sure I had the maturity to become a teacher when I left university and hope my additional life experience will be beneficial. Experiences I hope I can draw upon include being a father and the first year of both my PhD and line management, as both were fairly tough.”

Paul left his company in September 2019 before undertaking a Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) course between January and August 2020 and his chosen route to teaching is a Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE).

He says: “My experience as a research chemist for 25 years doesn’t mean I’ll find the training less challenging. I’m having to go back to basics and look at topics that I haven’t studied for decades. Not only am I revising topics but considering how to teach it, what language to use and how to tailor my approach for different age groups and abilities. Initially, I am expecting the classroom to be quite intense and emotionally draining but with support I hope I can thrive in a new environment.”

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