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Mid Life Career Change to Primary Teaching - Good or Bad Idea?!

Discussion in 'Primary' started by ADUX, Nov 9, 2010.

  1. Good morning all

    Having been lurking here for a few weeks reading some fantastic posts; i thought i might tap into the collective experience for some advice if i may.

    I'm in my late 30s, male and a serving Army officer and seriously looking to a career change into primary teaching. I am still very much in the 'research stage', however, i'm fairly certain it's a direction i'd like to take; i am also a Scout leader so have some experience of working with children. In addition, the local school is allowing me to do a couple of work experience days shortly.

    The questions i have are:

    1. Am i completely barking following this route? (I'll effectively be a newly qualified teacher at 43).

    2. Which qualification route to take? I'm studying for an Open Degree with the OU currently and might be able to complete a full time PGCE but not sure which is the 'best' route.

    3. Any advice on 'good' or 'bad' PGCE providers.

    4. Any top tips to shape my experience / qualifications now that will help when i qualify in approx 5 years time.

    5. Much has been made in the media about the lack of males in primary teaching and there have been quite a few academic studies on the subject. Some herald more male teachers as the national panacea but i'm not so sure - it does seem to be a bit of an insult to the huge number of teachers doing a fantastic job. What are the thoughts from those actually delivering education on this subject?

    Any feedback would be great and much appreciated to steer me along this long path that winds before me!!


  2. PS Sorry about the single paragraph above - i'm on a Mac which doesn't seem to allow paragraphs!!
  3. Hi!
    I actually thought you were going to say you were older than in your thirties from the title of the post. I can't really give that much advice, as someone who is just applying for a PGCE primary, but it sounds like you've got some great experience and skills to offer. I guess the main thing is to get lots of school experience, and to see what different schools are like too.

  4. Hi Phil
    I read your post with much interest, as I'm on a very similar journey myself. I'm 40 and after 16 years in IT sales I'm hoping to train as a primary teacher next year (I have both PGCE and GTP interviews coming up this month).
    In short, I agree with the above post - get yourself into a school as soon as you can for as long as you can spare. Once you're in there, get involved and think hard about doing the job day in, day out. I've done four weeks in my local primary this year and it has absolutely cemented that I really want to become a teacher.
    Whilst observing I met a retired teacher who is back doing two days a week. She followed a similar path to yours and didn't start until her 40s, so it can be done. Life is too short to not do what you absolutely want to do!
    If you want any more specific advice, let me know and I'll let you have my email address.
    Good luck!
  5. I graduated at 35 and qualified as a primary teacher at 46. An advantage was, as a parent with children attending good schools, I was fully behind modern/inclusive teaching methods and thought and still do that 'traditional' methods let down so many.
    Re. what type of training - I've thought that the teacher-based GTTP, although it has financial advantages, can be difficult - dependent on the main school in which you train. In some schools I've worked, trainees have said they learnt more in a short placement in their 'second' school than they did over the whole length of their main placement. The PGCE was very intensive and some of the most disgruntled teachers I've come across have been those who only every wanted to be a teacher, therefore did a 4 year teaching degree but didn't actually like teaching once qualified! The advice to get as much (and as varied) voluntary experience is good.

  6. I changed careers from accountancy to primary teaching 8 years ago and don't regret it at all. I earn far less than I used to and work far harder, but the delights, inspiration, frustrations, and fun that come from working with children more than make up for that. I already had a degree & did a PGCE which was really good. Most people I know who have done GTP had several years of experience as TAs or similar - don't know if that's common or just my experience.
    I definitely agree that you need to get as much experience of being in a classroom as you can - preferably in more than one school as they can be very different.

    Good luck.

  7. I fancied a career change and at the age of 44 I have started my NQT year, having gone down the PGCE route last year.
    There have been times over the last year that I have doubted myself or if I had my the correct decision, however on balance I do not regret the change at all.
    Teaching is exhausting, challenging, amusing and inspiring in equal measure. Today I spent the morning making Pizza (in Numeracy !) and the afternoon teaching gymnastics .... I never had that sort of variety in my last job.
    My advise would be, get plenty of experience in schools and make your choice of education route. The PGCE was good, but stressful and hard work !
    Don;t get too sidelined by the whole "more male primary teachers" hoop-la. At the end of the day good techers are good teachers and inspire their pupils regardless of gender.
    Best of luck !

  8. I changed career path and haven't regretted it! It is a wonderful job but very very hard work. I would recommend that you do a minimum of two weeks experience in a Primary school because when I went for my PGCE they stated that this was the minimum experience that they wanted. My provider was local and no one has ever questioned my choice in university and would say that it doesn't make a whole world of difference and in regard to the degree you do either choose a teaching based one or a subject you would really enjoy - Most providers ask that you have a 2:1 but the subject is not as important as the grade. The best teachers will get the job regardless of sex. The type of working experience you have is dependent on the school you are in. Finally, it is a long hard slog, it can be great, it can be **** but you get out what you put in. (on a mac too so all in one block - sorry) Good luck :)
  9. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    If you want to do it, Go for it! We need passionate teachers.I had a student last year ex-Army male who completed his GTP last year and is a really good teacher, lots to offer mature, experienced, but relatively cheap as an NQT.
    On the downside Primary teaching is definitely overloaded with potential teachers, returners, teachers who've moved due to partner's relocation, NQTs-some from 3 years back who've yet to complete induction.
    I'd say try it but don't expect to just drop into a job despite all the government advertising, we are not really short of Primary teachers, but there's always room for passionate, good teachers.
  10. Many thanks to all who've responded so far. It makes me feel much more confident going forward that it's not particluarly unusual to transfer slightly later in life.
  11. NQT1986

    NQT1986 Occasional commenter

    I don't think coming into teaching 'later in life' is a problem at all; plenty of my PGCE course were mature students (15 years ago).We've had two mature NQTs start at my school this year and they are both fantastic.

    Just check the job situation where you live and the NQT board here carefully beforehand, as I know several NQTs who were unable to find jobs after qualifying and have had to take jobs as cover supervisors in secondary schools (primary trained) at a much lower salary as they needed work to cover the mortgage.
  12. Yes, give it a go. But note the point above - there are areas in the country where there are more teachers than posrts in primary
  13. Hi ADUX. There is lots of good advice on here. What you will find though, is that you will get lots of conflicting advice due to individual experiences. I went into teaching in my mid thirties. I went down the PGCE route. (When I decided to go into teaching I did not have a degree at that point - I secured a place on the 4 yr Bed and also a place to do complete an English degree. After lots of consideration, I decided to do my degree follwed by PGCE (my thoughts being, assuming I was accepted on the PGCE, if I found I did not like or was not suited to teaching, I would have my degree to fall back on).
    My experiences of the PGCE were not great! - most of the mature students on the course dropped out - the course is very demanding (mostly time consuming) and holding down another job and meeting other family commitments (married with a child) proved difficult. The university did not make any allowances for mature students. If I did it over, I think I would consider the GTP route. Ultimately, I would argue that whichever route you choose, there is an element of pot luck involved. To a large degree this is in relation to school placements. My experience was that the university expected the placement to do more most of the practical training and vice versa. Many of my fellow trainees experienced the same. We all said that we did not feel prepared to take a post as teacher when we qualified. However, I acknowledge this is not aways the case. I persevered though. I qualified and thoroughly enjoyed my NQT year (mainly due to it being in a very supportive school). Since then, I have worked in a variety of schools and all year groups throughout KS1 and KS2 (incl supply) - some have been great, some terrible.
    A year ago, I left teaching - took an education related, fixed term post, which I am thoroughly enjoying. My previous role as teacher was no doubt what secured me the post. I am considering returning to teaching but am doing so with my eyes open. My break from it has highlighted just how demanding and stressful it can be. I have not ruled it out however - so it can't have been all bad lol. It can be extremely rewarding and the teaching element and children (incl the challengin ones [​IMG] have never been an issue for me. My issues have stemmed from particular collegues and unnecessary paperwork/initiatives etc. that in my view can have a negative impact on a child's experience of school.
    What I have found challenging about going into teaching later is the 'shut up or get out mentality'. I repeat, not all schools and staff etc. are the same but because I have had previous jobs and lots of life experience, I find it difficult not to speak up if I feel strongly about something. Many schools prefer to employ young NQTs because they are mouldable and cheap. Budgets are a major factor when it comes to employing a new teacher. I know some of this sounds negative and I don't want to put you off - as I say, these issues do not apply to all schools.
    Regarding shortage of male teachers - I have spoken to Headteachers and been told theat when they are considering applicant for shortliting, they are pressured from above to interview all male and ethnic minority applicants. This does not secure them the job, as previous posters have stated,but does get them a foot in the door.
    Regarding getting a place to train in the first place - as other posters have stated, experience is paramount. Get yourself into some schools and some good written references to support your application. Possibly, dare I say it on here, a p/t job as a cover supervisor?

    I hope this has been helpful and I wish you all the best for your future.
  14. Leapyearbaby64

    Leapyearbaby64 New commenter

    There are some flexible PGCEs around which may be considering. I took a flexible route and completed in 4 terms.
  15. Go for it! I qualified at 30 and have enjoyed 3 wonderful years of teaching. Everyday brings on a new challenge and it's not
    always a smooth ride but it is so worth it. Yes, my fellow teachers will tell you about the utter madness that is happening in Education at the moment thanks to the new government and Mr Gove. Teaching for me is about the children, try and forget the politics (easier said than done!) The Institute of Education, Roehampton and Goldsmiths are excellent PGCE and Undergraduate degree providers.

    Wishing you the very best

  16. I am 36 years old (mid-life if i cark it at 72 i suppose) and am a couple of months into my PGCE - my previous career in Financial Services left me feeling unfulfilled and not secure after 2 redundancies.
    I thought long and hard about the jump to teaching after being told by many friends and family members (many of whom are teachers) that i'd be a natural - and once i had a few weeks classroom experience I could see their point. I loved that variety and challenge and the endless surprises the pupils give you (positive and negative)
    I tried for the GTP route for financial reasons but the competition was so stiff i was unsuccessful - as others have posted those chosen had far more experience, usually from being TAs for considerable amounts of time.
    The PGCE so far has definitely lived up to its billing as being intense, as one friend who had just completed his course advised me "I haven't got any tips as such, just dont make any plans for that year"

    Now i've dipped my toe into the water, so to speak, i cant imagine going back to my other professional life - i've just completed the first week of my first School Experience placement and am loving it. Think well, decide clearly and, if it's for you - dive right in!
  17. seloff

    seloff New commenter

    Why go Primary? Many secondaries would love to have ex-army people. You know about discipline and routines. You know about having boring tasks and adventure and how to excel at both. You have been to Sandhurst where timing is important. Your skills are needed at secondary school!
    Good luck whichever level you go.
  18. As everyone else has said here, your age isn't an issue and is only a bonus
    (unless the school is one that any sane person probably doesn't want to work in
    anyway), the Army background will be useful for dealing with the 'on the bus,
    off the bus' mentality that is present in schools as well, and for knowing when
    to not say things. The paperwork might drive you mental, but as long as you are
    prepared for that, as a reasonably intelligent soul, you shouldn't go totally

    I'm very much in the camp that primary schools desperately need more men in
    them - sorry for being sexist, but I have so many kids in my class and year
    group that have gained so much out of having a strong male role model (not
    me!), when there is no other in their life. So that's a bonus for you, if only
    as someone else has said in terms of getting a foot in the door.

    In terms of PGCE/GTP - if you ever want to go abroad and teach you will need
    to do the PGCE, as GTP is not recognised in most other countries (haven't found
    one yet - Scotland might also not accept it, however I fully accept I am
    probably out of date when it comes to Scotand regs, so something to check - the
    GTCS will have the facts on that one). With regards to where to study -
    if someone has studied at the Institute, in my experience, they tend to think
    it's vastly superior to anywhere else, and if you haven't gone there you are a
    second rate teacher, apart from that, I haven't met anyone in real life, SMT or
    general pleb, who rates one training place over another, so it's where is local
    to you, where you want to be imho.

    Have to say I (partially) agree with Seloff about considering secondary
    school as well, I had the best teacher ever for my A levels who was ex Army,
    and taught alongside many brilliant ex army when I taught secondary, the
    background really is compatible with secondary. But Primary is much better to
    teach in :p (Much much much more work, but better!).

    Good luck whatever path you choose :)
  19. Thank you all so much for the great advice and opinion. It's good to get a range of 'warts and all' views in order to make an informed choice.

    I had my first contact with the local primary school last week, meeting the head and touring the school; after walking through the school, i'm pretty sure i'm making the right choice. The teachers were great, really friendly and the pupils good fun. A couple of days work experience towards the end of the year will cement my decision allowing me to crack on with the degree. I note from most of the responses that i'll need to do much more work experience over the coming couple of years before applying for the PGCE.

    I had considered secondary teaching but i think it's the variety of primary that appeals more than anything. It has made interesting reading on several forums here about teachers' experiences in the classroom and i think the 'stroppy teenager' experiences are not really selling secdondary to me!!

    Many thanks to all once again and anyone feel free to chip in opinions.

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