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Second thoughts

Whether you're struggling to find a job or thinking that teaching isn't for you after all, Sara Parker has some ideas for what else to do with your experience

Whether you're struggling to find a job or thinking that teaching isn't for you after all, Sara Parker has some ideas for what else to do with your experience

With a family background in teaching, it seemed only natural for David Luck to opt for the profession. He enrolled on a PGCE but after a bad experience feeling unsupported and struggling to cope in his first school placement, he decided it was not the career for him.

"I thought it was best to be honest since I couldn't see myself teaching for the rest of my life," says David, who during his first degree in American Studies had enjoyed working with historical documents.

A job as an assistant archivist began a career in archives and he gained a bursary to study for a masters at Glasgow University. He has discovered his niche but has no regrets about his PGCE. "Archiving should be about making information accessible and the confidence, presentation and computer skills I gained from my teaching experience are very useful."

"Teacher training offers excellent transferable skills," says Geoffrey Haworth, director of student support and guidance at Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent. "High-level organisation, good research, analytical, ICT, numeracy and literacy skills. Add to the mix punctuality, reliability and people-orientated qualities and you have someone who is very employable."

According to the university's follow-up of teaching graduates, over 90 per cent go into the profession. Where there is `a change of heart', one-to- one careers advice starts with a skills audit, later reflected in eventual employment. Some go into the public sector such as libraries, youth work, housing and welfare. Others find jobs in human resources, marketing and events, insurance or finance. A few pursue individual interests such as music or sport, and one recent graduate trained as a heavy goods driver while another became an estate agent.

For teaching graduates, getting the right job can be as much about where you live as your CV. A nationwide survey by the (TDA) Training and Development Agency for schools found it was easier to get permanent teaching posts in London than areas like the North East, where less than one-third secured permanent contracts.

In the North West, employment agency Reed finds other classroom jobs for unsuccessful NQTs. "It's a matter of supply and demand - particularly difficult to get jobs at KS1 primary whilst at secondary some subjects are more in demand," explains Richard Taylor, divisional director of Reed Education. "The biggest growth areas are teaching assistants, cover supervisors and technicians. Some, worried about the behaviour management side of teaching, even prefer to start out as TAs."

For the supply teachers whom Reed places, Richard Taylor tries to "broker NQT induction" as unless there is a local authority extension, only 16 months supply is allowed to complete NQT requirements (see page 27).

For some academic high-fliers, there are management training programmes in financial institutions and big companies like Marks and Spencer but selection is fiercely competitive. For example, Mamp;S applications are 1,000 up this year to 9,500 - for fewer than 200 places.

Psychology and PGCE graduate Caroline Mansfield's selection for a high street bank's management programme included two days interviewing and psychometric testing but once in work, she felt her transferable skills went virtually unrecognised. "I was surprised how little my negotiation and management skills were appreciated. If you go out of teaching, you have to be prepared to start at the bottom of the next profession."

A career change can mean additional qualifications such as a post-graduate degree or vocational training. Colleges and universities can advise on financial help or may give bursaries, while some employers will fund further study. There are various Government on-the-job schemes and the Children's Work Development Council (CWDC) in particular targets graduates with child and family-related experience.

Over the past two years, 4,000 have qualified for early years professional status towards the Government's target to have one such professional in each of the country's 20,000 day care and nurseries by 2015. The 305 million scheme offers five training routes through taught courses and hands-on under-5s experience, and its 12-month option is particularly suited to teaching graduates.

Securing an internship or volunteering can be another way into a new career. Louise Palmer, schools learning manager at the Horniman Museum in London, says that even in museum education, there are other skills such as visual literacy which many applicants need but often lack. "It's a very different way of learning. An applicant who's volunteered in a museum or gallery is already switched on."

Volunteering is a good way to gain experience and enquiries to organisations such as VSO are up by more than 50 per cent. VSO's Youth for Development programme places young volunteers in over 40 countries but if they are anticipating an extended gap year they are mistaken. "We soon weed out people who aren't committed and think it's going to be one long holiday," says training and development adviser Julie Sherman.

Training, flights and medical expenses as well as a small living allowance are all provided. Those who want to teach usually need at least a year's experience but there are plenty of opportunities in other educational or community programmes.

Jennifer Parsons, 26, is a volunteer in Cambodia on a project that aims to improve children's education through community involvement. After her PGCE, she decided against a teaching career.

"At first I was worried that having a PGCE and not teaching would work against me, but as I started interviewing for jobs I realised just how valuable my PGCE is."

She chose VSO because she wanted to broaden her experience and use her teacher training outside the classroom in "a creative and constructive way. with the added bonus of getting to live in and learn a new culture."

For those wanting a teaching job abroad, a growing number of British independent schools are opening every year across the globe. They often prefer the adaptability of NQTs or those with only a couple of years' teaching experience.

Qualifying to teach English as a foreign language is another passport to a job overseas, particularly in Asia where countries such as Korea and China are encouraging widespread learning of English. The Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults is the most widely accepted first TEFL qualification and a four to five-week course combining practical and theory costs around 1,000.

There are hundreds of colleges running such courses, which are accredited by institutions such as ESOL. Part of Cambridge University, ESOL provides assessors and scrutinises course work in 250 centres globally for 12,000 candidates annually.

ESOL's examination manager Nick Charge trained as a primary teacher before gaining TEFL qualifications and working in New Zealand, Sweden and Indonesia for many years. He says: "I wanted to travel and live somewhere overseas and the easiest way to find work was through teaching English - it's even more so today as perversely in times of recession, education is something which does well."

Some places to start

General websites for graduates

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