From courtroom to classroom

21st April 2000 at 01:00
A 10-year-old has made a junior lawyer rethink his career. Leala Padmanabhan reports

BIG business offered little in the way of job satisfaction to Jeremy Oliver after he had worked as a volunteer mentor in an inner-city primary school.

Helping a young boy with his reading led to the legal assistant putting a career in the City behind him to become a teacher.

Jeremy, a 21-year-old Bristol University graduate, had his foot on the ladder of a high-flying legal career working for the corporate law giant Simmons amp; Simmons. But his ambitions began to change when he joined a mentoring scheme in a nearby school. He was one of 36 people from his firm who agreed to work as one-to-one tutors to children at Moreland primary school in Islington.

They were matched with children between eight and 10 who needed extra help with reading and writing. Jeremy's protege was a Year 5 pupil - Andy Ha. "At first, Andy was very shy and didn't want to ask me when he didn't know a word," he said.

The breakthrough came when Jeremy discovered Andy's passion for football and introduced him toThe Times sports pages.

Now Jeremy has decided he wants to teach young children full-time and is applying to start a middle-years PGCE course. "I know I'm giving up the chance of a much more lucrative job, but I wouldn't get the personal input in any other career," he said.

"The decision was hard and a lot of people think I'm crazy. But they tend to concentrate on the money angle. No one goes into teaching for the money, but it's far more satisfying than a lot of better-paid jobs." A partner in a top corporate law firm can earn more than pound;1 million a year.

The law hasn't quite turned out as Jeremy expected: "I used to think lawyers can change society but you don't get much opportunity for that in a City firm. Teaching is dynamic."

Cynics might point out that half-an-hour a week of individual tuition doesn't prepare for the pressures of being a full-time primary teacher. But Jeremy has no illusions: "I've heard awful stories about the stress of teaching. But I hope the PGCE will prepare me. And ultimately, I'm sure the benefits will outweight the difficulties."

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