Why this man turned his back on Pounds 55,000 a year

30th May 1997 at 01:00
From the expression on George Shand's face, you might think he'd just been asked if he wanted mustard in his tea.

Would the outgoing finance director miss his Pounds 55,000-a-year job in a canal-side office near London's Kings Cross when he becomes a primary teacher? He hesitates a moment, but there's no hint of doubt in his answer.

"No. A room and a computer? With a fax machine in the corner?" The 39-year-old Yorkshireman is probably the only would-be teacher to have the news that they have been accepted on a PGCE course announced in the business pages of The Times.

The story was picked up from a footnote in the chairman's annual report for Hay and Robertson, the sportswear firm where he has been finance director for the past two years. He leaves in August to take up a place at the Institute of Education.

George is typical of the growing trend for people to pursue a succession of often unrelated careers. The Teacher Training Agency is keen to attract recruits with outside experience - especially in management.

"Their reasons for going into teaching are on the whole pretty positive, " a spokesman says.

Surrounded by the Kangol jackets, checked shirts, and the pyjamas in Premiership colours that his firm produces, George says: "I had a desire to find something more personally rewarding to do for the second half of my professional career."

He had to persuade the professors at the Institute that it was no passing phase or mid-life crisis. But he is already no stranger to the classroom.

He has been a governor for six years at Nelson Primary, near Twickenham, where his wife, Sue, is special needs co-ordinator and where their two children have both gone to school.

"I'm brutally aware of the realities of teaching," he says. His school has gone through local management and the national curriculum. Office for Standards in Education inspectors arrive next year.

His financial and management acumen will stand him in good stead wherever he ends up working, and not just in school administration, but in teaching a curriculum that places a growing emphasis on workplace skills and industrial links.

He expects the shock of change to be less than some people would think, although with a starting salary of around Pounds 13,000 he accepts there will be a "lifestyle adjustment".

"Whether the audience is a potential investing institution or Year 4, a lot of the principles are pretty much the same. You have got to be able to communicate.

"The security people will have in future will be their skills and their ability to apply those to different situations," he said.

"In primary, you're preparing kids not just for secondary but eventually for a job out there in the real world. If they grasp the basics, you can go home with a warm glow inside."

George's plans have been long laid. But if there was a defining moment, it came long after his PGCE place had been accepted, when he took 45 pupils on an outdoor activity course. He becomes animated, remembering coaxing them through exercises they never believed they could complete.

"The sense of achievement from those kids when they realise what they can do - that's worth more than Pounds 55,000 a year."

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