What can over 40s bring to the classroom?

According to the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) census, teaching recruits in the 40-55+ demographic have increased by up to 41% between 2019/20 and 2020/21.

If we compare the more recent influx of older teaching recruits to patterns of recruitment over the past 5 years, the trend is even more dramatic:

2020 entrants compared to 2015/16:

  • Trainees aged 40-44 have increased 41%
  • Trainees aged 45-49 have increased 40%
  • Trainees aged 50-54 have increased 73%
  • Trainees aged 55+ have increased 198%

We are seeing a year-on-year increase in the number of older recruits transitioning into teaching. Retention has also improved in 2020-21 owing to the security the education sector can offer career changers in the midst of a pandemic.

So, what makes teaching such an appealing career for those in their 40s, 50s, and beyond?

Entering teaching with a first career under your belt means that you are likely to have established a wealth of workplace experience and transferable skills. Career changers, especially those who have worked for many years in their area of expertise, bring vital industry experience to the classroom.

Dr Anne Cook, 52, has a PhD in material sciences and is training to teach physics in Cumbria, while being supported by Transition to Teach:

“As an older teacher, I have the benefit of life experience. Being able to read people and develop relationships will help me in the classroom. At this stage in my life, it’s important to make a difference in my career, and that’s what I hope to do as a teacher.”

Career changers are often able to contextualise learning with real-life examples, helping students learn in a fun and engaging way.

“What I hope I can bring to teaching are examples from my time in industry,” says Anne. “Children want to understand how science can be used in their future life and what their career prospects are. By bringing in external speakers from the industry and running after school science clubs, children can start to visualise the prospects that science offers and enjoy it.”

Cristina Martins Ferreira, 44, is a former IT programmer who is being supported by Transition to Teach as she trains to teach computer science:

“I previously worked in programming in a bank. When my children were 3 and 6, my husband got a job as a civil engineer, so I took a few years out to be with them. During that time off, I realised that I didn’t want to go back to IT programming. I started looking into other careers and I learnt about Transition to Teach and the concept of transitioning into teaching and I was amazed by it. The fact that I could use my previous experience, and take all of the knowledge from my degree, and it would open a door for me to a new career in teaching.”

Recruits like Cristina often possess a range of transferrable skills that are useful in the classroom. Such skills, developed throughout previous careers, are highly valued by schools and students alike. Real-world, sector-specific knowledge can enhance the learning experience and be the driving force behind ‘light-bulb’ moments in the classroom.

“One of the reasons I wanted to move into teaching was to be a positive role model for young people, encouraging them to consider technology careers,” says Cristina. “I can use my own experience as a programmer to show the children I teach that they can be anything they want to be. The message I want to share is that computer science is a skill, like maths or English, which you can use in your future career, even if technology isn’t your main sector.”

Transition to Teach supports those at risk of redundancy, early retirees and eligible career changers into teaching and works with many late-stage career changers who are interested in teaching. The programme provides two years of support, lasting from the initial interest in teaching through to the end of the first year as a newly qualified teacher.

If you’re a career changer interested in teaching, our team can help you see how knowledge and skills gained from industry experience can prove to be invaluable in the classroom. To find out more, and see whether teaching could be for you, simply express your interest at https://www.transitiontoteach.co.uk/expression-of-interest/ and one of our team will be in touch for a confidential one-to-one discussion.