Teaching is a special occupation. That’s why education will always be a hot button issue for parents and politicians alike, it’s why teachers are rigorously trained through specialist courses at top institutes, and it’s why Protocol Education exists. But what happens when a teacher starts to think they might want to find an alternative job?
As educational expert Linda Darling Hammond once remarked, teaching is the profession on which all other professions depend. Yet given that a third of new teachers leave the profession within 5 years, it is clear that not everyone who goes into teaching is destined for a career in the classroom.
Yet just because you aren’t teaching, it doesn’t mean you have to leave education altogether. Protocol Education has many former teachers within our ranks who now work tirelessly to ensure that children are being taught by the right people.
To find out more about the alternative pathways available to teachers who aren’t sure they’re in the right job, I spoke to two ex-teachers who now work as recruitment consultants at Protocol Education.
Josie Karruck and Tom Murphy work in our Bristol office, finding jobs for teachers at primary schools across the city. Both also started off as classroom teachers. This first-hand experience is something Tom feels is crucial to his current work. “I still tell schools and candidates about my background because I was a Teaching Assistant for 2 years, working with some really vulnerable . After that, I did my Teacher Training and joined a very diverse school in East London as a PE teacher. I stayed there for 8 years and left as Head of Department”.
Josie’s experience is strikingly similar, beginning with youth work and sports coaching. “I then went into a 3-year degree specializing in Early Years teaching, which led me into a large school where I worked in Key Stage 2, and moved up to Senior Leadership within 2 or 3 years”.
Like many teachers, Josie’s enthusiasm for education developed early in life. “My mum first worked in a school as a business manager, so from primary school I was always in school settings. Even through secondary, I did wraparound care at her school while waiting for a lift home. All through university I worked one-to-one with a child with autism; education is something I have always done really”.
For Tom, the epiphany that education was the right world for him came later. “After graduating with a sports science degree I went back to my secondary school for a 2 week placement. It was – I know this is cheesy – the vibrancy and energy that made me think ‘this is it for me’. I loved it, loved it”.
But why would these distinguished young teachers, both having climbed the ranks of school leadership in mere years, start having second thoughts about the careers they had so excelled in?
For Josie, a year of prior experience working in an HR role at university had long equipped her with a sense of having alternative options. “I wanted to make sure I had different career options. I had done HR for a year and didn’t really get that motivated if I’m honest. Then I got into teaching, and when I was in the SLT, the most rewarding part of the job was seeing the progression and attainment of the more junior teachers. I ended up doing a lot more with facts, figures, planning and supporting others. That made me think that maybe there’s something other than teaching and working in schools that I wanted to get into”.
A pensive look on his face, Tom pauses and leans forward. “Well, it was a big jump for me. I was in the position where I was moving schools and moving locations from London to Bristol, and I thought, well what do I do? Do I stay in teaching? I thought there was a bit of a glass ceiling in teaching”. At this, Josie nods her head in vigorous agreement. Tom continues: “you’re waiting and waiting until someone retires or leaves until you can get another promotion. You actually really have to beg for more money, more time and more resources. So I started thinking that I was happy I’d done all that, but what can I do for myself now? I didn’t just want to walk away from teaching, so how can I utilize what I’ve been doing these last 8 years? And that’s where education recruitment came in for me”.
While Tom’s path away from the frontline of education was emotionally clear-cut, Josie speaks of feeling “a bit more torn. I was actually teaching a class and I had a bit of a moment thinking ‘is this what I want to continue doing?’ I felt a bit stuck in education thinking that was all I was ever going to do”.
Protocol Education was the launchpad for both these former teachers in their new careers. “Let’s just say that, looking at Bristol, it was pretty straightforward to choose this company because of how well they’d been doing”, says Tom.
Josie agrees. “I literally only called Protocol Education and no other recruitment agency. I asked for as much information as possible on potentially changing careers. That day, they asked if I was available to come in in a few hours’ time with my CV for a quick chat. They offered me the job and it ticked all the right boxes, and that was that. I remember even back from my time of being an NQT that they were the one company that stood out because of how supportive their working atmosphere seemed”.
Secure in their new jobs with Protocol Education, Josie and Tom could now get on with the business of finding rewarding roles for teachers in Bristol’s schools. But how does it feel to seal your first deal and land a teacher a job they’ll love?
Josie chuckles. “I love that question! Well, it’s just a buzz isn’t it – it’s the best feeling. You have so much joy. I think I literally stood up and everyone cheered. I was just so excited – nothing else mattered. The bells had gone off, everyone was cheering, I was obviously over the moon and everyone was happy together. It was a really nice moment”.
A wry glint in his eye, Tom reminisces about his own first placement. “I was working from home because of Covid, and I remember actually cheering to myself in my shed. But 3 days later a school asked me for cover which I couldn’t provide, and my ego was shattered. It was heartbreaking for me at the time. Now I’ve got a bit more experience and resilience - my emotions are still on a roller coaster, but we try and flatten out a little bit”.
So now that these erstwhile educators have long since made smooth transitions from the classroom to the office, what makes them tick? When a teacher is short on inspiration, they need only look towards the dozens of impressionable young minds in their class. But what drives the passions of the educational recruitment consultant?
Both Josie and Tom are unanimous here: the biggest draw of the job is being able to support young, inexperienced teachers at the start of their careers. “I love talking to NQTs. I’m fully fired up when I talk to them, because I’ve been there and I know what it feels like”, says Tom, with palpable enthusiasm in his voice.
Josie tells me of the significant impact of a single visit they made to a university back in February. “We still have so many people calling up now talking about when we met with them at university and gave them advice about the little tricks of the trade that come in handy in the first few years of teaching. As Tom says, a lot of these young teachers don’t know what to expect, and it can be a bumpy emotional ride, so you’ve got to get to know them on a personal level”.
So what message would this pair have for any wavering teachers thinking about taking that same route from education to recruitment? “You have to be sure that you’re adapting how you speak to people across all the clients and candidates that you’re responsible for. You’ve got to be very personable in this job”, concludes Josie.
If you are a teacher who can no longer see a future for yourself in the profession, there are alternative pathways to a more suitable career within education. Protocol Education relies on the first-hand expertise and insight that our former teachers bring with them, and we are always looking to welcome in more ex-educators.
There is a meaningful, well-rewarded role as a specialist recruitment consultant with your name on it. Simply send us your CV and we will be in touch for a chat about how we can fit you into our vibrant team.