Now Teach

By Leila MacTavish, Claire Smith and Katie Waldegrave


Over the past four years, in partnership with Now Teach, Ark Teacher Training (ATT) has significantly improved its outcomes for older career changers amongst their trainees. Historically speaking older people have done less well than younger colleagues. With each year of age, the likelihood of dropping out increases by just over a percentage point. The system has been (unintentionally) institutionally ageist.

Ark has been able to increase the age diversity of new entrants to teaching and thus enable the MAT to capitalise on their skills and experience for the longer term.

Ark is one of Now Teach’s longest standing partners and demonstrates both the need and potential for Now Teach within the sector.


When assessed for achieving 100% classroom compliance in November 2020 the latest cohort of ATT Now Teachers showed a significant improvement on last year, and were ahead of the rest of the ATT cohort:

2019 2020 Variance
Now Teachers 48% 73% +25%
Rest of ATT cohort 65% 69% +4%
Variance -17% +4% +21%

ATT Now Teach trainees have significantly better outcomes in 2021 than they did in 2017. Their drop out rates have plummeted, all trainees are on track to achieve QTS at the end of the year, more trainees have chosen to remain in their schools for their NQT year than ever before, and they rate their training far more highly than the first cohort did. It is interesting to note an overall performance improvement of all ATT trainees. Changes made may disproportionately benefit Now Teachers, but they improve outcomes for all.


In consultation with Now Teach, ATT have made many changes. These include:

  • Flexibility of ITT delivery including asynchronous learning
  • Compressed course: one ‘protected day’ per week when Now Teachers are not expected to be in school or doing live training.
  • Dedicated tutor group for the Now Teachers (rather than scattered amongst the tutor groups)
  • Regular communication with NT Programme Managers to solve any problems together/ complement provision.
  • Reduction in tasks (for all trainees) including the creation of a QTS-only route for trainees to complete instead of a PGCE.
  • Wellbeing training for all ATT staff – complemented by Now Teach’s understanding of career changers’ wellbeing needs.
  • Improved communication with schools about needs/experiences of career changers.

Four years ago Now Teach was founded to bring more career changers into teaching. From the start ATT and Now Teach have been partners which has meant that a significant proportion of each year’s ATT trainees have been career changers. These people are not your typical ‘career bouncers’ ie those who have had a couple of years elsewhere and changed their minds; these people have all had long and significant careers elsewhere and succeeded in all sorts of walks of life. The average age is about 55.

In the first year nearly a third dropped out altogether. The assessment data and feedback from mentors and tutors was that Now Teachers underperformed as compared with their younger peers. It wasn’t until their NQT year that they caught up. They also didn’t rate their training very highly while they were undergoing it; even while they recognised the quality of the content.

In the last two years the pattern has reversed. The Now Teach cohort is excelling within the ATT trainees and are outperforming their younger peers. They rate the training more highly and very few dropped out (although one other person was unable to continue for reasons to do with qualification issues – another area which needs rethinking for career changers).

At the start we came up with all sorts of plausible reasons why Now Teachers should start more slowly. They were having to unlearn habits of a life-time; they had less recent memories of school and more to learn about their new environments; it had been longer since they studied their subject; they had more responsibilities and demands on their lives outside training; they were not used to being bad at things or told what to do; they had one day not in school therefore less time to learn, and so on.

And while none of these facts have changed, their trajectory through ITT has. So, what has been done differently?

Some of it begins before they ever get close to ITT itself. Now Teach is getting better at recruitment and better at preparing recruits for the world they are about to enter. The support from Now Teach is more sophisticated than it was and the network of Now Teachers bigger and more powerful.

Now Teachers know themselves and their working styles better than young graduates; it is important to match trainees with the right school/training provider.  The closer the partnership between Now Teach and training provider, the better able Now Teach is to guide participants towards the right match.  Once trainees are assigned to schools, pairing up in-school mentors (for SCITTs) and Now Teach trainees is equally crucial.  At ATT, the potentially complex relationship between younger mentor and older trainee is supported through heavily structured instructional coaching sessions.   Weekly meetings are planned by mentors using a detailed framework provided by ATT and feedback for the trainee is aligned to Ark’s scope and sequence of action steps: the focus of the meetings is on trainee progress.

On sense of cohort:

I feel like I’ve gotten to know my sub-group within the NT network really well. I always appreciate their perspectives and good humour both within the training sessions and throughout the week, especially surrounding the PGCE. Though I am really looking forward to meeting them properly in person! Given our relationship has developed online and via Whatsapp, it’s very easy to reach out for advice on the phone/ via email whenever its needed.

Hannah Perry Now Teach trainee with ATT at Bobby Moore Academy

Now Teach also now knows what helps people prepare for re-entry to schools. It knows how to ease the transition and set expectations for life as a trainee and where to go when things go wrong. It is able to offer specific support aimed at career changers: from specialist IT training to ‘translating’ schools and the way they operate as compared to other sectors.

Once they start training with ATT, Now Teachers are far better catered to than they used to be. It has taken several years – and in fact Covid has accelerated some of the changes which have disproportionately benefitted the career changers – but the programme now works for older people.

In the past, older people have been poorly served by ITT. What is wonderful now is how many providers are, like Ark, doing such innovative things to increase the age diversity of new recruits to teaching. Now Teach is keen to work with more providers where they might be of service.

From the start of the partnership, Now Teachers have done a ‘compressed course’ with ATT; that is to say they have one protected day when they are not expected to be in school or training (though of course many use it for schoolwork). At the start there was some anxiety that this made progress slower, though it certainly helped attract people to the course. It enables those with caring or other responsibilities to fit them in around their teaching life. Over the past couple of years, ATT and NT have worked together to make this a definite strength. Flexibility takes a little work to get right, but doing so reaps great rewards. Now that the day is embedded into the course ATT notes that it has been of immense benefit to the trainees and far from holding them back has allowed them to thrive.

The two most significant changes that ATT made were to give career changers their own dedicated tutor (rather than splitting them up with other trainees), and the second was to strip out many hours of required face-to-face work from the training course. In this latter point Covid proved helpful. Sessions went from four hours of face-to-face training per week plus travel time to two hours of online learning per week: one hour of asynchronous learning followed by one live session to consolidate their learning. Lessons learned about digital delivery of lessons for students apply just as well to adults. Asynchronous sessions allow students far greater flexibility. Ark has also reduced the admin and written work for all trainees.

It should be emphasised that the vast majority of these changes were made for – and benefited all – Ark trainees. ATT will never go back to the intensive two week in-person summer school it used to run each year. This has been very valuable to Now Teachers with families. Covid meant that ATT tutors were forced to re-work their face-to-face curriculum and, by August 2020, the virtual summer school curriculum was launched.   Now Teach trainees appear to have responded to the online curriculum best of all.  They not only outperformed all previous cohort by the end of their first half term of teaching, but they have also surpassed their younger peers in terms of the positive climate for learning they have built in their classrooms. All Now Teach trainees at ATT are on track to be awarded QTS in July, which will be the first time a whole cohort of career changer trainees have achieved this milestone.

On virtual training:

Virtual training has worked really well for me personally. I’ve appreciated the flexibility to choose where I do it i.e. at school v.s. at home based on my needs from week to week and the additional time created by not having to travel to another destination when my commute to work has already been a bit of an energy drain. Doing meetings online was already something that was very familiar from my old job too, so it’s always felt quite natural.

Hannah Perry Now Teach trainee with ATT at Bobby Moore Academy

There were concerns that many of the most valuable features of Ark’s training would be lost through the move to a virtual world.  Ark relies on ‘live’ practise: trainees rehearse their newly learnt techniques during training and receiving feedback from peers on how to improve. Thankfully, breakout rooms on Zoom have solved this problem.  Next, there were concerns about cohort building. However, despite not having had the opportunity to meet each other face to face, strong relationships have been built across the Now Teachers within Ark.

Claire Smith, the Professional Tutor for the Now Teach group, delivers training to her tutor group each week and has noticed their sense of ‘cohort’.  Opportunities are provided for trainees to meet each other, albeit virtually, after weekly training.  A combination of informal chats and planned quizzes have led to the creation of a support network between the Now Teachers that they can draw upon at times of challenge.

Having worked with Now Teachers for over three years, Claire understands that career changers often engage with the educational literature in training with a more critical eye than their younger peers. As such, she tailors every training session to ensure more time is made available for the discussion of theory.  She knows the unique skillset they are bringing from their previous careers and finds opportunities to link her training to these skills.  She has found them to be ‘the most wonderful group of people, so humble, so articulate, so much potential’.

And it is here that the relationship between Now Teach and Training provider has proven to be so valuable. Claire talks most weeks to Now Teach’s Programme Manager, Chloé Poplar, who is responsible for the Now teachers. If there is a problem, they discuss who is best placed to support the needs of the trainee.  Trainee wellbeing has also been at the forefront of both the Now Teach and the ATT agendas this year.  More than ever, regular contact between training provider and trainee has been crucial in ensuring that any health or wellbeing concerns can be addressed early on.  Claire speaks to her trainees every two weeks on the phone and has received internal training on how to support trainees to deal with Covid-related bereavement.  Since Now Teach also focuses on wellbeing issues which are particularly likely to arise for career changers, the partnership ensures that the support Now Teachers pulls together and adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

There are various examples of the way this relationship works.  As the trainees near the end of their training year, they may or may not decide to stay in the same schools.  Historically, a number of Now Teach trainees have chosen to leave their schools or the Ark network.  Now Teach have the best possible information and foundation to assist them to flourish in their teaching careers by supporting them with their NQT choices.  This year, the retention has been different: all Now Teach trainees who have been working within the Ark network have been offered contracts within Ark, and all of the trainees in the 2020/2021 cohort have accepted their offers to stay.

So what has changed?  First and foremost, trainees have been offered jobs earlier than previous cohorts.  ATT’s new recruitment policy stipulates that trainees who are on track to achieve QTS by July should be offered a job at their school by February.  This means that some of the uncertainty for career changes, who often have more financial responsibilities, is removed.

Another reason for this retention is how immensely supportive ATT and Ark have been of Now Teach’s flexibility in ITT and schools.  Every trainee who requested a part-time NQT role at their school was offered one (only one trainee has requested to move from part time to full time next year); this is a sea change and of crucial importance to older trainees.  The responsibilities that often come with age, whether caring for children or elderly relatives, can be intensified by the pressure of a teacher training year.  66% of Ark’s cohort have been training this year in lockdown with children at home.  Part time working has supported these trainees by providing them with one ‘protected’ day where they are not expected to be in school.  Most of us will want to work part time or flexibly at some point in our lives, it is a key part of the puzzle in solving the retention crisis.

Ark is now well-primed also, to support some of the other initiatives which Now Teach are trialling such as co-mentoring (matching a Now Teacher with a younger aspiring leader in another school). They are able to guide and advise on the ways in which Now Teachers will be able to enrich and improve the teaching profession and the lives of young people.

Changes to the programme:

  • Moving from four-hour live training to an hour of pre-recorded independent preparation work on the learning platform followed by an hour of intensive live practice.
  • Stripping back all but the essential tasks – trainees now only complete two medium-term plans, and are only required produce lesson plans for formal observations. Reflections, for example, take place during training rather than being an additional task.
  • Moving from a requirement to evidence progress in a portfolio to assessment of trainee progress by the tutor using Ark’s Great Teacher Rubric
  • The creation of a QTS-only route for trainees to complete instead of a PGCE (trainees are advised not to complete PGCE route). The two assignments mimic the PGCE assignment in terms of content but require significantly less time to complete
  • Edits are made to the online curriculum sessions to provide Now Teach trainees more time to critically discuss literature related to training
  • Close relationship between Now Teach Programme Manager and ATT Tutor for Now Teach cohort to ensure trainee wellbeing and progress is regularly monitored so interventions can be activated early

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