Clare Giles and Clare Foulsham

Kent and Medway Training (KMT) is a large SCITT which was established 27 years ago. As the SCITT has grown we have developed a Hub structure operating in different geographical locations in Kent: North Kent, Medway and Maidstone, East Kent, and West Kent.

The West Kent hub has a unique placement within the commuter belt, including towns such as Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells, which lends itself to possible career changers. We are aware of the unique challenges career changes may face and offer personalised support from application stage to the end of their training. We have seen an increase in number in recent years and, in 2021-22, 47% of our cohort are career changers ranging from CEOs, dentists and doctors to brokers, actors and yoga instructors.

Here we share three (anonymised) accounts of the experiences of some of our career changers from past, present and future KMT cohorts.

Former KMT Trainee

“Before I trained as a teacher, I was an international finance lawyer in the City for nearly 20 years. I had left the City when my children were young and I was looking for a career that would be more compatible with family life but also enjoyable and intellectually challenging.

Inspired by Lucy Kellaway, a journalist at The Financial Times who wrote a column about her own experience of switching to a career in teaching, I initially observed some lessons in two local schools to see first-hand what the job would entail before submitting my application. No-one in my family was a teacher and none of my friends were teachers either: it was completely uncharted territory for me. But my training year was exhilarating, intense and exhausting.

I trained at a school where I was certainly thrown in at the deep end. I distinctly remember asking my Head of Department what she would like me to do in my first week and she responded, ‘Just choose a book and teach it’. Gulp. And, like all trainees, I had moments when I thought I had made a big mistake. But I also had very understanding mentors and KMT was very experienced at supporting trainees transitioning from established careers. In addition, I was very surprised – and relieved – at just how many of my skills acquired as a lawyer were directly transferable to my new life as a teacher.

This is now my fifth year of teaching. I am still at the school I trained at and I am now responsible for looking after the trainees here. I would recommend a second career in teaching to anyone who likes a challenge, wants to inspire young people, and has a passion for their subject. I have absolutely no regrets.”

(English teacher)

Current KMT Trainee

“Two years ago I just started working from home as the first lockdown began. I was a corporate lawyer, partner and Chairman of a Top 100 Law Firm. Roll forward to spring 2022 and I am two-thirds of the way through my SCITT with KMT, based at the Weald of Kent Grammar School in Tonbridge, and training as a History teacher.

I am not unique. In the last eight months or so I have come across many people who have travelled the same way by different paths – one I know started life as a bricklayer with no GCSEs to his name – amazing and humbling. I knew before lockdown that I wanted to do something else, to restore my sense of purpose. Thanks to Now Teach, I discovered what I wanted to do was teach. It was my ‘Tigger and Malt Extract’ moment.

This year has been immensely hard work – you are warned before you start, but like many other things you only really understand when you are in the thick of it. For anyone reading this who is a lawyer, your PGCE/QTS year is Law Society Finals/LPC, and first year of qualification, rolled into one. But I love it, in a way that I don’t think I ever quite loved the law.”

(History teacher)

Future KMT Trainee

“For nearly two decades I have worked on death penalty cases as a lawyer in America. In capital punishment cases the whole course of someone’s life is altered if you fail to do everything in your power to zealously represent them.

You must be supremely organised, plan effectively, know every piece of evidence inside out, be able to explain complicated legal principles in a way that is straightforward, and, above all, you must be a human. You need patience with a client who will be very stressed.

Any teacher reading this will understand why the decision to change track and pursue a career in teaching is not – as it might first seem – such a huge deviation from my career up until now. Frequently in my job I have seen the difference a good teacher can make: the siblings of my clients often pointed to a teacher as the reason why their life took a more positive course.  Teachers have always inspired me. I am honoured to now be joining their ranks.”

(Future English teacher)

At KMT we feel very privileged to work with so many career changers and they serve as a great role model to the pupils they teach. They often demonstrate a tremendous work ethic and often give a fresh perspective to what we do in teacher training. Many of the career changers cite the influence of Lucy Kellaway as well as feeling that becoming a teacher gives them more purpose than their previous corporate careers.

As a SCITT we do need to be mindful when working with career changers – often they have to balance either childcare needs or looking after elderly parents. Some find the transition challenging, especially moving from a leadership or managerial position to being a trainee, but at Kent and Medway Training we strive to be as supportive as possible and find that their commitment and resilience far outweighs the challenges.

Clare Giles is Director of Secondary ITT West Kent, and Clare Foulsham is West Kent Deputy Hub Director at Kent and Medway Training



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