Nigel Bowen

Nigel Bowen is the Lead Guidance & Development Adviser (GDA) for the Transition to Teach (T2T) programme, run by Cognition Education

In January 2019, a Department for Education (DfE) survey of more than 3,000 people considering teacher training found more than half would probably or definitely change career if they could.

Around the same time, the government published its Teacher recruitment and retention strategy, recognising what we already know – there is a competitive labour market; teacher retention is a growing challenge; retention issues are most acute for Early Career Teachers (ECTs); and a key challenge is the UCAS application process being difficult, particularly for career changers. Additionally, Initial Teacher Education (ITE) recruitment targets had been missed, retention rates of ECTs had fallen considerably between 2012 and 2018; and around half of postgraduate ITE trainees are career changers.

The Transition to Teach (T2T) programme has been developed by Cognition Education and funded by the DfE as part of a £10.7 million investment, including Now Teach and Researchers in Schools, to aid teacher recruitment. T2T’s purpose is two-fold: we attract experienced, talented professionals from a range of backgrounds into teaching; and work to retain them for the long-term, supporting them through their ITE and Newly-Qualified Teacher (NQT) years.

We know that pupils can benefit enormously from the skills, experience and enthusiasm that our career changers have. T2T is currently supporting 120 talented professionals across all school phases, subjects and types of training routes. Our career changers are allocated a dedicated Guidance & Development Adviser (GDA), with substantial experience in education, who provides practical and personalised advice.

Participants have access to an online portal for peer-to-peer discussion and resources; and support with developing a Career Development Plan, which helps them to consider how they can utilise their transferable skills and career experience in the classroom, as well as considering their future career aspirations, such as taking on a Teaching & Learning Responsibility and/or Senior Leadership Team role.

GDAs provide extra support and guidance as required on any aspect of ITE, including networking opportunities; focused workshops to cover specific topics/needs, such as applying for teaching posts and interview preparation; and conference calls that provide a range of information to career changers as they progress through the programme. Many participants comment that just having their GDA as a ‘listening ear’ is a comfort to them in times of difficulty.

So, why is supporting career changers important? Career changers often have vast relevant experience from their previous careers, such as managing high workloads and responding to tight deadlines; nurturing good working relationships with staff; and developing and delivering training – all of which are skills that are transferrable to the classroom. They may have held management positions in a range of settings, from both the private and public sector, including settings as diverse as engineering, finance, social care, health, and the prison service.

They are often very keen to get involved in extra-curricular activities – for instance, one of our participants is a former army cadet leader, and the school that he has secured an NQT post in is very keen for him to set up a Combined Cadet Force unit. Others have backgrounds in the energy sector, so are interested in supporting schools to become more energy efficient; or the care sector, so are interested in supporting SEND pupils and/or becoming SENCOs. Others have backgrounds in catering or the health sector, so are interested in supporting healthy eating or the mental health of pupils.

The added value career changers bring to schools has been reflected in T2T participant NQT salaries often being above Main Pay Scale 1 (MPS1), sometimes as high as MPS4, and some offered permanent instead of temporary NQT contracts. I will conclude with a comment from one of our current participants, Ben, regarding our support: “The support provided by T2T so far has been superb, a real help, particularly for a career changer who restarted a vocation from the bottom rung of the ladder all over again!”

We may be able to support individuals as they train with you from September 2020, so please encourage your course enquirers to visit our website, where they can view our eligibility criteria and express their interest in the programme. If you are interested in learning more about our acceptance criteria, please get in touch with me directly at





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