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Like so many working dads in the pandemic Paul Beagley had to cope with redundancy. But he’s embraced a new career in the classroom with Transition to Teach
Anyone who knows a teacher knows they hate the idea they have lovely long holidays. But there’s no doubt teaching can fit well with family life.
Working dad Paul Beagley knows that’s true. He switched his old career as a scientist to enter the classroom at age 46. And he’s looking forward to more time with his teenage son in future.
Already many working dads have had to deal with redundancy courtesy of the pandemic. And, unfortunately, many more will do so in the months ahead. Teaching might be an option for the future. The government Transition to Teach scheme helped Paul switch after he took voluntary redundancy from his role as a research chemist. But it was something he’d been thinking about for a while.
“As a chemist, I was performing research for a range of pharmaceutical, petrochemical and biotechnology companies, my role included line management, lab research and project management.” he explained. “I undertook post doctorate research at the University of Cape Town and while working became involved in staff training. During this time, I started to consider teaching as an alternative career; encouraged by both my brother and sister who are also teachers. My decision to make a change came when my company restructured and my position came up for redundancy.”
Transition to Teach provided Paul with advice and practical support. As well as applying to a teaching course he undertook a Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) course. Paul is currently studying for a Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE). Once qualified, Paul will specialise in chemistry, teaching children up to GCSE level.
Transition to Teach is a Department for Education funded service, delivered by Cognition Education, supporting eligible career changers into teaching, particularly those who have been made redundant or are at risk of redundancy. Paul will continue to receive support right through to the end of his first year of teaching.
He said, “There are knowledge enhancement courses of different lengths tailored to your needs and available time. I completed an online course with support from a local college. The course allowed me to revise topics I had not looked at since school; gain an understanding of how the topics are taught and highlighted common misconceptions. It was a commitment and required 25 hours a week for 28 weeks, mainly chemistry but also some maths, physics and biology.”
The pandemic is prompting more folk to rethink their careers suggests ONS data. 6.1% of employed people changed occupations between January and June 2020, up from 5.7% in 2019. Of these people, over half also changed major industry. And it was those aged 35 plus that were most likely to take the plunge, with 26.9% of career changers in the 35-49 age bracket, and a similar percentage in the 50-64 years age group. A possible reason for this, suggests ONS, is the higher incidence of transferable skills for these age groups.
Transferable skills are abundant for laboratory chemist Paul. His previous career experience will come in handy, though he admits it doesn’t mean he’ll find the teacher training less challenging. Just as important will be Paul’s experience as a dad. Working dads know parenting requires a huge range of skills. Many are handy in all lines of work. Paul reckons some in particular will be pertinent in the classroom. “I have a thirteen-year old son Alex, and a number of nieces and nephews. Family is an important part of my life. Prior to lockdown, I regularly went camping and hiking with my extended family. The success of these trips was down to meticulous planning and occasional improvisation, both of which are important skills I’ve brought to teaching. I regularly use these skills while lesson planning, for example, which was a major component of my first teaching placement.
“Another key to good behaviour management in the classroom is routines, setting clear expectations and consistency; I think this is also true of effective parenting.
“Finally, as a parent I learnt to be realistic. None of us are perfect and at times teaching is the same. You have to do your best but it is demanding and not every lesson is going to be perfect. My son was pleased that I was becoming a teacher but doesn’t want me to apply for a job at his school. I’m not sure he will want me to tutor him prior to his GCSEs either!”
Paul reckons other dads ought to look at how previous experience at work and at home could fuel a career in teaching. He said, “If you are thinking about teaching as a new career, consider experiences you can bring to the role and qualities like resilience you may have developed. I would recommend you conduct a lot of research, look at exam papers, text books and visit schools; many offer experience days which include a spectrum of different classes. Bursaries for teacher training are highest for subjects where there are teacher shortages and there are many different routes into teaching. There were also schools offering experience days and organisations like Transition to Teach.” He explained how the route he took meant he was given plenty of crucial backing. “Transition to Teach have supported me prior to and during my training year with webinars, networking opportunities and mentoring.”
Redundancy in the UK reached a record high of 14.2 per thousand between September and November 2020. Employer engagement manager at Transition to Teach, Jo Holland, said the pandemic is causing many to re-evaluate their careers. She said, “The pandemic has made us question big life decisions more than ever, like where we live and our career. For some, the catalyst to change careers has been the pandemic, for others it has been redundancy or the threat of redundancy. Teaching isn’t for everyone, it’s our job to help people to explore whether teaching will suit them. If it does, we’ll be there to support eligible individuals on every step of their journey into a whole new career.”