Careers when leaving teaching

It is often reported how many teachers leave the profession early, most notably Newly Qualified Teachers who leave the job within five years of qualifying. Within the UK the figures reveal that 47,700 teachers left their jobs in the year 2010-11, and whilst these figures are alarming and easy to access, very little is known what teachers do when they leave the profession, especially before retirement age. Towards the end of 2013, UKEdChat opened up a survey asking what careers former teachers followed once they left the profession, with the results proving to be continually of interest to the online community who actively visit the page for inspiration.

Our online survey asked teachers why their former colleagues left the profession, with an overwhelming reaction relating to stress. Internal politics (within school), bullying, and the work/life balance clash were also cited regularly from respondents. But, armed with teaching degrees, Masters Degrees and a genuine passion for their subject speciality, former teachers have turned away from the profession; instead preferring careers which do not share the same stresses. Our survey revealed an eclectic mix of careers former teachers turned to when the school environment proved too much for them: TV Producer; wildlife officer; journalist; solicitor; consultant; and administration were some of the common responses, but other career opportunities included accountancy; self-employment; and one former UK teacher is now happily driving passengers around as a coach driver.

“In the end, I didn’t leave teaching, teaching left me”

One former primary school teacher from London told us,

I could feel the way my school was going, and I had experienced it before, it was becoming more top-down, there was more management interference, and it was more dominated by what the headteacher thought was good teaching to the exclusion of everything else. regular, agenda-laden observations resulted in square pegs being forced into round holes, and other longer-serving teachers started to leave also, for the same reasons. The head seemed to want young, pliable, predominantly female teachers that she felt she could mould the way she wanted. The school became increasingly SATs-test focused and the teaching we were encouraged to do less relevant to the children’s needs.

I went into teaching to do a professional job, and I did that for 20 years, it was in the last couple of years that I found myself increasingly forced to do things differently, in effect I had to teach someone else’s lessons and use someone else’s teaching methods, methods that were usually ineffective. In the end, I didn’t leave teaching, teaching left me. It seemed that heads don’t want good (or “outstanding”) teachers anymore, they wanted pliable and obedient robots.

I was still passionate about education however and I wanted to be there to fight the perpetual worsening of teaching and the school system. A friend had just come back from living in France and their children told me how they felt they were being educated in school there, that they were learning.

From my own point of view I am now in a job which gives me the professional autonomy and sense of purpose that had been taken away in schools.

Another young secondary school teacher from North West England is currently in the position of considering leaving the teaching profession, aiming to work in higher education or for a charity in a more administrative role. She explained…

Whilst the kids/behaviour form some part of this decision (I do not appreciate being called a f***ing b****) there are also far too many aspects of the job I do not enjoy.

Our profession has lost the status it once had and our judgements in the classroom day to day are checked and scrutinised as never before. If you work as a teacher or in education you will know that there is no balance. In term time we are buried with work with maybe half a weekend off in a week – if we’re lucky. Holidays are more of a recovery period. We discuss progress, not in terms of “So-and-so learnt to do this today!” but, “Have they made the required progress so I will meet my performance targets?” At the moment I feel constantly stressed and tired. I tend to go to bed worrying about school and waking up still worrying about something to do with school. I will be looking to leave full-time teaching. This is both exciting and nerve-racking, but ultimately I know that this is the right choice for me.

You can read the original article, which we released in November 2013, by clicking here. Additional reactions were received since the original story was published on

Continue to read this article (free) by clicking here to access within the UKEd Magazine.

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About @digicoled 446 Articles
Colin Hill - Founder, researcher and editor of ukedchat. Also a bit of a tech geek! Project management, design thinking, and metacognition.

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