Innovative teaching programme promotes flexible working

Now Teach recruits people with fresh perspectives into teaching and offers them flexibility in its onboarding programme.

Teaching for working mums


Now Teach trains people from all walks of life to be teachers, offers them an extensive support network and promotes flexible working in teaching. The Top Employer Award judges recently highly commended the organisation for the innovative impact it had had in its field, particularly with regard to flexible working. How did Now Teach come into being?

Now Teach: Lucy Kellaway and Katie Waldegrave, two working mums, founded Now Teach to find and support amazing individuals who bring fresh perspectives from industry, business and the public sector into schools. These people also have the social capital – connections, experience and awareness – to help young people raise their aspirations and enjoy the best education possible, regardless of their backgrounds.

Now Teachers are well placed to solve some of the most vexing social problems – the teacher recruitment crisis, the deficit of experience in a predominantly young workforce and high attrition – particularly in schools that serve disadvantaged communities. What are the main challenges for older people who want to get into teaching?

Now Teach: They need to give up their secure, safe, predictable current lifestyle. It’s a mind shift needed – the top three reasons our people say they want to come to Now Teach is because they want something new, challenging and that makes a difference. The idea of stepping into a world that is unknown at that age can be daunting and the most exciting thing they’ve done for a while.

Historically, experienced career-changers have applied in very small numbers to the teaching profession. Navigating the amount of choice in how to get into teaching and then going back to Interviews and academics can be a challenge. Only 10% of new teacher trainees are aged 40+, with those aged 55+ making up just 1%. Currently there are over 230 providers of initial teacher training in England, but Now Teach acts as a trusted adviser to applicants, making sure experienced career-changers find the right training route for them.

We also need to ensure that they have a realistic view of teaching – schools and teaching has changed a lot since our candidates have been there. They need to put the work in and take time out of their current caring responsibilities or career to organise as many shadowing school experiences as they can. Understanding the daily role of a teacher, ensuring they really like spending time with teenagers and knowing they will be teachers and not system changers, at least at the start, is key. How do you address these outside the four-day week training [for instance, in terms of training placement locations]?

Now Teach: One way we ensure trainees are successful is through carefully selecting partner schools and training the providers that we work with. They must welcome the different perspectives that previous work lives can bring and share our high standards in training provision. We know that where trainees are based in their training and teaching will be a critical factor in their decision to train to teach, so we advise trainees based, amongst other criteria, on location. School experience is another way we prepare applicants to fully understand the challenges. What difference has the flexible training and support meant in terms of who you have been able to attract?

Now Teach: We know that flexible training is a huge factor in attracting career-changers and people who have never considered teaching before. Peter Jerrom, from the 2017 cohort, previously worked in investment banking, starting at City Bank before moving to organisations including Lehman Brothers and UniCredit. He says: “Without the opportunity for compressed training, I would not have considered entering the profession. The opportunity to remain part-time has kept me in the profession. My experience of working flexibly has been fantastic and I love it. I currently work 0.8 FTE and, in my experience, having a day off means I can work flexibly around my time rather than working long evenings. I have more choice of when to work. I can see my children more; I can attend more personal and professional events. Ultimately, the biggest benefit so far is that I can be a calmer, better teacher which I think is of great benefit to the students and for my own teaching experience.”

Late stage career-changers often have different priorities to graduates who might be starting a career in teaching. Rob Wood, also from the 2017 cohort, says: “I am now 52 and I have other interests in life. By working four days a week I can spend more time with my family, as well as pursue other interests in property and investments. Whilst being a teacher, I’m also a trustee of several other organisations. I need to be able to work flexibly in order to fulfil other commitments.” What support do you offer in terms of events and mentoring? How much of it is face to face and is this an issue?

Now Teach: We offer:

  • an established professional network of like-minded career-changers
  • a compressed four-day-a-week school-based Initial Teacher Training programme
  • a programme of development sessions and networking events
  • expert coaching
  • and strong partnerships with placement schools and training providers who value Now Teachers.

The Now Teach network kicks off in July at our annual conference. We also hold a graduation event for the current qualifying cohort; it acts as a passing of the torch between cohort years. The conference is great as it is an introduction to the Now Teach network and we have some great discussions about what to expect from teaching from experts in the industry.

New trainees then start at their school or university/provider in September or January. They will not be teaching a full timetable when they start, but instead are likely to be teaching four to six hours a week, with support, which increases as they progress. In September we hold our first monthly Teach Meet, which is an evening event bringing together trainees to offer support and guidance. We also hold four cohort sessions across the year which focus on a key topic that our previous trainees identified as wanting to hear more about.

As trainees advance through the year, together with in-school mentors, we focus on accelerating Now Teachers’ progress and teacher personae. Bonds grow between fellow Now Teachers; this network is a resource as our teachers help each other throughout the year.

It’s the little things, like when Now Teachers compare lesson plans or send supportive messages ahead of a tricky class, that really provide support. How does the training work? Is it based in schools?

Now Teach: We work with networks of schools and initial teacher training providers to accelerate trainees’ progress and maximise their impact in school – for the long term. Our team of experts guide applicants towards the best training provider for them. Many of our trainees follow a school-based training route, meaning school staff play a leading role in their training, and many are involved in teaching from their first day. Whatever the course, all Now Teachers receive training both inside and outside their school. What have been the main obstacles to getting more flexible working into schools?

Now Teach: The main obstacles have been complications of creating the timetable, staff-student ratios and the need for cover. The logistics of timetabling is often cited as the biggest obstacle to flexible working. Flexible working is also often associated with job sharing and the need for ‘handover time’, increasing costs. Another concern is that teachers often work beyond their contracted hours, so staff considering a part-time role fear it will result in a full-time workload. How have you been able to change headteachers’ mindsets on flexible working, given resource restrictions?

Now Teach: Now Teach commissioned research into flexible working because we believe it will make teaching more attractive as a long-term career choice. Teaching is behind the UK workforce in terms of part-time working rates (17% compared to the UK average of 27%). There are obvious barriers and less visible hurdles too. Peter Jerrom, from the 2017 cohort, says: “We have seen that part-time work has become more popular as a result of our work. Our former head teacher who is returning to work following her maternity leave has taken up a 0.8 FTE week. She has told me she was inspired to do it because of the example our Now Teachers have set. Part-time work is now starting to be normalised rather than it being different.” What extra do parents bring to teaching?

Now Teach: Now Teachers often say that being parents gives them a better understanding of the teenage brain. Often Now Teachers can share wisdom with students that they have shared with their own children. “When I retrained as a teacher I had no intention of going into a careers-related role.  However, when the careers role became available and I thought about it I realised that I had useful and relevant experience, not least through supporting my own children in making university and careers choices,” says Anne-Marie Lawlor from the 2017 cohort. Being a parent is often what motivated Now Teachers to retrain in the first place.

“For the last few years I’ve been thinking every day about issues like social mobility, what kind of world we’re leaving our children and it’s actually a joyful experience to help address this in whatever small way I can,” says Paul Trynka from the 2019 cohort. Lara Agnew from the 2018 cohort reflects: “What precipitated this second career was two-fold: the experience of having children demonstrated vividly the immensely positive impact an inspiring teacher had on my own child.”

Co-founder of Now Teach, Lucy Kellaway, was inspired to teach through watching her daughter train with Teach First: “In the early days, I’d listen to her stories about the trials of trying to get noisy classes to sit down quietly and learn; later she showed me the letters of gratitude her pupils sent her when they got better grades in their GCSEs than they had ever thought possible. I looked on with something close to envy and thought: I want some of that too,” she says. Have people been put off by all the reports about stress in the profession, teachers leaving and lack of resources?

Now Teach: The low status of teaching is inevitably one of the reasons they are in such dangerously short supply. In most of the world, they are seen as only a little ahead of police officers and far behind doctors and engineers. Only in a few countries, including China and Indonesia, does society value the people who fill children’s minds as highly as those who fix their bodies. However, Lucy Kellaway surveyed Now Teach participants last year on what becoming a teacher had done to their status in the eyes of others. “Many used to do jobs that society values (and pays) highly – they were investment bankers, corporate lawyers, consultants, civil servants, film makers and doctors – and most were towards the top of their respective trees. Now all are at the bottom of a less prestigious tree,” she says. “Despite all this, only six per cent said their status had fallen and about 65 per cent thought it had gone up since becoming teachers.”

Despite the challenges, Now Teachers say it’s worth it. “It’s good for your soul – and sanity – to do something new,” says Mark Jobling from the 2018 cohort. “It is the most exciting possible experiment in living,” adds Vincent Neate from the 2019 cohort.

“The huge buzz that I got from working with children, helping them learn and hearing about their ideas and lives, was completely unmatched by anything I had experienced in my working life up to that point – or have experienced since,” says Jo Fookes from the 2019 cohort. What are the benefits to schools of Now Teach’s programme and trainees?

Now Teach: Now Teach is a professional network alongside initial teacher training. It is designed to ease the transition from one career into teacher training. Now Teach is introducing diversity of experience into the classroom. Before teaching, they have worked in industries such as finance, media and IT. Trainee teachers who join the Now Teach network are much more likely to complete training and gain QTS than national averages.

We provide additional marketing and recruitment expertise. Our team can ensure your programme is more widely known in your local area. Now Teach integrate within the existing school, higher education institution and training provider structures to complement training and development. Who pays for the training?

Now Teach: Changing career to retrain as a teacher will mean a change in salary for many people, so it is important to understand the financial options available during training. Trainee teachers usually have access to a range of bursaries, scholarships or student loans and there is additional financial support for parents or those with a disability. Now Teach provides advice to try to ensure trainees receive a monthly payment whilst they train.

Shortage subjects, such as sciences, modern foreign languages and computing receive more substantial bursaries, so it’s worth considering this when choosing which subject to train in. The bursaries are paid in monthly installments and do not need to be repaid. Trainee teachers are required to pay tuition fees, but a loan is available to cover this. Loans are available for all trainees, regardless of subject choice or previous qualifications.

You only repay your loan if you are working. Your repayments depend on how much you earn, not how much you have borrowed. You will not start repaying your loan until you earn above a threshold.

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