An NQT year at 40: how I balanced teacher training with raising a family

The Guardian has an interview with Carvey Francis who retrained as a teacher in her 40s after working in the civil service and discusses the challenges of coming to teaching later in life…

…I struggled horribly in my first two years doing a degree in ICT. I was 35 and although I’d loved computing in school, I hadn’t done any since then. I had to work three times as hard as the others, so I would read and read and make dinner for my kids and read another page and clean up the mess and then read some more.

There was something quite enjoyable about being out of my depth at uni – in a funny way I knew it meant I was moving in the right direction. But logistically it was very tough to be a single mother and do a degree full-time.

Getting a first-class degree and then being accepted at the Institute of Education for my PGCE was such a brilliant feeling. It was also the first time I’d met other people going into the teaching profession and I realised that my background was quite unusual. I was 40 by the time I did my NQT year, and I’ve stayed at Forest Gate school ever since, going from head of ICT in my second year teaching to assistant head in eight years. I love teaching, and though I’m on the Future Leaders programme, where the pathway is to headship in five years, I think I’d only ever want to be the kind of head who still does classroom teaching. It’s unusual, but I’ve seen it work – the head here does it…

My personal challenge is to believe in myself. I still wrestle with that. It’s the fallout from my schooldays and that awful, dispiriting job in my 20s. I push through and mostly I ignore it, but every now and again just think: “This journey I’m on, where am I going to end up and am I going to be effective when I get there?”

The pupils here know a bit about my background. This is the first year I’ve specifically set out to tell them in an assembly about the journey I went on to be a teacher. I’ve noticed that they’ve responded to me a bit differently since. You see this little light in their eyes and it’s “Oh, so Miss didn’t arrive from Mars, she’s had to really struggle to get where she is.”

Seeing how I’ve had to strive to build my career from nothing has been a big influence on my children. They’re both extremely purposeful individuals with high aspirations. I persuaded my little brother to go to university at the same time as me, so he’s a graduate now, and my sister is currently in her second year of doing a degree. Education has completely transformed my family’s life chances. That’s what I want to show pupils at my school – I want to inspire them and convince them that it can be done.

More at:  An NQT year at 40: how I balanced teacher training with raising a family

Let us know if you had an unconventional journey into teaching or started after another career… what particular challenges did you face and would you recommend it to others? Please share in the comments or on twitter… 

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Categories: Teaching.


  1. LearnWLesley

    SchoolsImprove did part time Pgce in 40’s. was working & raising family. It was hard work but worth every bit. I love my job – love Mondays

  2. skyhighthinker

    SchoolsImprove Me too! Teaching a second career, juggled training and toddlers, now loving headship. Mr G’s plans would prevent me now

  3. joanner79Jo

    I too went into teaching late, single Mum, wanted something better. Best thing I ever did. 14 years later and thanks to people who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, and Future leaders, giving me confidence, I’m now a head. Still have doubts, but it really is the best job in the world. And I am determined to lead the way by teaching myself. Hence, my first experience of story time in Nursery today.

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