Why high-flying professionals choose to be teachers

High-flying professionals are swapping their career for the classroom under a new scheme for challenging secondary schools. Could it be the answer to the UK’s “teaching shortage”?

“I’ve gone from being at the top of my game and being very capable and knowing what I’m doing, to not having a clue,” Dr Simon Harkin, 59, told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme.

He has just started working as an English teacher at Ark All Saints Academy in south-east London. The role is part of a new scheme, Now Teach, which has placed 46 trainees into challenging London secondary schools.

It is a far cry, however, from his previous role, in the civil service, where he served in Europe, South America and Africa – and worked for the Queen.

Simon says he decided to take up the challenge of teaching in the hope he could help address what an Education Select Committee described as a “significant teacher shortage” in England earlier this year.

“I’ve come to the end of a fascinating career, and I thought, ‘If I retire and do nothing, all that’s gone to waste.'”

Lynda Burns has had a similarly stark transition to Simon. It is a very different experience to her former glittering career as a diplomat – most recently being the UK’s deputy ambassador to Cyprus.

“In diplomacy you’re dealing with different people around the world, different cultures, and different languages,” she says. “You have to find a way to express yourself and make yourself understood. With school, I’m trying to do that with a different audience.”

But is Now Teach the best answer to what critics see as a teaching shortage?

Read more Why high-flying professionals choose to be teachers

Are you an ex-professional now teaching? Have you ex-professionals at your school? Does having an alternative career before teaching make a difference? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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Categories: Employment and Teaching.


  1. Simon Hare

    I worked in publishing for about 20 years, and was a board director for Europe’s largest magazines publisher before taking a gap year that turned into three and a half gap years and a six year stint working for a charity which runs schools for underprivileged children in Peru and Cambodia. I’m now two terms in to my School Direct training as a teacher of MFL and finding it challenging, exhausting, fun and rewarding, often all on the same day.

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