Teaching is rewarding. Along with the long holidays and fairly short school days, it can be a fulfilling career. As a teacher, you can make a positive difference in a child's life.

Teaching can also be a rather exhausting and a historically low-paying way to make a living.

Hoping to make a difference in students' lives only goes so far. All too soon, that hope is crushed under the reality of teaching. Low pay and exhaustion are just two reasons teachers give for leaving the profession for a new career path.

Writing reports and marking papers, parents' evenings and lesson planning and extracurricular activities - aspects of being a teacher that have nothing to do with teaching all skew teachers' work-life balance.

Besides, is it fair that educators put in so many hours outside of class without compensation?

It's no wonder then that many teachers are unhappy in their choice of career and looking to retrain in a different field.

leaving teaching what next?
Teachers are feeling increased pressure and stress levels in their profession. (Photo via Visualhunt.com)

Maybe you too are thinking about resigning from the National Teaching Service. Perhaps you are already working through your notice period. Don't feel bad; you are certainly not alone in wanting to leave.

In 2014, nearly 50,000 teachers in the UK left the profession. 

Department of Education statistics show that this mass exodus amounted to around 1 in 12 full-time teachers, a departure average of about 4,000 each month of the school year.

If this trend continues, UK schools will soon labour under a serious teacher shortage, a situation that looks increasingly likely.

Newly qualified teachers are faring no better; 40% leave within a year of qualifying. Another study, carried out by the Guardian last year, revealed that half of England's teachers plan to leave teaching within the next 5 years.

These are uninspiring numbers. What do they mean for the put-upon, hard-working teachers who remain? Who will teach the growing numbers of pupils?

And what will all of those teachers do when they dismiss their pupils for the last time?

Far from trying to guilt anyone into staying in a job that grinds them down, Superprof's focus is the last question - but it can only be asked if we also consider what's at stake. Let's take a look.

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What Reasons do Teachers Cite for Leaving the Teaching Profession?

Poor pay, long hours and ever-increasing workloads are generally to blame for teachers leaving the profession. Constant changes in curriculum and the huge amounts of data that teachers are now expected to collect and record for each pupil add to their burden.

Heavy workloads, coupled with stressful Ofsted inspections rank high among other complaints.

Apart from all of the pragmatic job concerns, students' behaviour and the lack of respect from their parents makes the classroom a hostile work environment. Little is done to ensure teachers' physical safety or protect their mental health.

Stress is a major reason for leaving the teaching profession. According to the National Foundation for Educational Research, classroom instructors endure more job-related stress than professionals in any other career field.

Physically, working in a school can be strenuous, maybe even downright dangerous. All of the standing and walking and bending over to see what students write exact a physical toll. For those schools that have not yet upgraded to whiteboards and dry-erase markers, inhaling chalk dust could lead to respiratory problems.

Doesn't it feel like your life is ruled by a bell? From your morning alarm to the class bells, you are forever running to where you need to be when those bells toll.

There is no flexibility in your schedule. You know where you will be at what time, and what you'll be doing, lending your life an institutionalised feel. Some people may like this aspect of teaching while others may find it stifling. Indeed, living an hour at a time tends to quash spontaneity and inspiration.

Before you resign, however, you need to think about what, exactly, you are going to do for work.

Do you have any savings? If so, how long would they support you for if you were out of work? What financial commitments do you have? Do you need to find work immediately or can you afford to pick and choose?

leaving-teaching-learning-new-skills
Training after teaching. Source: VisualHunt, Geralt

If you are retiring, this discussion is moot but if you need to earn a paycheck, you need to think about what you would like to do and what work is available to someone with your credentials and experience.

Having a university degree can lead to opportunities in business and marketing. Having teaching experience opens doors to training manager and HR positions.

The subject you specialised in - English, maths or foreign languages gives you more career possibilities to explore. For instance, if you were an English teacher, you could work in publishing or as a freelance writer. If you taught science, you may find work in conservation or ecology.

Whether pursuing your passion or exploring new career options, knowing why teaching is not for you will help you drill down to a field more suitable to your needs and temperament.

How Do You Resign from teaching?

When you resign from teaching you will need to write a letter stating your intentions and giving your date of resignation.

Teachers are required to give at least half a terms’ notice. You will generally only permitted to resign at the end of a school term. Early departure due to special circumstances, such as illness or administrative issues will be considered on a case by case basis.

For resignations and notice periods, the dates of the three school terms are:

  • 1st September to 31st December (inclusive) for the Autumn term;
  • 1st January to 30st April (inclusive) for the Spring term;
  • 1st May to 31st August (inclusive) for the Summer term.

For instance, if you wanted to leave at the end of the school year (31st August), you will need to give your notice in no later than 31st May.

Headteachers must give three months' notice for the Autumn and Spring terms and four months’ notice for the Summer term.

If you miss your deadline for notice, you will not be released from your contract unless the school agrees to let you go.

The same notice period applies to teachers on maternity leave who do not wish to return to work.

Before making arrangements to leave your post, be sure you know what severance pay you are entitled to, no matter the circumstances or reasons for leaving.

Severance pay (also known as redundancy pay) is a sum of money given to teachers upon leaving their position. Only those who have been at their school for a minimum of two years are eligible for payment; the sum awarded is dependent on your age and years of service.

The amount of severance pay awarded is calculated using three age brackets. Your years of service in each age bracket is multiplied by a percentage of your weekly pay.

Teaching Years v. Salary Proportion

Age of TeacherProportion of Weekly Pay to be Multiplied by Number of Years Spend Teaching At Age
Under 22 years old50%
22-41 years old100%
Over 41 years old150%

There is a cap of 20 years for this calculation and only full years of service count (6 years, 2 months of service would be counted as 6 years).

As an example: a 30-year-old certified teacher earning £26,000 per year who has spent a full 5 years teaching:

They fall into the 22-41 bracket for all five years.

1 week's pay = £489

£489 x 5 years = £2,445

Bear in mind that redundancy pay under £30,000 is not taxable.

Leaving teaching may be daunting but being clear on your rights and responsibilities will make your transition away from teaching far smoother.

The Letter of Resignation

The tone you convey in your letter of resignation will very much depend upon the reason behind your leaving.

If you're leaving because you've landed an alternative jobs for teachers in a different field, you may write about where your new career will take you.

However, if you hate your job, can no longer bear being a teacher and you can’t stand any of the staff, that would be best kept to yourself. You never know what the future might bring.

One day, you may wish to return to teaching or you might need a reference from your school. Burning bridges never serves, after all. Your best bet, according the TES, is to keep your letter concise, formal and neutral. Ideally, you want to leave your headteacher with a positive view of you.

If the terms you're leaving on truly are that bad, make a list of discrepancies and problems within the school (or the profession) that you can bring up during your exit interview. No matter how you feel, don't make things personal; restrict your comments to the organisation of the establishment.

Your letter of resignation should follow this structure:

  • State the position you will be leaving and your final day of employment at your school
  • Briefly mention your reason for resigning (e.g. acceptance of a new post, the pursuit of another interest, relocation)
  • Offer your thanks for being a staff member
  • Give assurance that the quality of your work will not diminish during your notice period
  • Provide your contact details

This structure should be adapted to your personal situation. There is plenty of advice and resignation letter templates for teachers leaving the NTS online to help you create a letter of resignation that reflects your experience of teaching and your intentions going forward.

Give your letter to your head teacher in person. Pick a time when they are not about to rush off to a meeting so that you can talk with them about your decision. Doing so will leave a positive impression.

leaving on good terms
Leaving teaching on amicable terms. Source: Visual Hunt, franchiseopportunitiesphotos

Whatever your reasons for deciding to resign from the National Teaching Service, do your utmost to be present at school every day and to do good work. Your students deserve it.

Finding a Career Beyond the School System

If you're resigning from teaching either because you're looking for a change of scenery or because being an educator isn't all you expected it to be, you might not have a clear idea of what you'd like to do next - but that's perfectly fine!

For many teachers, teaching is the only post-university career they have experience in. Rest assured that that is not a mark against you.

Being an educator teaches and hones valuable transferable skills which, if marketed properly, can make your CV stand above the rest. That is why ex-teachers have a big advantage when it comes to changing fields.

In your time as a teacher, you will have gained:

  • Resilience
  • Creativity
  • Adaptability
  • Flexibility
  • Ability to communicate (with both adults and children)
  • Leadership skills
  • Organisational skills
  • Planning skills

Thinking about how each of these skills may help you in a new career can help you decide what you'd like to do next.

For example, if you particularly enjoyed communicating in your teaching job, you might look into positions that require good people skills, such as youth work or even working for your local council. Conversely, if planning skills are your forte, you might start a business as an event planner.

No matter which way you go, marketing your skills is the first step to your new career. This means tailoring each CV you submit to each position you apply for to showcase your skills relevant to that position.

After years of teaching, picking apart and rebuilding your resume may seem onerous but it is necessary if you're serious about starting a new chapter in your professional development.

Rebuilding your resume does not mean downplaying your teaching experience. On the contrary, your time in the classroom should provide anecdotes that demonstrate your work ethic and your skills.

Your CV should serve as a snapshot of your professional self and provide a basis for further questions during your interview. Keep it short and sweet, saving examples of your skills in use for further stages in the hiring process.

What options are available to ex-teachers when it comes to switching careers?

The options you consider are largely dependent on your reasons for leaving the National Teaching Service.

For instance, if you're talented and passionate about the subject you teach but feel that sticking to a syllabus is stifling your opportunities to explore it, you might choose an occupation that allows you to become more involved in your area of expertise.

You might try sports coaching if you're a former PE teacher, or scientific research if you're a bachelor of physics.

If you're certain about leaving the education system but you'd still like to earn your living as an educator, working as a tutor could be an ideal option for you.

Tutoring, whether you do it on a one-to-one basis as an independent or whether you join a tutoring company, is a brilliant way to influence the lives of young learners and focus on students as individuals.

As a teacher, you may feel that the one-size-fits-all approach of state schools lets many students down.

Tutoring is a great option for ex-teachers who value individualised learning. Teachers who recognise the importance of adapting their teaching methods to the strengths and weaknesses of each student will be able to use their skills to ensure that each individual learner is given the best possible chance to achieve academic success.

Although there are no qualifications officially required become a private tutor, you teaching experience will give you a big advantage over any undergraduates offering the same services. This is another instance you will need to demonstrate why your skills make you the best person for the job.

Starting work as a tutor is simple. You only need to decide on the subjects and levels you will teach, whether you'll host students in your home or at theirs and how much you will charge per hour.

Be sure to consider all available opportunities. Even though you have a degree in English, it doesn't mean that you need to stick to teaching literacy; you might teach composition or creative writing.

If you're bilingual, you may offer lessons your second language.

Once you've decided on those basics, you need to get the word out. As a community figure, it won't be too difficult for you to advertise your services, and you can turn to the internet to get more people interested by signing up to websites such as Superprof.

Becoming a tutor after leaving teaching is a logical next step; one you can use to bridge the gap between careers - especially if you're unsure of what to do next.

Leaving the National Teaching Service is not a decision to be taken lightly, but if you're certain that transitioning away from the national curriculum is the right move for you, doing plenty of research and considering your options is key to making the change as smooth as possible.

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