Teaching is a career that has many rewards; aside from the long holidays and fairly short school days, it can be a very fulfilling career - you really can make a positive difference to a child's life.

It can also be a rather exhausting one, which has traditionally been low paid. These are just two examples of the some of the reasons teachers give for leaving the profession for a new career path.

What with report writing, marking, parents' evenings and lesson planning, the 'behind-the-scenes' so to speak, of being a teacher, the work-life balance of a school teacher is not balanced at all as the high amount of out-of-hours work tips the scale significantly.

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)

Perhaps you are thinking about resigning from the National Teaching Service or perhaps you are already working through your notice period, whichever it is, you are certainly not alone in wanting to leave.

In 2014 there was a 10 year high of teacher resignation in the UK, with nearly 50,000 teachers leaving the profession. 

Statistics released from the Department of Education show that this mass exodus equated to around 1 in 12 full-time teachers, roughly 4,000 leaving for each month of the year.

Newly qualified teachers are faring no better; 40% leave within a year of qualifying and 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.

This will do little to lighten the spirits of the already put-upon, hard-working teachers who remain and with pupil numbers set to increase over the next few years, if this trend continues, there will be a serious teacher shortage in years to come.

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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, along with the constant changes in curriculum and the huge amounts of data that teachers are now expected to collect and record for each pupil.

Stress is also a major reason for leaving the teaching profession, along with the unequal work-life balance.

There is also the ever-increasing levels of bad classroom behaviour and lack of respect from both pupils and their parents alike. An interesting article in the Guardian cites some of the many reasons given for quitting teaching.

Unsurprisingly, heavy workloads and stressful Ofsted inspections feature among other common complaints. Sometimes it just feels like an uphill battle.

Physically, working in a school can also be rather tedious. Sometimes it feels as if your life is ruled by a bell. The bell rings and like one of Pavlov's dogs, you go running to where you need to be. There is no flexibility on time; you know exactly where you will be at what time, also what you will be doing. School life can make you feel rather institutionalised. Some people may like this aspect of teaching, while others may find it suffocating, making them feel a little like robots.

Before you resign, however, you need to think about what exactly you are going to do for work. Do you have any savings and 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?


Training after teaching. Source: VisualHunt, Geralt

Obviously, if you are retiring then this is not necessary but if you are going to be looking for vacancies then you need to think about what you would like to do and what is available.

Having a degree can lead to many opportunities in the business and marketing world and having teaching experience is viewed as a positive. Your particular area of knowledge will also have possibilities; instead of teaching English you could become a freelance writer, for example, or if you've been a science teacher, you may find work easily in conservation.

Of course, you may be unsure of the next step in your career and simply know that you'd like to move on from teaching. However, don't let this worry you. Whatever your professional background and regardless of whether you have a concrete plan, leaving teaching can open many doors and the end of your time in the classroom doesn't necessarily spell the end of your time working in education.

So, whether you have a passion you wish to pursue, a new career waiting for you, or you're just looking for a change of scenery, knowing exactly what to do to leave teaching as well as how to move forward in your career will only give you confidence in making such a big change.

How Do You Resign from teaching?

When you resign from teaching jobs or elsewhere,  you will need to write a letter stating clearly that you are resigning and give the actual date of the resignation. It is important to know that for teachers, there is a requirement of at least half a terms’ notice and that you are generally only permitted to resign from their posts at the end of a term, there is no right to leave at the end of a half term unless this is mutually agreed by the teacher and the school.

Therefore, 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.

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

Likewise, if you wish to leave your post at the end of a calendar year (31st December), your resignation must be made by 31 October and to be able to leave by 30th April, the end of the spring term, you must hand your notice in by 28th February,

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

If the deadline for notice is missed, it should be noted that teachers will not automatically have the right to leave before the end of the next term, unless a mutual agreement is made with the school. The same period of notice is also required for teachers who are on maternity leave and who no longer wish to return to work.

Before you begin to make arrangements for leaving your school, make 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 which is given to teachers upon leaving their position. Only those who have been at their school for a minimum of two years continuously are eligible for the payment, and the size of the sum awarded is dependent of the age of the teacher as well as their number of years of service.

The amount of severance pay awarded to a teacher is calculated using three age brackets. Your number of years of service in each of the age brackets is multiplied by a percentage of your weekly pay. The sum of these totals is the total amount of severance you will receive.

These are the three age brackets and the proportion of weekly salary you will be awarded for each year you taught whilst within each age bracket:

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%

It should be noted that there is a cap in place of 20 years for this calculation, and only full years of service contribute to the sum (so a service of 6 years, 2 months would be counted as 6 years).

To take an example of a 30-year-old certified teacher earning £26,000 per annum who has spent a full 5 years teaching, their severance pay would be calculated as follows:

They fall into the 22-41 bracket for all five years and will, therefore, receive one week's pay for each full year.

1 week's pay = £489

£489 x 5 years = £2,445

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

Although leaving teaching may be a daunting prospect, being clear on your rights and responsibilities when it comes to notifying your employer of your resignation will make your transition away from teaching far smoother.

In addition to being clear on your resignation responsibilities, there are certain things you will need to learn about the etiquette of formally resigning from your job, such as how to structure your letter of resignation. If you started teaching straight after finishing your PGCE, you may not have had to write a letter of resignation before, so learning a bit more about the formalities of the document can make the process far easier.

The Letter of Resignation

The tone you convey in your letter of resignation will very much depend upon the reason behind your leaving. If it is because you have alternative jobs for teachers in a different field then you can talk about where you plan to take your career next. If, however, it is because you hate your job, you can no longer bear being a teacher or you can’t stand the headteacher or your head of department, it is probably better to keep these reasons to yourself.

You never know what might happen in the future. One day may wish to return to teaching or you might need a reference from said detested person, so there's no use in burning your bridges so to speak. The best bet, according the the TES, is to keep the letter concise, formal and neutral. Ideally, you wish to leave the head teacher with a positive view of you, so that if you ever need a reference from them in the future, they will be inclined to give you a good one.

Sometimes it may be necessary to say it how it is, although this should only be done in exceptional circumstances. For instance, this may be appropriate if you are quitting the profession for good and cannot ever envisage needing a reference from the head. Offloading like this can be a positive experience for some people and may even draw attention to discrepancies and problems within the school and or profession, although it is best if your comments don't get too personal, and focus on the organisation of the establishment itself.

It is recommended that your letter of resignation is roughly structured in the following way:

  • 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 the employment period
  • Assure the reader of the quality of your work during your final notice period
  • Provide your contact details (should your employer need to contact you in relation to your letter or the logistics of your departure)

This structure may not suit all situations and 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 future intentions.

When you hand the letter in, give it to the head teacher in person and pick a time when they are not about to rush off to a meeting so that you can talk with them about your decision a while. Again, this will convey a positive image of you in their mind.

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

At the end of the day, whatever your reasons for deciding to resign from the National Teaching Service, even if you have another job lined up and you are working through your notice period, counting the days until you can leave, try your utmost to be present at school every day and to do good work. Your students at least, deserve it.

Finding a New Career after 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 in which they have experience - but this doesn't mean that it should be disregarded when you apply to non-teaching positions.

Teaching is a profession which teaches and hones a multitude of valuable transferable skills which, if marketed properly, can make your CV stand above the rest - and this is why ex-teachers are at a big advantage when it comes to changing fields.

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

  • Resilience
  • Creativity
  • Adaptability
  • Communication (with both adults and children)
  • Leadership
  • Organisation
  • Planning
  • Flexibility

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 enjoy making use of your communication skills in your teaching job and would like to be able to use them more often, you might look into working in positions which require good people skills, such as youth work or even working for your local council.

Regardless of the path you choose to follow after your teaching career, making a successful first step in the transition to your new job is dependent on being able to market your professional skills and attributes.

This means tailoring each CV you submit to each position you apply for in a way that showcases each of your relevant skills and experience in a way that demonstrates their applications to the job in question.

After many years of teaching, the thought of picking apart your masterpiece of a teaching resume may be painful, however, it is a necessary step if you're truly serious about starting a new chapter in your professional development.

This does not mean to say that your teaching experience should be downplayed, on the contrary, your time in the classroom can be used to provide valuable anecdotes which demonstrate your work ethic and your skills in practice.

Bear in mind that your CV should serve as a snapshot or taster of your professional self as an applicant and provide a basis for further questions at the interview - so keep it short and sweet, and save any examples of your skills in use for further stages in your application.

So, what options are available to ex-teachers when it comes to switching career?

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, such as sports coaching if you're a former PE teacher, or scientific research if you're a bachelor of physics.

However, if you're certain about leaving the childhood education system but you'd still like to act as an educator in some capacity, working as a tutor could be an ideal option for you.

Tutoring, whether you do it on a one-to-one basis as a sole trader, or whether you join a tutoring company, is a brilliant way to continue 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. This is why 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 teaching skills to ensure that each individual learner is given the best possible chance to achieve academic success.

Although there are no qualifications which are officially required in order to start work as a private tutor, you teaching experience will give you a big advantage over an undergraduate offering the same services. Again, this is another point at which you will need to demonstrate why your skills make you the best person for the job.

Starting work as a tutor is simple. All you need to do is decide on the subject and levels you will teach, whether you're willing to host students in your home or you'd travel to theirs, and how much you will charge per hour. Make sure that you consider all of the opportunitie available to you. Even though you may have a degree in English, it doesn't mean that you need to stick to teaching literacy; if you're bilingual, you may also wish to teach your other language.

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

Becoming a tutor after leaving teaching is a natural step, and one which 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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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.