Manchester Army Cadet Force volunteer becomes a teacher to make a difference in young people’s lives
Jamie Curley, 55 from Rochdale is using his experience as territory manager in the medical devices industry and as a volunteer with Greater Manchester Army Cadet Force, to make a difference in young people’s lives, supported by Transition to Teach.
The Department for Education funded Transition to Teach initiative, based in Manchester, is encouraging more participants to train as teachers in STEM subjects, helping to drive recruitment for subjects such as physics, maths and chemistry.
The programme supports those at risk of redundancy, early retirees and eligible career changers into teaching, with 69% of Transition to Teach participants in 2020 training to teach a STEM subject such as science, maths or computer science, up from 37% in 2019. Jamie, who has a degree in biology and a doctorate in engineering, completed his PGCE to become a science teacher before starting his Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) year at a school in Rochdale in September 2020:
“I was sitting at another sales conference at another anonymous hotel watching someone go through another set of sales figures when I thought to myself ‘is this really my life?’ I was involved in the sales and clinical support side of the business, and there was the ever present pressure to increase sales figures. I could see the sales figures rising but I got to the point where I didn’t think it was worthwhile anymore, the salary and bonuses were no longer enough. It was time to do something else.
“I’d volunteered with Greater Manchester Army Cadet Force and working with young people, investing time, showed me what a difference a teacher could make to their lives. There was immense satisfaction in it.
“I was 53 when I discovered Transition to Teach and decided to train as a science teacher, an age when some teachers are starting to move out of the profession. My first two questions to Transition to Teach were: ‘am I too old’ and ‘is it too late to apply to teach this year’ and they said no on both counts. 6 weeks later I was on the PGCE course at Manchester Metropolitan University.
“Transition to Teach has supported me right through my PGCE year and that support will continue through to the end of my first year as a NQT, which will be at the end of July 2021. I talked with my Guidance and Development Adviser about my Army Cadet Force experience and how I could transfer those skills into teaching. I was given support to get onto my PGCE, help with applying for a bursary and the knowledge that there’s always someone there to help with any questions or worries. The GDAs at Transition to Teach are experienced education professionals and they’re as happy for you as you are when you do well.
“I’ve never looked back. I’m in a really great school with 3 other NQTs and I can’t praise my school enough. From day one, I was part of the team. Even though some people hold senior positions, there are no airs and graces, everyone in the school is really supportive.
“My school is about to launch three new academies within the school, construction, dance and Cadets and I’ve been asked to be the head of the Cadets Academy and will attend RAF Cranwell over the summer to do the senior officer’s course. We’re working alongside the local squadron. 30 students will follow the Cadets syllabus in a two year programme, giving our students opportunities that they wouldn’t usually have had, like going flying and shooting.
“Some schools already have a Combined Cadet Force (CCF) and the government is investing £1 million to help schools introduce more of them. For a young person that has maybe started along the wrong path, an opportunity like the Cadets Academy could make the difference for them. Introducing them to responsibility and learning how to model the right behaviour to other people. I was happy as Larry being a science teacher, and then this fantastic opportunity came my way too. I must have done something right.”
The NFER Teacher Labour Market in England 2021 report found that postgraduate Initial Teacher Training (ITT) enrolments in 2020 were 20% higher than in 2019, representing 130% of the target for primary teachers and 106% for secondary. This upwards trend has continued in 2021 with applications up to February 2021 26% higher than the equivalent point in 2020.
Yet overall ITT recruitment for STEM subjects such as physics, maths and chemistry remained below target. Physics recruitment hit 42% of its target in 2019 vs. 45% in 2020, chemistry was 67% in 2019 vs. 80% in 2020 and maths achieved 65% of its 2019 target vs. 84% in 2020. Computer science exceeded its recruitment target in 2021 at 105% of its target, vs. 75% in 2019.
Jamie believes the transferable skills he developed in his past career and as a volunteer with the Greater Manchester Army Cadet Force help in his new teaching career:
“You have to be really organised to be a teacher. The moment that students step into the classroom you need to be ready to go. If you’re still clicking on your computer getting prepared then you’ve lost the lesson. I think self-confidence really helps as a teacher and all of the presentations I had to make in my old job really helped with that side of things. It was a transferable skill I could bring with me to the classroom. The wider world perspective is also key. If you can make what you’re teaching relevant to your students and relate it to the real world, then you’re more likely to engage them.
“I say to people that teaching isn’t a job, it’s a way of life. The lessons are part of it, but only part of it, there’s also the pastoral side. It sounds corny but the best thing about teaching is knowing that I’m making a difference. When it goes wrong in a young person’s life it can take a lifetime to put it right. If you want to create the right society, it starts with education.”
Rebecca Waring is the programme manager for the Transition to Teach project and says they are looking forward to welcoming even more participants from STEM backgrounds in 2021:
“Our STEM participants bring a wealth of workplace experience, educational attainment and transferable skills into teaching. To have a teacher in front of you who has worked in the STEM sector, who can break down barriers that children might feel towards STEM, showcase their technical skills and ability, and make it relatable, is incredibly powerful.
“Applications are now open for September 2021 and we can offer participants support at every stage in their journey, from practical things like finding an ITT provider and identifying funding sources, to providing access to a guidance and development adviser who will offer support until the end of your first year as a newly qualified teacher.”