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Lockdown job loss? Solicitor Christine retrains as a teacher following redundancy

Former solicitor Christina Grainger, 41, from Preston is training as a primary school teacher following pandemic-related redundancy from her previous career as a solicitor.

Redundancies reached a record high in the last three months of 2020, a trend that is continuing into 2021. Figures released by the Resolution Foundation in February 2021 showed that 1 in 12 employed workers expect to lose their jobs in the next three months, or have been advised that redundancy is on the cards. 

Christina is part of the 2020/21 Transition to Teach cohort who are charting a new course into teaching from redundancy, early retirement and career change, and dispelling many of the myths that exist about entering the profession. 

“I qualified as a solicitor in 2006; it was a really busy job. After having my children though my priorities began to change and I started to wonder whether I was still in the right industry. It takes six years to qualify as a solicitor, and having invested both so much time and money into qualifying, it was scary to think about leaving that stable job for another industry entirely. I can safely say the most rewarding and satisfying part of my job was the last few years where I had been involved with training and mentoring.

“When the pandemic hit, the firm of solicitors I was working for lost a bit of work, but even then, when redundancies were announced it was a shock as we had been busy right through lockdown.

“The redundancy was a blow after how hard I’d been working throughout the pandemic. Around the time of the redundancy notice, I saw something from Transition to Teach asking whether it was time to get into teaching. I didn’t have the first idea whether I would be eligible as I thought I would need school experience, but it wasn’t a barrier to me getting onto the programme. Being a parent to two young children, I know first-hand how important a teacher is in a child’s early years. I realised I could take the aspects I really enjoyed from my role as a solicitor, into a new career in teaching.”

Transition to Teach is a Department for Education funded initiative that supports eligible career changers into teaching, with a particular focus on those at risk of redundancy, and prior teaching experience is not required.

“Being made redundant is a real mix of emotions,” added Christina. “It was a really unsettling time. At that point, I wanted my redundancy to go ahead but also deep down felt it was a reflection on me. It’s a big knock to your confidence. Even though I’d had the thought of potentially changing career in the back of my mind for years, it was still scary for the redundancy to actually happen.

“Transition to Teach helped me with my application for a teacher training course and I had my interview over Zoom. It has been a whirlwind. I was supposed to be with the firm of solicitors I worked with until October 2020 but they agreed to let me leave early to start my course in September 2020. I got accepted on the Friday and started my induction on the Tuesday.

“My course is a School Direct programme with Edge Hill. I started my second placement in February 2021 in Key Stage 2, whilst my first placement was in Key Stage 1. The skills I am taking into teaching with me include organisation and prioritisation. As a solicitor, I had to speak to many people, and adapt my communication style accordingly. Also my resilience and ICT skills will both come in handy as a teacher.

 “Teaching is about more than just the teaching side, it’s also about the pastoral side and ensuring children are OK, particularly during the pandemic. I think being a parent and being a little older has made me a better teacher. My daughter started reception in September 2020, so as a teacher I can really empathise with the concerns of parents.

“Balancing the academic side of training as a teacher with a young family can be tricky, but I have got lots of support. My husband takes the children to school in the mornings so I can get to school myself and I’ll complete assignments in the evenings. Transition to Teach are also there if I need them. My guidance and development adviser got in touch recently to let me know about a job I might like to apply for.

“If you’re thinking about teaching, I’d highly recommend getting in touch with Transition to Teach. It’s both exciting and scary to be starting a new career in teaching, but so far so good. I’m happy with the decision I made.”

Stephen Henry is a guidance and development adviser with over 25 years’ experience in education and works with Transition to Teach to support people like Christina into teaching. Stephen believes those with prior career experience are ideal candidates for teaching:

“When you enter teaching with another career behind you, you’ve learnt how to deal with things effectively and don’t obsess about issues that aren’t important. It’s a myth that teaching is a young person’s game, it’s actually beneficial to be older in many cases. When I was first teaching 18 year old students at only 24 myself, it was difficult to get that distance and attain the necessary authority.

“People moving into teaching often worry about the teaching side and how they’ll control a class. They imagine that they’ll spend all their time worrying about their students, but actually, once you’ve learnt your craft, the teaching becomes second nature. Far from being a worry, the children will actually be the very best thing about your job. Teaching is one of the most rewarding jobs there is, and I for one am delighted to see more candidates with rich life experience joining the profession.”

Diane Cooke
Diane Cooke is a three times award-winning journalist who has worked for UK national/regional newspapers, magazines and websites.

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