Teacher retention: Transition to Teach

Written by: Nigel Bowen | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

The government-funded Transition to Teach programme aims to support retention across the profession by offering bespoke support to career-changers training to teach. Nigel Bowen explains


In January 2019, a Department for Education (DfE) survey of more than 3,000 people considering teacher training found more than half would probably or definitely change career if they could.

Around the same time, the government published its Teacher recruitment and retention strategy (DfE, 2019), recognising what we already know – there is a competitive labour market, teacher retention is a growing challenge, retention issues are most acute for early career teachers (ECTs), and a key challenge is the UCAS application process being difficult, particularly for career-changers.

Additionally, initial teacher education (ITE) recruitment targets had been missed, retention rates of ECTs had fallen considerably between 2012 and 2018, and around half of postgraduate ITE trainees are career-changers.

The Transition to Teach (T2T) programme has been developed by Cognition Education and funded by the DfE as part of a £10.7 million investment, including the Now Teach and Researchers in Schools programmes, to aid teacher recruitment.

T2T’s purpose is two-fold: we attract experienced, talented professionals from a range of backgrounds into teaching, and then to work to retain them for the long-term, supporting them through their ITE and NQT years.

Pupils can benefit enormously from the skills, experience and enthusiasm that our career-changers have. T2T is currently supporting 120 professionals across all school phases, subjects and types of training routes. Our career-changers are allocated a dedicated guidance and development advisor (GDA), with substantial experience in education, who provides practical and personalised advice.

Participants have access to an online portal for peer-to-peer discussion and resources and support with developing a Career Development Plan, which helps them to consider how they can utilise their transferable skills and career experience in the classroom, as well as considering their future career aspirations, such as taking on a teaching and learning responsibility and/or senior leadership team role.

Farhana Suleman, a former science technician and trainee biology teacher, explained: “My GDA maintains regular contact and has offered a lot of support throughout my training. When I applied for a job, he checked through my application to ensure that I made the strongest application possible, which helped me secure a job. He has also helped me identify where I want to take my teaching career and what my next steps will be once I qualify.”

GDAs provide extra support and guidance as required on any aspect of ITE, including networking opportunities, focused workshops to cover specific topics/needs, such as applying for teaching posts and interview preparation, and conference calls that provide information to career-changers as they progress through the programme.

So, why is supporting career-changers important? Career-changers often have vast relevant experience from their previous careers, such as managing high workloads and responding to tight deadlines; nurturing good working relationships with staff; developing and delivering training – all of which are skills that are transferable to the classroom.

They may have held management positions in a range of settings, from both the private and public sector, including settings as diverse as engineering, finance, social care, health, and the prison service.

Career-changers are often very keen to get involved in extra-curricular activities – for instance, one of our participants is a former army cadet leader and the school where he has secured an NQT post is very keen for him to set up a Combined Cadet Force unit.

Others have backgrounds in the energy sector, so are interested in supporting schools to become more energy efficient; or the care sector, so are interested in supporting SEND pupils and/or becoming SENCOs. Others have backgrounds in catering or the health sector, so are interested in supporting healthy eating or the mental health of pupils.

The added value career-changers bring to schools has been reflected in T2T participant NQT salaries often being above Main Pay Scale 1 (MPS1), sometimes as high as MPS4, and some are offered permanent instead of temporary NQT contracts.

We may be able to support individuals as they train with you from September, so please encourage your course enquirers to visit our website, where they can view our eligibility criteria and express their interest in the programme.


  • Nigel Bowen is the lead guidance and development advisor for the Transition to Teach (T2T) programme, run by Cognition Education. If you are interested in learning more about T2T’s acceptance criteria, email nbowen@transitiontoteach.co.uk


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