From the City to the classroom: ex-financier wins teaching prize

Colin Hegarty made the break five years ago and became a maths teacher

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The Independent Online

A City finance worker who took a £40,000 pay cut to pursue greater job satisfaction in the classroom has been named one of the best teachers in Britain.

Colin Hegarty, 32, quit his job at the accountancy firm Deloitte after realising that he found more fulfilment during the time he spent volunteering with children than in his corporate role.

“I was doing very well and I did like it,” he said of his City career. “But they ran this scheme where once a week on a Wednesday – we went down to a local school in Bethnal Green and became reading partners of the children.

“I realised that was my forte – the day of the week that I was most looking forward to was Wednesday.  It seemed only right, then, that I should become a teacher.”

Five years ago Mr Hegarty made the break and became a maths teacher – going straight from his City salary to a one-year PGCE course before taking up a full-time post.

Last night it paid dividends as Mr Hegarty, now teaching at Preston Manor school in Wembley, west London, won one of the Teacher of the Year awards in the annual “Plato” ceremony at London’s Guildhall.

Mr Hegarty  won his award – for the teacher who has made the most outstanding use of technology – for a website he has created to help others to teach maths. It now has two million users in schools throughout the UK and has been taken up by teachers in 200 different countries. He received the award from Prime Minister David Cameron on a visit to Downing Street shortly before the ceremony.

Mr Hegarty, who was raised in Kilburn, north-west London, became the first person in his family to go to university and gained a first-class honours degree at Oxford in maths before going into the city. His former Deloitte colleagues, he says, are now probably earning between £30,000 and £40,000 more than him — but he would not swop his present job for the world.

“I believe that if you work hard and have access to the right support you can achieve anything. One of my favourite quotes is from a book called Bounce by Matthew Syed who says, ‘If you want to bend it like Beckham or fade it like Tiger you have to work like crazy, regardless of your genes, creed or colour.’  There is no shortcut to success in life.”

Mr Hegarty received one of the 11 awards made on Sunday night to teachers and institutions. Among the others were teachers from Moat House School in Stockport – a pupil referral unit that specialises in teaching pregnant teenagers. The unit – the first of its kind to win such an award – was praised for preparing the girls to carry on with their education and paving the way for them to go on to college or university.