From trainees to senior leaders, teachers at all stages benefit from career development opportunities

“The great thing about teaching is that your career path doesn’t have to go in one direction,” says Georgina Garnsey, who teaches Spanish at Backwell School in Bristol.

“You can follow a path, or you can change your role and responsibilities within a school as your needs and aspirations change.”

At her previous school – a mixed comprehensive in Surrey – Garnsey progressed quickly, becoming head of Spanish and managing a small department by the time she was 26. She is now considering going for a role as deputy head of languages.

For today’s motivated teachers, there are diverse and exciting career options.

According to Lin Hinnigan, CEO at the Teaching Agency: “Bright graduates who go into the classroom can quickly take on increasing levels of responsibility and have a broad range of career progression opportunities.”

Ian Wilkinson has seen this first hand. “I used to be a software engineer, doing computer graphics for flight simulators. I enjoyed that, but after 10 years, I got bored.” At the age of 32, he put his physics degree to good use and took a one-year PGCE at St Mary’s University. Five years on, and he’s now the Key Stage 4 co-ordinator at St Mark’s Catholic School in Middlesex.

Now is the time to act. Teacher training is currently offering big tax-free bursaries of up to £20,000 and scholarships for graduates with 2:1 and first class degrees. However, there are no guarantees that this will continue next year – which may be why training places for 2012/13 are filling up fast.

It’s a shrewd career move. Recent research shows that teachers are nearly twice as likely to remain in their profession than graduates in other professions.

They can rise quickly through the ranks too. Three and a half years into their careers, teachers are twice as likely to be in management positions than many of their fellow graduates.

What’s more, on average, teachers are seeing their salaries rise by an average of 30 per cent after their first four years in the job. “I’ve moved up pretty quickly,” Wilkinson notes, adding that teaching can be a pretty well-paid career.

In future, he has his sights set on being head of department. There’s support along the way. Nicola Shale left her job as a television and exhibitions producer to join the teaching profession. She is now training to become a science teacher, learning on-the-job.

“I have a reduced timetable to allow time for my CPD and lesson planning, and for subject development days. I also go to twilight sessions and Saturday sessions, and I get feedback through mentoring and observations in lessons.” She finds the training rigorous yet rewarding, and she’s not alone – 87 per cent of newly qualified teachers today rate their Initial Teacher Training very highly.

“Teaching is one of the best, most satisfying and worthwhile of the professions. It is also highly demanding and challenging,” says Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, one of the teaching unions who give support and training and development for all teachers at all career stages, including those in initial teacher training, middle management and school leaders.

Specialist training is also provided for teachers through subject specific organisations, such as the National Network of Science Learning Centres. Their associate director, Professor Mary Ratcliffe, says: “Independent research evidence shows secondary teachers gain career enhancement through professional development.”

She adds that some teachers have seen a direct impact on their career progression as a result.

Garnsey has benefited from such training. “When I took the step up to becoming head of Spanish, my school supported me to do a training course in middle management,” she says. “If teachers ask for training, most schools will put that in place for them. I’m not sure that’s something that can be said of other sectors”.

Case study: Lisa Sayers, 34

Lisa Sayers, 34, is maths teacher and pastoral leader for the 6th form at a secondary in Bristol. She graduated with a 2:1 in mathematics from Bristol University and did a one-year PGCE course at King’s College in London.

I enjoy working with people, and specifically with young people.

I wanted to do something where I was having lots of interaction rather than being sat behind a computer. I’ve also always been good at explaining things, so it seemed that teaching would suit me and be something I’d enjoy.

After I finished my degree, I did a PGCE and then went straight into a mixed comprehensive in London.

I worked there for four years, during which time I was promoted to deputy head of maths. I progressed quite quickly. I then moved to another London school, where I took a sideways step – I was their deputy head of maths.

I’ve now been at my school in Bristol for nearly 4 years. Initially, I was a classroom teacher, but after a year, I took on extra responsibilities and became pastoral leader for the 6th form. That involves supporting 6th form tutors, looking at things like UCAS applications. I work with all the 6th form tutors to monitor how the students are progressing, sorting out the 6th form Ball, keeping an eye on attendance and punctuality and making sure the students adhere to the school’s dress code. I’m focusing on the pastoral side of things, which is an interesting change from my previous roles, which were more about academics and managing other teachers. I like the balance I have now – I concentrate on academic aspects when I’m in the classroom and on pastoral aspects with the 6th formers.

The best thing for me is the relationships you form with the students, seeing them make progress, not just in maths but also as young people. It’s a varied job, there is great career progression, and the pay is good. The next logical step for me would be to become head of 6th form. That’s how I see my career developing next.

My first day

Nicola Shale is training to be a science teacher.

“Career progression can start right from the beginning of your training. I’m learning on the job at an Academy in North-west London, and I’ve recently changed my Year 9 group from a set one to a more challenging set four group. I was nervous about the first day, so I got lots of information in advance.

I worked out the seating and planned a really engaging lesson with lots of activities and a debate. At the end of the lesson, the students said they liked the way I taught. That feedback gave me confidence.”