Page last updated at 09:06 GMT, Friday, 26 September 2008 10:06 UK

Finance workers head for teaching

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education reporter

Why some bankers are turning to teaching

Can bankers be persuaded to put away the pin-stripes and switch to the classroom?

The credit crunch is prompting a surge of interest among people wanting to re-train as a teacher, says the Training and Development Agency for Schools, the body responsible for recruiting teachers in England.

The agency has seen a 34% year-on-year increase in people visiting their recruitment website and a 13% increase in people registering an interest in teaching as a career.

With finance workers feeling particularly vulnerable, the TDA has been targeting the business districts of London, trying to find recruits for teaching.

The steel and glass towers of Canary Wharf have become an emblem of the modern financial services industry - and the teacher training agency has been taking its sales pitch to this home turf of the bankers.

There does seem to be a receptive audience - with about 40 people attending a lunchtime presentation about teaching as a career.

This showcase for teaching has its own business-friendly emphasis. The long holidays are presented not as a chance to relax, but as an opportunity for other activities - with the example given of setting up a property business.

Property crash

Among those attending was a real-life property developer, Jon Weston, who said that the credit crunch has seen his business "decimated".

Teaching recruitment seminar
A presentation emphasised teaching's long holidays and safe pension

He was now looking at teaching as a more secure career which would give him the chance to use his project management skills.

But a common factor among those considering switching to teaching was that it wasn't just about money - they were looking for a career that would give them a greater sense of fulfilment.

An investment banker in his thirties, working for one of the big names in Canary Wharf and not particularly fearing any loss of his own job, said that teaching might provide "a different kind of reward".

The substantial pay cut would be the biggest stumbling block, he said, but that would be balanced by the idea of a career that was giving something back.

A telecommunications worker also spoke of wanting to find a more socially useful career, with his own experiences as a parent sparking his interest in helping young people.

The financial services have become a major employer of university leavers - accounting for about a third of graduate jobs - and among those attending the recruitment event was Anthony Rawcliffe who had recently graduated with a business degree.

Culture clash

But instead of going into a business career, he said that helping out in a primary school made him realise that teaching would be more rewarding.

The downturn in the property market means that graduates in other areas, such as quantity surveying, are now having to re-consider their careers, he said.

So what kind of culture shift would financial workers find if they switched to school?

The teacher training recruitment presentation, as well as setting out the long holidays, pointed to the virtues of a public sector job in the choppy economic waters.

There is a good pension, the prospect of structured career progression and a sense of public service. As an extra carrot, it was highlighted that head teachers in London can earn in excess of 100,000 per year.

There have already been financial sector workers who have made the leap into education.

'Disenchanted' with business

A former accountant, Geoff Haynes, worked for banks and stockbrokers for two decades before making the change into teaching last year.

Property developer Jon Weston
Property developer Jon Weston could change his career to teaching

He said that he had become "disenchanted with the culture" in the financial services industry and had been looking for another direction.

Becoming a school governor in his children's school proved a turning point, he said, showing him teachers who evidently enjoyed their work. Describing this as a "life changing experience," he said it made him decide to re-train as a teacher.

"The staff were clearly enjoying what they were doing - and I wanted to get involved," he said.

As the family's main breadwinner this was a risky move, particularly as it meant a 40% cut in pay - but it has proved to be the right decision, he said.

At the age of 40 he became a teacher and he is currently teaching maths at Thomas Deacon Academy in Peterborough.

Instead of the "mercenary cut and thrust" of business, he said he relished moving to a world in which people were valued.

Long division

"I'd managed departments and had wanted to see people as important. But in business people don't matter, it's just about making money," he said.

Canary Wharf
The teacher recruitment agency targeted workers in Canary Wharf'

Changing to teaching made him feel more fulfilled, he said, and he has not regrets about the sharp shift of culture.

Now he takes great pleasure from seeing the moment when children understand a new skill.

"It might be something simple like long division. When they understand it, it's like you can see the lights going on, all around the room. There's a real sense of achievement."

In terms of comparing the world of teaching to finance, there are pressures in both jobs, he says. In teaching, there are intense pressures from the sense of responsibility and the sense of always being on show in front of a class.

Has he changed how he appears now he's in the classroom?

"I still wear the pin-stripes," he says.

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