Professionals moving from private sector into teaching experience ‘significant levels of frustration’, research shows

Posted by ap507 at Feb 18, 2016 01:38 PM |
University of Leicester study reveals experiences of elite career-changers moving into teaching

Issued by the University of Leicester Press Office on 18 February 2016

  •  ‘Elite’ career-changers’ (ECCs) are less likely to complete Initial Teacher Education (ITE) courses than other students
  • ECCs who successfully make transition into teaching are highly altruistic and motivated by desire to ‘give something back’ to society
  • Some ECCs find colleagues in schools distrust their motives for becoming teachers
  • Many ECCs feel quality of mentoring and professional development support in schools is lacking

Professionals moving from the private sector into teaching experience ‘significant levels of frustration’ with a perceived lack of acknowledgement from colleagues about the ‘added value’ they bring to the role, according to research by the University of Leicester. 

The study, published in the British Educational Research Journal, identifies that while ‘elite’ career-changers (ECCs) entering Initial Teacher Education (ITE) in England are generally motivated by altruism and a sense of civic duty, they also experience significant levels of frustration with a perceived lack of acknowledgement from colleagues and school leaders of the potential ‘added value’ contribution they could make at a wider institutional level.

Dr Chris Wilkins, Reader in Education from the University of Leicester’s School of Education, explained: “Many governments, including the UK government, have made a significant investment in attracting people to switch career from ‘elite’ fields such as banking, law and medicine into teaching in an effort to improve the quality of entrants. The rationale for this is generally that they bring ‘added value’ to the profession, both through their personal qualities and bringing a different perspective from their previous careers into schools. 

“However, in our study most of the teachers felt that their colleagues and school leaders were not particularly interested in them sharing expertise and perspectives from previous careers – and in some cases felt that there was a degree of distrust about their motives for changing career, particularly those coming from the private sector. This led to a sense of ‘missed opportunities’.”

The study analysed the numbers of ECCs entering ITE and compared their completion rates with those of first-career entrants.

In addition, through semi-structured interviews, the study examined the experiences and career transitions of 24 ‘elite’ career-changers.

Around 7 per cent of postgraduate entrants to ITE in England were identified as ECCs, with the findings of the study suggesting that they are less likely to complete their ITE courses than other students.

It was also found that many ECCs compared the quality of mentoring and professional development support in schools unfavourably to the private sector.

Dr Wilkins added: “Our findings appear to contradict the common perception that as mature professionals ECCs possess high levels of resilience that enable them to cope well with the demands of teaching.

“Teacher quality is crucial in improving educational outcomes, so recruiting the best individuals to teaching is a high priority. There are, however, no simple solutions; attracting career-changers is a potentially effective way of getting good teachers into the system, but if Initial Teacher Education providers do not tailor the experience to suit their needs – or if schools do not provide the right environment  for induction and career-long support, the potential benefits will be diminished.

“Teaching is a complex and demanding process and getting the right balance of individuals into the profession is vital – but no matter how much potential to be an outstanding teacher they possess, they need a personalised support environment to enable them to capitalise on personal attributes and previous experience.”

The study ‘‘Elite’ career-changers in the teaching profession’, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, is available here:


Notes to Editors:

For more information please contact Dr Chris Wilkins on

About the Leverhulme Trust

The Leverhulme Trust was established by the Will of William Hesketh Lever, the founder of Lever Brothers. Since 1925 the Trust has provided grants and scholarships for research and education. Today, it is one of the largest all-subject providers of research funding in the UK, distributing approximately £80m a year. For more information about the Trust, please visit

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