Leaving the National Teaching Service is rarely ever an easy decision for teachers who feel that their time serving as a certified teacher in UK schools, colleges and universities has reached an end.

Coming to the difficult realisation that teaching is no longer the right career path is not something that many teachers do overnight.

The decision to leave teaching means not only leaving behind a job but also the support of the other staff and students, who, for some teachers, have been part of their lives for many years and the reason they decided to become a teacher.

Being a teacher is one of the hardest jobs there is and one that can be very rewarding at times, but for many, the negatives of a job in teaching substantially outweigh the positives.

Teachers fresh out of university or teacher training and those who have taught at a school for many years are often at a loss to which path to take after having invested so much time in a single profession.

This can make the decision to leave teaching much harder, but can also be significantly more rewarding in the long run. Whether you have taught for a year or for a substantial period of your life, the skills that make a teacher can be transferred to many other career paths.

Leaving teaching doesn’t always mean that you have to leave teaching jobs in general. You could go into teaching in a different field, do a TEFL qualification and teach English abroad or become a private tutor. The diverse range of teaching opportunities available can make the transition away from the National Teaching Service much easier for many people.

If you are considering leaving teaching, then you are not alone. Many teachers are opting to take a new direction away from the structure of the school environment. Between 2010 and 2015, more than 10,000 teachers decided that it was time to look for a career that was more suited to them.

A recent article published by the Guardian looks into teachers leaving the teaching profession, showing that between 2010 and 2015, 30% of teachers who started in 2010 had left the profession within 5 years.

Life after teaching can be difficult at first, but there are a lot of opportunities open to teachers who have skills that are highly sought after in many professions. When leaving the National Teaching Service, there are a lot of things that need to be considered to adjust to life outside of teaching and to make sure that you are in a comfortable position to seek a new career.

Leaving teaching can be a daunting prospect, but with multiple teachers facing the same decision every day, the choice is one you are not making by yourself.

Reasons for Leaving Teaching

There are many reasons why a teacher decides to resign from the National Teaching Service, from individual reasons as to why they are not suited to the role, to influences and dictation from governing bodies. Almost always when deciding that getting out of teaching is the best option, the reasoning is a combination of many factors that influence the overall decision.

Jobs for ex-teachers are easy to find
How to get out of teaching and find a new career (Photo credit: toshi.panda via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA)

No two teachers are the same and no two difficult decisions are made up of the same components; there is a number of reasons across the board which act as contributing factors to the large number of teachers who are seeking new employment and new options.

Mind the Gap

One of the primary reasons why teachers are looking to resign in the UK is due to salary amounts and budget cuts that have hit schools across the country. Teaching is still a profession where there is a pay gap between male teachers and female teachers, with many employees feeling that their pay is not suitable in comparison to their co-workers.

Despite women making up around 73% of the staff in schools, across many secondary schools in the UK there is still a large and evident pay gap between genders. On average, when taking into consideration the different types of school across the UK, women are earning an average of £1,100 a year less than men in the same profession.

Cuts, cuts, cuts

The budget revisions and funding cuts that have made a significant impact of all tiers of school in the UK are an ever-growing concern for teachers and an important factor in the decision to leave teaching. The budget cuts affect nearly every aspect of teaching with many teachers subsidising the lack of budget for their department from their own pockets to provide students with what they are missing out on.

The items bought by teachers for their classes include everything from simple classroom materials such as glue sticks and pencils to more costly items such as cameras and DVDs.

The budget cuts have also caused the redundancy of many teaching staff with teachers feeling less supported in the classroom due to the lower level of teaching staff that is needed to provide a good teaching environment for students.

Wearisome Workloads

With teachers being requested to ensure that individual attention is paid to each student, without extra teaching staff, they are spending longer hours at work. The increased workload as a result of cuts, lack of staff and extra documentation is another pressing reason that teachers are handing in their letter of resignation. Across the UK, on average 75% of teachers find that the workload they must complete is unmanageable.

In addition to the time they spend planning lessons, teaching in the classroom and marking students' work, teachers are under more and more pressure to produce good GCSE and A level results for their school, and this means that many are being asked to run supplementary revision sessions during their lunch breaks and after school.

An increased workload is affecting teachers in all subject areas, but especially those teachers who cover subjects that are defined as core subjects. Teachers that specialise in mathematics, the sciences and languages are significantly more likely to leave teaching than teachers who specialise in other subjects. An article by BBC News looks into what makes teachers in core subjects leave teaching and how that compares with the leaving rate in other school subjects.

According to this article, the high rates at which teachers are leaving their professions behind have led to a 'significant teacher shortages' in England. This is no surprise, though, when 30% of teachers leave the classroom within their first five years of beginning their career in education.

With pupil registration on the rise and an increased workload due to harsh government cuts to education as well as the shortage of teachers, working for the NTS is certainly not as attractive as it once was.

How to Get out of Teaching

Once you have decided your reasons for leaving the National Teaching Service, the next step you have to take is resigning from your current position. Resigning from a teaching job can be a daunting prospect, especially after creating a close bond with your co-workers and having established a close working relationship with the headteacher. However, resigning from a teaching position is very similar to the process in the majority of jobs and must be approached formally whilst following the correct protocols.

Depending on which type of school you are resigning from, the way to go about it can change significantly and the guidelines vary, in relation to most state schools in the UK, there is a specific notice period that must be adhered to. The first step of resigning from a state school is one of the few differences between leaving teaching and leaving another profession and it is very important before proceeding further.

Your resignation letter should follow a few simple steps
What steps should you take to leave the teaching profession? (Photo via Visual Hunt)

If you are leaving the role of a headteacher 3 months’ notice has to be given during each term, except from the summer term where it is 4 months; for other teaching staff, 2 months’ notice has to be given during the term, with 3 months needing to be given during the summer term.

In extension to the length of notice that must be given, the particular term time dates must be abided by, with notice given in advance of the end of term with the expectation that the teacher leaves when the term has ended.

If a teacher leaves the position before term time has ended or if they leave without any given notice, they are classed as breaking the terms laid out in their teaching contract which could cause legal action to be taken by the employer.

Teachers that need to leave without notice for important reasons, can, in some instances, come to an agreement with the school and receive permission to void the terms of the contract.

Making it Official

Some teachers choose to inform their employer that they are leaving their position before handing in an official letter of resignation, as a courtesy to allow them extra time to find a suitable replacement once they have left. This may also be necessary if you have already applied for a new job that requires references from your teaching position.

In these cases, an understanding must be achieved between you and your employer, prior to officially resigning from the job. And you don't need to worry about your job security in doing this: your current teaching position will be secure up until the point you have handed in your official letter of resignation.

Regardless of whether or not your employer is actively seeking a replacement, informing them early will not put your job in jeopardy.

Once you have decided on when you would like to resign (and taken term dates into consideration), the next step is to write an official letter of resignation that will be handed to your employer, stating formally that you are resigning. This duty must be performed regardless of whether you have already agreed upon your resignation with your employer or not and forgoing the letter of resignation could cause serious repercussions. Once the letter has been received by the deadline and you have worked until the end of term, your contract will be officially terminated.

Redundancy Pay for Teachers Leaving Teaching

If a teacher has to leave teaching due to redundancy, voluntary redundancy or in some cases mutually agreed resignation, they can be entitled to a sum of money known as severance pay that will be paid when they leave the position.

Paid in the case of an early contract termination, a severance payment is provided to teachers who have worked continuously for more than 2 years. Movement between schools can also fall under continuous.

Leaving teaching? what next
What can you expect to be paid upon leaving your role as a teacher? (Photo via Visual Hunt)

Severance pay is a statutory requirement, however, there are a number of situations that can void the payment of severance, in particular for those teachers employed in an academy.

Severance will be paid out in situations where a teacher does not receive another job offer until their current position has been terminated, the new employment is outside of the terms of continuous service or their new job position starts at least 4 weeks after they left their previous position.

If teachers are not looking for further jobs in education or teaching opportunities after being made redundant, then their severance pay should be secured with no worry that a conflicting new job will mean that they do not receive their severance pay. In other words, if you leave teaching for a new career, you can rest assured that you will receive your severance pay.

The amount calculated when awarding severance pay is different from teacher to teacher and is highly dependent on years of service and the age of the teacher at their time of redundancy. No matter how long you have held your position of continuous employment, the severance will be calculated with a maximum of 20 years employment taken into account. For all forms of redundancy, voluntary or forced, the cap of employment length is in effect.

When calculating the exact sum of severance pay for a teacher who was employed on a full-time basis, there are a number of brackets for standard payments that are used. Teachers who were employed at under 22 years of age will receive £190 for every year they were employed, teachers who were employed between 22 and 40 years of age will be awarded with £380 per year of service and £570 will be paid to teachers for each year employed when over 40 years old.

The severance amount paid will be totalled over the years of service, and the appropriate amount for each year under the age brackets will be applied and subsequently awarded.

Special circumstances

There are a number of circumstances that can warrant a special severance amount to be calculated that is different to that of the standard statuary amount paid.

Some schools will take into account a teacher’s salary when calculating the severance, and instead of the standard amounts of £190, £380 and £570 for the three age brackets, the severance will vary; being totalled at 0.5 x salary, 1 x salary and 1.5 x salary for the three brackets respectively.

It is at the discretion of the school if they wish to award more severance, but must also fall under the regulations set out in the Education and Skills Funding Agency. Payments below £30,000 are not taxable, however, payments in excess of £50,000 still have to be officially approved and reasoned outside of school jurisdiction.

Those teachers seeking severance pay after resigning from a position as opposed to being formally made redundant may also be eligible for special severance pay. The severance payments in these instances have to be approved and may only be awarded in certain conditions, such as the exemplary service of the teacher in question. Every special severance pay must be fully justified and if the teacher displayed poor performance or showed a lack of continuity, it is likely that no severance payments will be made.

Here is a brief summary of the redundancy payments available to teachers resigning from the National Teaching Service:

Age of TeacherProportion of Weekly Pay to be Multiplied by Number of Years Spend Teaching At Age
Under 22 years old50%
22-41 years old100%
Over 41 years old150%

Writing a Letter of Resignation

Once you have looked at the resignation deadlines and the contractual obligations of your position, you can start to write your resignation letter and start the process of how to leave teaching officially. The letter of resignation is your official declaration of leaving, beyond that of what you have previously told your employer and must be undertaken in a formal and structured way.

What is said, and what isn’t said in your resignation letter can directly impact your future references so it is important to get it right.

The majority of teaching resignation letters are addressed directly to the headteacher of the school, as the main employer of the teacher. However, in some instances, the resignation letter will have to be presented to both the head teacher and to the chair of governors for evaluation. When presenting your letter of resignation, a physical copy of the resignation must be delivered to the school secretary for the head teacher, with the possible inclusion of a digital email copy of the resignation to prove that you delivered your resignation before the set deadlines.

Keeping it professional

The contents of your resignation must be structured formally but many teachers also choose to add personal reasons behind their wish to resign, in a manner that is kept professional.

It is also advised that when writing the letter, thanks are given for the employment term. Burning the bridges at this point could be detrimental to the time you have to remain employed at the school but also to future job prospects outside of education.

One of the most important aspects to include in the letter of resignation is the proposed date, or at the end of which term, that you wish to end your employment; it is then crucial ensure it is delivered before that term’s deadline.

While most of the deadlines for the notice you must give and the termination of your contract is set, there can be some variation when it comes to the Easter term. Due to the dates for Easter changing, and instances occurring where the end of your employment falls at the beginning of a term as opposed to the end, it is important to clarify your intended date with the head teacher and confirm there is an agreement on it.

Formatting your official letter is done in much the same way as formal letters of resignation in other jobs. Starting and finishing with a tone that is formal and decisive while also providing justification behind your decision is what many head teachers require from resignations. An article by Hays, outlines some of the most significant areas of a resignation letter, as well as covering in detail the best ways to inform an employer of an upcoming resignation letter.

Leaving Teaching, What Next?

After serving out their notice and receiving the last of their salary or the lump sum of their severance payment, many ex-teachers wonder what do to after teaching, whether it has been a short term of service or if they had been teaching for many years.

Alternative careers for teachers
What alternative jobs for teachers are there? (Photo credit: CJS*64 via Visual hunt / CC BY-ND)

There are many different reasons why teachers leave the teaching profession and these are often reflected in what’s next after teaching.

Some teachers choose to continue in tutoring jobs but in a completely new format away from the standard structure laid out in schools and universities. Tutoring jobs London and in the UK are a prime example of jobs in education that are removed from the school system and instead provide a workload that is decided by the tutor and a schedule that is tailored to more personal needs. Online tutoring jobs can cover a wide variety of subjects or remain specific to a couple, what the tutor offers is up to them and the same applies to which area of the subject they wish to teach.

If you're an ex-teacher or ex-teacher-to-be and you still have a passion for changing lives through education, tutoring could be the answer.

Whatever your reasons for leaving teaching, whether you'd like more freedom in your lesson planning or you did not feel able to hone pupils' individual skills in the school environment, becoming a tutor is a great way to continue the thrive as an educator in a new way.

When it comes to tutoring, there are many paths you can take.

If you're looking for flexibility and independence, you can always work as a self-employed private tutor. All you need to get started is a good idea of the subjects you will teach and your target market. Once you have decided what your tutoring services will look like, you'll need some customers - so start spreading the word! You can do this by creating an online tutor profile on websites such as Superprof as well as posting ads in the classifieds section of your local newspaper.

Word of mouth is also a fantastic way to let people know about your services. Given your past as a teacher and therefore as a key figure within your local community, you will already have a good reputation on your side.

However, working as a sole trader isn't for everyone, so if you want to continue to educate pupils in a more structured way, joining a tutoring centre could be the best option for you.

Tutoring centres (especially centres which focus on helping children improve their maths and English skills) are fairly common in the UK, so you should have little trouble in finding one in your area which may be willing to take you on.

Joining a tutoring company doesn't mean that you'll be teaching all the time. As an experienced teacher, it is highly likely that you will be eligible for a managerial role or one where you have some responsibilities in terms of the running of a centre.

However, maybe you're not sure about where you want to take your career next. So, what do you do if you're certain you want to leave teaching but you're unsure about the next step?

The great thing about tutoring as a job is the flexibility, which makes it great for bridging the gap between careers.

As an experienced teacher, you should have no trouble in establishing yourself as a tutor and earning a good income while giving yourself plenty of time to think about the next step in your professional life.

Taking a Back Seat

Many teachers who enjoy the profession but who do not want to actively teach apply for roles that are considered more 'behind the scenes' in education. There are many jobs for ex-teachers readily available in the recruitment and primary training of new teaching staff for educational roles. Following a career in teacher recruitment and training will not only let you see a different side to the education system which you are familiar with, but it will also allow you to continue to teach but in a very different way than before.

If you're a creative individual, you may consider getting involved in the writing and publishing of school textbooks.

Exam boards, education companies and publishing houses are always looking for new content submissions. Your experience of teaching the national curriculum is an incredibly valuable tool when it comes to writing your own content, as you will have first-hand experience of applying imagination and creativity to the school syllabus in order to create fulfilling and memorable lessons.

Being able to translate your lessons into text will not necessarily be easy, especially if you don't consider yourself to be  natural writer, however, sharing your ideas with teachers all over the country and helping students to better understand their courses is a fantastic opportunity for any ex-teacher.

There are various ways to become a content writer depending on the level at which you formerly taught. For instance, if you were previously a school languages teacher, you could submit a proposal to Macmillan Education.

Your teaching and training skills can also apply to new staff outside of the education sector. The traits that a teacher can bring are highly regarded when it comes to training courses and educational programmes for adults in employment. Being able to demonstrate resilience and a passion for motivating others to succeed is central to the world of corporate training.

There are many courses available to prepare you for your career in professional training. As a former teacher, it is highly likely that you will already possess many of the skills needed for this type of education.

Your teaching experience will only make you stand out from the crowd, so, if you've always seen yourself working in a corporate environment, becoming a corporate trainer could be the ideal career move for you.

Away from jobs in education, there are many jobs available for ex-teachers who wish to continue specialising in their particular subject but not in a teaching role. Often teachers from all manner of subjects, from core to specialist, choose to pursue their interests in a career that they are passionate about.

If you feel that teaching is not giving you the means to fully enjoy the subject you teach, you may wish to take a step back and think about the other ways in which you can use your degree.

For instance, if you feel that teaching GCSE health and social care isn't allowing your passion for social justice to shine through, you may look into becoming a social worker or another career in which you would be responsible for the general well-being of others.

Although many people assume teaching to be a life-long career, it may not be the case. In fact, it may be that those who choose to teach simply have an innate passion for sharing their knowledge in a way that helps others. For this reason, many former teachers find themselves drawn to occupations where they have a level of responsibility for others as well as jobs which require a great deal of creativity.

Whether you work behind-the-scenes within state education or you pursue a different career entirely, knowing how to use your teaching experience to the advantage of your new employer will ensure that while teaching may not have been the favourite part of your career, it will have given you valuable skills to be applied elsewhere in your professional life.

Transferable Skills

Leaving teaching with a diverse and in-depth knowledge of one subject in particular can lead to career opportunities which will give you the means to further your knowledge of that area. For instance, science teachers may seek employment in active scientific research whereas history or English teachers may opt for careers in journalism.

The skills gained through years of teaching and not just knowledge of a subject are highly desired traits by many companies with jobs in managerial roles or commercial sectors open to the transferable skills. An article published by Ed News Daily highlights some of the biggest companies that seek the traits of a teacher for careers which are completely different to teaching.

When you look to start a new job after teaching for years, it can feel like your options are limited, but as many teachers find, there is a lot of variety when it comes to new jobs. Being a qualified teacher with experience in a school or university is a prime addition to any resume that can make leaving the National Teaching Service much easier and much more rewarding than people believe it to be.

Having teaching experience on your CV will demonstrate a number of valuable skills including:

  • Leadership
  • Creativity
  • Flexibility
  • Resilience
  • People skills
  • Adaptability

Making a success of your transition away from teaching is all about the way in which you market the skills you have gained from your teaching career. Targeting each one of your job applications to the role you're applying for will ensure that your passion for your career change shines through to employers and improve your chances of success.

Targeting your applications doesn't just mean focussing on the role at the interview, but also tailoring your CV for each position you apply for. The very thought of reconstructing your carefully-crafted teaching CV may not be pleasant, however, it is a necessary step if you're serious about leaving teaching.

So, whether you're chasing a career in your area of expertise, exploring completely new avenues or even starting your own business, knowing how to firstly recognise the ways in which the transferable skills you have gained from teaching are relevant to your new position, as well as thinking about how you will apply them to your role, will stand you in good stead when it comes to making a smooth and successful transition into your new career.

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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.