Former hedge fund manager Dean Fletcher, 53 has stepped out of early retirement to train as a secondary maths teacher at Leeds Beckett University. Dean took early retirement from his job in the financial industry in 2007, and is now in the final stages of his initial teacher training year that will prepare him for his new career as a teacher.

The teacher training year is Dean’s second time as a student in the city, after first attending The University of Leeds in the 80s. Dean will be supported on his journey into a new career by Transition to Teach, a Department for Education funded initiative that supports eligible career changers from Yorkshire into teaching, including those who have taken early retirement, or have been affected by redundancy.

ONS statistics for February 2021 report that over half a million fewer people were in employment in the last three months of 2020, whilst the employment rate for people aged 50-64 has decreased by a record 1.6% to 71.7%.

Dean undertook a subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) course to prepare him for the teacher training year and said it was a chance conversation with a friend that encouraged him to think about teaching:

“I retired from trading when I was 40, which is relatively common for the profession because of the intensity. I was working in London and New York, starting at the crack of dawn and not getting home until 10pm. That’s not something you can sustain forever, particularly if you have a family. I met my wife, who is Spanish, at The University of Leeds when I was a student the first time round. After I retired, we moved to Spain and my wife trained as a teacher whilst I became a full time dad.

“My best friend left her job in corporate entertainment to become a maths teacher at 41 and she said to me ‘you’ve got to look into teaching’. There is no way I would have considered teaching otherwise, it just wasn’t on my radar at all but she was so positive about the experience, I knew it was something I had to look into.

“Now, my children are older and at university themselves, my eldest daughter is training to be a surgeon, I decided that the time was right to start my teaching journey. I was accepted onto the Transition to Teach programme, who have provided support through my initial teacher training year and will continue to do so during my first year as a newly qualified teacher. It’s really useful to have them to call on for advice and for practical support with things like securing my first newly qualified teacher position.

“The one piece of advice my friend gave me was to be open to constructive feedback. As an older person who has worked at a certain level, you might not be as used to constructive feedback, but going back to learning means that’s something that you’ll need to get used to. Luckily, with three grown up daughters, I’m well used to being told what to do!

“I hope my experience will help me to inspire young people and show them the type of career they can achieve with maths. Students’ eyes light up when they learn I used to work in the city, it’s the type of job that many young people will aspire to. Realistically, I’ll be teaching for around 12 years before I retire once more and my goal is to help my students to see the opportunities in maths.

“Transferable skills like dealing with people, public speaking and the ability to make people feel comfortable that comes with age will be key. I have no fear of classroom management after all those years managing the trading floor! Young people are often frightened of looking stupid or saying the wrong thing but I know from my career that someone has to start the conversation, and that means interacting, maybe getting things wrong sometimes and learning from that. It will be my job as a teacher to break down the barriers to speaking and being actively involved in the lesson.

“I think it’s vital that we have experienced, older people moving into teaching so that we are able to maintain that level of maturity and life experience in the profession. The skills and experience that I have bring diversity to the classroom, which is vital for students. We need teachers who are also parents, teachers who have had other careers in other industries and teachers who are passionate about the profession and inspiring young people.”

Stephen Henry is a guidance and development adviser with over 25 years’ experience in education and works with Transition to Teach to support people like Dean into new careers in teaching. Stephen believes those with prior career experience are ideal candidates for teaching:

“I often hear people say that teaching is a young person’s game but I actually think entering teaching with prior career experience can be hugely beneficial. You’ve got an abundance of soft skills and have learnt to interact with people effectively and manage different situations. With career experience behind you, it’s easier to see what’s important and put your time and energy into those things.

“In most cases, the grounding is all there, it’s just a case of developing the specific teaching skills which is what the teacher training year is about. It can be easier to establish necessary authority as a teacher with prior career experience. Teaching is an incredibly rewarding career and it is fantastic to see well qualified individuals with rich life experience joining the profession.”