Kate Tunnicliff, formerly in catering, joined Now Teach in 2019. She now teaches maths.

I feel very fortunate to have had such an exciting career in all things around food. In many ways it’s felt almost indulgent. I’ve had a catering business for almost 30 years, have been a chef and manager in restaurants in London’s West End, have written books about food and was a food stylist in films and TV. But I came from a family of teachers, and it has always been at the back of my mind…

Making the decision 

When I left university in the mid-late eighties, exciting work in London fell at my feet… an enticing salary, a zippy company car, a touch of glamour. It was a no-brainer for a 21-year-old. But last year I reached a point, where I thought to myself, okay, I've got 10, maybe 15 years left of working, what do I want to do with that time? Did I want to look back and think this is all I did? I knew I wanted a challenge. I’ve thrived on the challenges throughout my career, and I was still enjoying it, but I was taking on less ambitious projects because I was over the drama of weddings or big events. Things were getting a little… samey.

Teaching has always been at the back of my mind. I come from a family of teachers; I've been rather the black sheep. I’ve played with the idea of being a teacher for quite a long time (my long-suffering husband would tell you).

Timing it right 

I knew that teaching was going to take a lot of my time and it was going to be very intense. And so it was only when my children were all at secondary school, that the time felt really right. It was now or never. My family were right behind me. I hoped that I was setting an example to my children that it was never too late to challenge yourself. And my husband was really happy that I'd finally decided to go for it. He was very supportive; obviously there is a bit of a financial blow, but we knew that it would all come out in the wash.

There were a few raised eyebrows amongst my friends. One really good old friend said “What makes you think you can do that?”, which made me think hard about my motivations. A surprising number confessed to having been thinking along the same lines…"Oh, I've been, I've been thinking about that!" It's difficult to take the leap. But entirely possible when you have a really supportive group of people behind you.  My family say they’re proud of me, and because of Now Teach, I also have the support of a network of career changers who are all going through the exact same process.

Finding the right route 

This can be baffling but is crucially important. University or in-school is the broad choice. Ultimately, to teach the following year, you need to gain a QTS qualification. Whether you want to invest time in the academic pursuit of gaining a PGCE is a choice. One thing that has been crucial to my success was thinking about the kind of training I wanted. Think hard about:

Do you want to stick mainly to one school, to build relationships with mentor(s), teaching staff and students?

Do you want to spend hours in lectures, seminars and pursue that academic side of pedagogy? Or do you want to get stuck in straight away?

Would you like to have some choice in which schools you will be training in (think commute, cohort, type of school etc)

  • The speed of starting school experience: how quickly you begin in school/teaching
  • How intense and varied your time in school is: size of initial timetable, immersion in/focus on one school
  • The role of academic study – the level and how integrated it is into the course

I chose School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) and it was absolutely the right route for me. I have been in a local school since September, training on the job, rather than starting off in a lecture theatre (which couldn’t have been worse for me). I just wanted to get in there.

You’re probably thinking “SCITT?!?”, “PGCE?!?”, but don’t worry – Now Teach is there to translate all this stuff for you, and make sure that you end up on the training route which is best for you.

As a teacher

If you are reading this as a potential career changer, please know you have so much life experience to bring into the school environment. It doesn’t make you a good teacher straight away. That takes a long time. One day I hope I’ll get there! But I do think having a lot of life under my belt already has helped me hit the ground running. I’ve worked intensely with all sorts of people for my whole career, dug myself out of tight situations, kept calm, learnt organisation and time compartmentalisation, can drill down to what is important, know how not to take things personally and possibly most importantly, have access to a sense of humour (most of the time).

It’s remarkable how many people within my Now Teach cohort have teachers in the family. They say it’s in the blood. I suppose it was always ‘on the menu’ for me…. I’ve certainly got the challenge I was looking for and am beginning to reap rewards…. watching the penny drop….  Giving rise to “Oh, I get it now, Miss” is more deeply satisfying than giving rise to any soufflé…..