I took up teaching for a better work-life balance

Jake Longhurst is Head of Year 8 at Chantry Academy in Ipswich. Jake came to teaching relatively late at the age of 31, and did so, somewhat surprisingly perhaps, in search of a better work-life balance.

Having previously worked in middle management for a large retailer, overseeing a department that turned over £150,000 and employed 25 people, Jake made the decision to train as a teacher five years ago, following the birth of his first child.

“I decided to move into teaching for two reasons,” said Jake.

“Firstly, I wanted to be able to spend more time with my family. I was having to work unsociable hours and it just didn’t suit me going forwards. I know people might be surprised that I opted for teaching with that in mind, but it’s allowed me more flexibility. You have the core day, and then can do the rest of your work around that.

“Secondly – and I know this isn’t entirely original – but I wanted to do a job where I could really make a difference.”

Jake trained at Chantry, getting to know the school and the community. As a career changer with management experience, he was not short of offers when the time came to make a decision on his place of work.

“Three schools were interested in offering me a job, which I don’t mean in an arrogant way – I think it was just a result of my previous experience. I wasn’t the average trainee.

“There was never really much competition though – I knew that Chantry was where I wanted to be. It’s a school in a challenging catchment area and I knew it was somewhere I could make a difference to pupils’ lives. That is why I wanted to be a teacher after all.”

Jake has just begun his fifth year at Chantry, and has progressed quickly. Given his prior experience, and his ability in the classroom, Jake was put forward for the Trust’s leadership development programme: Leading Active Learning. The programme supports teachers who are aspiring to middle-leadership roles and support staff who are part of integrated teaching teams.

“I found it so useful in terms of opening my eyes to what leadership roles entail,” said Jake.

“I was able to attend SLT meetings and collaborate with people who I otherwise wouldn’t have. The Trust are aware that teachers have to manage their time carefully, and were really supportive in terms of offering PPA time to complete the course.

“Half way through my time on the course, I was invited to apply for the Head of Year position, and got it, which was obviously fantastic and I have no doubt that my experience on the programme helped me with that process.”

Jake has thrived since taking on the role, and cites the support of Chantry and wider Trust as hugely beneficial.

“Neither the Trust nor the school has put me under pressure. They haven’t been coming to me with constant requests or asking questions about my work – they’ve just been really supportive. People are so willing to help and I feel like I’ve got breathing room, room for development.

“One of the teachers here was my training mentor, and he has risen up the school in that time as well and now works in SLT, which has also been really beneficial in terms of having somebody I know I can talk things over with.”

Unlike some of his colleagues, Jake is able to draw comparisons between his previous career and his time in teaching. So, what’s the verdict?

“There’s this clear ethos that we’re all in the same boat, all heading towards the same goals,” said Jake.

“In my previous career it was often a case of covering your own backside and not worrying about anyone else. This has been the opposite. The assumption is that everyone’s trying their absolute best to do a good job.

“I know it sounds cheesy – but it really is rewarding.”