An arresting new career: from police officer to teacher

Monday 21st May 2018
Andrew Welch

Andrew Welch is a trainee geography teacher at Ark Globe Academy in south London. Andrew is part of the first Now Teach cohort, a teacher training programme and Ark Venture for experienced career changers looking to reapply their skills to the classroom.

Andrew talks about his decision to go in to teaching as a second career and the challenges and highlights of the year so far.  

This time last year I was six months into retirement and had just undertaken a week’s observation at a secondary school in Edgware. I’d made the decision to join Now Teach earlier in the year and was spending some time in a school to make sure I had a better understanding of what life was like in a modern classroom.

From then until now, I can’t quite believe I’m already in the summer term, about to finish my first year of teaching. It’s gone incredibly quickly but I still feel I have a long way to go!

Prior to embarking on my new career, I was a police officer for almost 32 years. I spent 27 years in Specialist Operations at New Scotland Yard, with six years stationed overseas in France, Belgium and north Africa in a liaison role. Having been in the Metropolitan Police for so long, it’s been challenging to go back to being at the bottom of the rung, not knowing how to do anything. It’s been a humbling experience and certainly knocked my confidence.

My decision to train to teach didn’t come completely out of the blue. In the mid-eighties, just after I’d completed my geography degree at Keble College, Oxford, I was at a loose end before joining the police force. My former geography teacher knew that I had just got my degree and asked if I wanted to go back to cover a term’s teaching at my old school. It was really tough – I was literally given some textbooks and told to get on with it! I’d always thought that one day I should learn to do it properly, so 34 years later, here I am! My daughter did teacher training straight out of university, so she was another inspiration that encouraged me to finally have a go at it.

Now Teach seemed like a great option for me. Having retired from a high-pressure job, the idea of being able to do a 4-day week appealed to me; it would allow me to redress the work-life balance that had become skewed over the years whilst also tackling a new career. I’d seen Lucy Kellaway talk about the launch of the programme and she was very persuasive and, of course, inspiring. Now Teach seemed like a good route for me to take to join like-minded individuals as we all embark on a brand new career together. It’s been a pleasure to be part of the first cohort of Now Teach – it’s a fantastic group of people and it’s been great to meet everyone.

I’ve received a tremendous amount of support from the Now Teach team and Ark Teacher Training. It has definitely been tough and I’ve had good and bad days. There has been a lot to take in over the past nine months. From the weekly training sessions, to my classroom practice, to the one-to-one planning with my tutor, it’s a lot to think about and there are very few quick wins or easy fixes, but the support available has been great and helped me get through the year.

There are certainly transferable skills I’ve been able to take from my career in the police into my new role in the classroom. Resilience is the obvious one, but I’ve also used my communication skills, negotiation tactics and the power of persuasion. My ability to remain calm under pressure has also been very beneficial. One thing I underestimated was how organised you have to be as a teacher. I haven’t quite mastered that yet, and it’s something I’m looking forward to working on next year!

A stand-out highlight was when one of my 11 year old students came up to me to tell me that he liked geography and in his spare time he was reading a book about global issues, which is what we were studying in class at the time, written by award-winning journalist John Pilger. It was great to see the impact I could have on a young person’s life.

Unquestionably, the best thing about becoming a teacher is the students. All the interactions you have both in the classroom and around the school, developing the relationships with them and getting to know them better, it’s been fantastic.  

If you’re in a similar position to me and considering a career in teaching, I’d say go for it. It’ll be tough, but it’s all worthwhile for those moments.

Inspired by Andrew's journey? Find out more about how you can retrain as a teacher with Now Teach and Ark Teacher Training