Quitting at the top of my game
to teach maths

James had spent over 30 years working in IT and was an Executive Partner at IBM when he decided to become a maths teacher.

James Neophytou 16 By 9
James Neophytou Case Study Image

My career change was sparked by the publication of the World Economic Forum’s paper on Education 4.0 and the Fourth Industrial Revolution which showed that there was a skills gap in industries dependent on mathematical sciences, while at the same time schools were struggling to hire and retain maths teachers.

I’m not a mathematical genius, but this is a good thing. It means I can help students learn the tools to solve mathematical problems on their own, just like I had to. After taking the necessary time to research teaching and plan my finances, I made the move from the boardroom to the classroom.

I’ve enjoyed being at the bottom of the rung again and not having to worry about things like budgets. At this stage of my life, I just want to teach.

Redefining career success

After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, I developed corporate IT experience, particularly in AI Analytics, working at PwC and IBM in Africa, the USA, India, the Middle East and the Far East. I was promoted every few years until I finally became Executive Partner at IBM.

At 52, I had reached what I had considered to be a decent and rewarding level within the company, but I wanted something more. After a career spanning over three decades, I felt I would have a greater impact on society by preparing young people for the future world of work.

The importance of planning

My decision to change careers was not taken lightly. It took me two whole years to plan my move because I had to consider if I was prepared – both mentally and financially. There is a vast difference between an IBM partner’s salary and a teacher’s salary, so I needed to do a lot of planning around pensions and savings before leaving my corporate career.

One of the reasons I chose to teach maths is that it is a priority subject, and this means that there was a bursary available for my training year.

I decided to join Now Teach because I felt I needed extra support in choosing my teacher training route, finding a suitable school and writing my job applications. I was also keen to have a peer support group of people like me, as making a career change can be a very lonely experience.

After exploring the various teacher training routes, I decided to do a PGCE at Canterbury Christ Church University combined with the salaried School Direct route at St Thomas More Catholic School. This enabled me to gain the PGCE qualification while also developing valuable experience in the classroom from the very first day of my teacher training year.

Finding my rhythm in my new job

The moment I knew I was meant to be a teacher was when I was asked to cover for my colleague early on in my training. I was very nervous beforehand and spent a couple of days preparing for it so I would feel comfortable on the day. However, when I entered the classroom, I saw that I was gradually able to engage the students and all my worries slipped away. I knew then that I could overcome whatever came my way during my training.

Due to my corporate experience, I was asked to teach four hours a week of business studies during my training year, where I was able to share real-life experiences from my previous career. I am now teaching both subjects full time, which was my original aim when I entered teaching.

I’ve enjoyed being at the bottom of the rung again and not having to worry about things like budgets. At this stage of my life, I just want to be a humble teacher. I am glad I didn’t jump in when I first had the inkling to leave my job. By planning ahead, I was able to make the transition to my new role as smooth as possible.

James received a salary while working as a trainee teaching maths, but there are also bursaries available for maths as it is a priority subject. Find out about the other priority subjects and the bursaries and scholarships available for them.


James spoke to BBC Radio 5 Live about the moment he realised he needed a change and how he made teaching teenagers Maths his new reality.


Frequently Asked Questions

You have questions and we have answers.

Now Teachers typically have significant career experience and are now looking to use their skills to make a difference in the classroom by training to become a teacher.

They are a diverse group who are all seeking a new challenge and want to use their life experiences to help realise their students’ potential.

To successfully change career and become a teacher with Now Teach, you should fit the following description:

Believe that every child deserves a great education regardless of their background

Want to do something that matters, and be prepared to spend a lot of time and energy doing it

Want to re-immerse yourself in a subject that you love and teach children to like it as much as you do

Be open to working with colleagues who may be twenty or thirty years younger than you, and be able to take instruction from them

The transition from the office to the classroom is not going to be easy. You must be prepared to fail at first but keep on trying until you work out how to do it. If you master the new skills required, this may be the most rewarding thing you’ve ever done. It’s a big step. We are here to help you decide whether it is right for you. See how others have got on by reading our case studies.

Now Teach is the only teacher recruitment programme specifically designed for experienced career-changers.

We are not a training provider - instead we advise and support people to become teachers.

Recruitment Advisers help career changers to secure a training place that suits them and our dedicated Programme Managers provide on-going support during the first two years of training. The Now Teach Network then provides long-term peer support as they become established in their new profession.

We match participants with training providers which will welcome the different perspectives and experiences that a previous working life can bring.

We connect them with our Network of other experienced professionals who have all decided to retrain as teachers, giving them a ready-made professional network.

We work to ensure they are on a compressed or flexible training programme, if desired, allowing them the flexibility to pursue other commitments or interests.

Certain subjects are termed shortage subjects because some have a more acute shortage than others and can fluctuate year on year depending on recruitment and retention.

STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), Geography, Computer Science and Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) are shortage subjects.

However, these shortages can vary depending where you are in the country.