I think sometimes we can get a bit too hung up on what we want to be when we are older and there is a danger that we can’t enjoy being young first. However, there is definitely a time to look to the future and across the whole school now we have an excellent provision for careers; a provision which is designed to at least open your eyes to the possibilities ahead of you. It does not matter yet that you do not know what you want to do; but it is important to at least have an idea of what might be available.
One of the mainstays of this provision is the OB careers fair; it is absolutely excellent and when you are old enough you should make sure you go. Many OBs come back to the school to give their time, free of charge, to advise current boys and to give them an insight into their own career. You can speak to vets, bankers, engineers, doctors, lawyers, airline pilots, journalists and film makers. However, I have been to may careers fairs in the schools I have taught in and they all have one thing in common. They very rarely have anyone from the so-called caring professions; in other words, jobs that involve specifically looking after other people, such as nursing, teaching or social work. It is a particularly curious omission in this day and age, as many of the first mentioned jobs are likely to be dominated by machines in 20 years’ time, whereas the caring professions are likely to be better protected, for the very reason that people will probably want to be looked after by people rather than by robots.
These are also areas where many jobs exist. This time last year, there were as many as 24,000 nursing posts left vacant – almost 10% of the entire nursing force of the country. If you think that freedom of movement may be restricted by Brexit, and that many of our nurses currently are from overseas, we have a real problem in the UK with an aging population and nobody prepared to become a nurse. Indeed, last October 96% of hospitals failed to meet their planned levels of nursing during the day shifts. There are currently over 2,000 jobs available in social care in Bedfordshire alone. And as for teachers, well, the Independent reported in February that the shortage is reaching crisis point, not least because the secondary school age population is set to grown by half a million pupils to 3.3m pupils by 2025. In the last five years, rather than increase, the number of teachers in the UK has fallen by 10,000. Even more worryingly, a third of teachers who have started work since 2010 have already quit. This is a serious problem facing the country and will affect your children.
I have two stories which illustrate this tale. I was at an independent school in Kent which has a partnership with a big state school on the South Coast. This school had 1,100 children and only one teacher who was qualified to teach either maths or physics. That teacher had to teach all the sixth form maths and physics – and then had to teach the other teachers to teach the lower years. We interviewed someone here recently who was in the same position in her state school in Luton. There is an amazing programme which has tried to address this teacher shortage, called Teach First, which takes the brightest university leavers in the country, gives them 6 weeks training and then puts them in the hardest schools in the country; it success is that is now the single biggest graduate employer. But even this is only partly working. A friend of mine who took Teach First was placed in a state school just outside Newcastle to teach Maths and at the end of Year 1 he was the only maths teacher left. There were no applicants at all to replace those who had left the school; so he had to teach all the maths himself. Many leave teaching to do something else; some, like our new physics teacher next term, leave the state system to teach in the independent sector.
I realise that there is a huge difference between teaching at a school like ours, or indeed one of the top state schools, and a difficult state school in the middle of a city. However, I am glad to say that I would not have swapped my own career for anything in the world. And to put things into some sort of perspective, I was one of those who went into Accountancy after university, after one of those careers fairs, and then spent every waking day not wanting to go to work. After two years, I switched to teaching, beginning with a school in Sydney, Australia, and have never once had a day since then when I have NOT wanted to go to work. There are few jobs where you can unashamedly pursue your passion every day, whatever that passion might be; where you can help others to make progress and sense of their lives; where you can work with an amazing array of talented and fun people; where someone will make you laugh every hour of every day. I urge you, therefore, to do two things. Firstly, appreciate your teachers; they are wonderful, richly gifted, people and work in a job designed for caring. Secondly, consider it as a career. It is too easy to forget, in our independent school world where jobs in finance, law and medicine are so prominent, that the best career of all lies right on our own doorstep.