A man walks on a foggy path

by Simon Graves

To paraphrase Tom Jones, it’s not unusual to switch careers, and certainly far from strange for teachers to switch allegiance to the ‘dark side’ of the corporate world. In fact, according to a recent poll by the National Education Union (NEU), 18% of teachers “expect to leave the classroom in less than two years”, with that figure doubling by 2024.

I reached the top of my profession, experienced great success as a headteacher in a fabulous international school, and as a senior leader in other schools across the UK. But I’d also experienced the massive rate of change, unrealistic expectations – educationally and financially – and immense pressure being piled daily upon my shoulders. I’d seen the impact it had on my wife and young children, and on my own wellbeing.

It simply wasn’t worth it.

Beginning work as a Performance Development Manager at PDW Group has been eye-opening in numerous ways, and all of them positive. There are preconceptions that I’ve always had about the private sector and, although I’m under no illusion that where I now work is unique and special, the comparison with the world of education is stark:

  • The team ethos is far stronger than anything I’ve ever experienced in any of the schools I worked in;
  • People genuinely come first – in schools, the figures, the judgements, the grades top all else;
  • Targets are of course financial, yet they are sensible whilst remaining aspirational, and solutions discussed as a team if they are out. In a school, the financial targets are still there, but are completely beyond the control of the people making the decisions on the ground;
  • A culture of blame permeates education from government down and from parents and children up, mercilessly squeezing the professionals trying to move it forward. Here at PDW there is no such culture. We live and work by our core values: Be Brave, Be Generous, Be Great, Be Human, Be There.

Today was the first day in over 20 years I’d left for work during a half term holiday (besides revision classes and school trips) and, although there was a twinge of regret at missing out on family activities, I set off with none of the sense of dread or trepidation that I’d been feeling in my latter days in schools.

It’s early days, and some days will be tougher than others, but I know I’ve made the right choice. My next challenge is showing everyone at PDW, and all of our clients – current and future – that they’ve made the right choice too!