Why I left teaching

Today, I woke up for the first time in eight years as a former teacher.

My notice period officially ended on 31 August so technically now I’m a free agent.

Still, the usual leaving time is within the first five years so at least I’m above average.

In the first of a short series, I wanted to unpick the reasons why I left, partly as closure for me but also to see if anybody else could relate to my experiences.

We’re taught when giving lesson observation feedback to start with the positives, move onto areas of development and then finish on a high.

This wouldn’t be a review of teaching post if it didn’t follow that same sandwich structure!

To begin with then, I’ve left for an amazing opportunity. Doing freelance work at BBC Sport has been incredible – I’ve worked on Wimbledon, the Olympics, the Euros, Six Nations, even esports and it’s been such good fun.

The whole place has a real buzz and energy which I can really get on board with and working at the cutting edge of sport coverage is too good a chance to turn down.

Even these past few weeks, arriving at MediaCity to work has been a thrill and one which I will continue to relish and enjoy moving forward.

Teaching then. Hmm. Come back next post for some positive thoughts. For now, what turned me off it?

Education is in a tricky situation. The government have ripped away funding and yet driven up expectation to the point where it’s utterly unrealistic to do the job properly.

The Labour General Election strapline For the many, not the few is fairly apt considering what the Conservatives have done and prioritised since they came to power in 2010.

From Michael Gove, through Nicki Morgan to Justine Greening, the Education Secretaries have been systematically dismantling working procedures and replacing them with bureaucratic processes, a brutal focus on data and a desire to push through policies such as extra grammar schools.

It’s led to a new breed of numbers-driven senior managers, business people who see children as figures and data. This rips out ethos which is so important for the nurture and development of children, particularly in primary schools.

This isn’t something I’m on board with and in fact have found tricky while in post.

Moreover, the sheer amount of time required to do the job properly, with its never-ending tick list, constant feeling of inadequacy and lack of encouragement from the top means teachers are leaving in droves.

I’ve got back from work this week and not had to think about marking two sets of books (in detail), planning four lessons for the following day based on what’s happened today, make display material and learning resources and then consider how to personalise for thirty children across four subjects.

Anyone relate to that feeling? Sure the holidays are good but then you’re often in school getting ready for the next term and if you do get away, the premium for going on holiday is about four times the amount of choosing annual leave in term time.

However, I’ve got on with all that throughout my career and while teaching may be in a difficult situation and be a crazily busy profession, bottom line is that’s not why I’m leaving.

From the moment little Joey used to ring up the Football Quiz on BBC Radio GMR with Jimmy Wagg and Derek “The Brain” Heyes I’ve wanted to be a sports journalist.

I have lapped up sport ever since, devouring sports news in all its formats, analysing it, having many a go at it myself. I was published in Athletics Weekly when I was 11. At heart, I’m a writer and I’ve done my time teaching others how I write.

Now I want to put what I love into practice – to put my pen where my mouth was and get on with it.

These chances to change career come around very rarely and have to be seized. Who knows where this leap of faith will take me but I’m determined, passionate and there’s a plan for my life which I’m eagerly trying to follow.

Teaching is my past…writing and journalism is my future.

I hope.


  1. Your instincts must always lead you forward.
    Despite Secretaries of State trying to create dull children, there will always be teachers who will not let that happen. Let’s make sure that those of us who can keep praising them and making sure that there are children who can enjoy what made you write for Athletics Weekly. Teachers do make a difference.

    • Joe

      September 2, 2017 at 3:05 pm

      I know. I hope the 250 children or so I’ve had the pleasure of working with and alongside will do well and flourish in whatever direction they choose to travel in.

  2. You were/are a fantastic teacher and the profession has lost one of the best. Good luck in your new venture, I know you will give it your best and add another number one to your journey …. teaching, husband, daddy, journalist xxxx

  3. Having taught for 19 years, I too made the massive leap into the unknown. 1 year in, running my own business with my husband 24/7, we have never had so much quality time to spend with our family. It was a decision that took 4 years too long. Teaching sucked everything out of me. I know I was an excellent practitioner. It’s a shame the profession couldn’t see that too. Now, at least everything I put into my work is for my family and not for those who never did, or could, appreciate it.

    • Joe

      September 2, 2017 at 3:03 pm

      That’s really inspiring to read. Well done for making the leap – it’s so difficult to jump out because of the stability, security and predictability of it. However, there are so many opportunities outside of the classroom for people who are excellent at teaching but don’t get the recognition. Glad you’re doing really well. All the best

  4. Spot on. Couldn’t have put it better myself. Education is in a state and it makes me so sad… we have had genuine chats about homeschooling but have yet to take the plunge. The new job sounds awesome!! Enjoy!

  5. Having worked alongside you within the school you have never altered from your core values, your ability to be a good role model and your belief. As a teacher, you are in an incredibly lucky position to help develop and watch young children learn, discover and grow, in my opinion, there is no better job.
    However, to put it into a sporting context, the goalposts move so much on a regular basis that confusion sets in, managers come in, managers leave, personalitities differ from yours and on the rare occasion someone shares your passion and drive. I’ve been lucky to have been surrounded by some very supportive colleagues that I can now call friends, not more so than your good self. When I’ve gone at 100mph you’ve applied gentle brakes, when I’ve gone to slow you’ve glanced at the speedo, you’ve encouraged without taking over, you’ve embraced without question and even when I’ve made wrong decisions you’ve supported me.
    Thanks mate, follow your heart, feed your passion and always #believe

    • Joe

      September 2, 2017 at 3:02 pm

      You’ve hit the nail on the head there my friend and I do appreciate your kind words as ever. You have always inspired me to keep plugging away and your passion and verve for the children’s opportunities and verve will live long with me. You’re a top mate and I look forward to reporting on you in your future career as England manager (let’s be honest, Mark Sampson’s days are numbered)… #believe #hotpotato #getoffthepitchbatman

  6. Worked with you…..which was a pleasure. You are a great guy and know you will be missed in teaching….but life is short, so enjoy your life! Hope the family are well x

  7. I have worked with you at school too…you are a super teacher and lovely human being. Some things are just for a season, and now you are called to something new – good for you for having the courage to move on. Just keep doing those crosswords.

  8. Reading this and how many other teachers have left through the Facebook comments is such a scary thing from a parent of a 2 year old, I worry what the education system will be like when he gets there. Good luck with your new venture x

    • Joe

      September 3, 2017 at 3:54 pm

      Thanks Jenni. I know – with my little ones too it’s a frightening thought. Plenty of outstanding professionals still out there though x

  9. Thanks for teaching my kids. Understanding them and connecting…one was challenging at times. We appreciate you and those other colleagues who always have time, energy and kindness. Good luck with your new adventure.

    • Joe

      September 3, 2017 at 3:53 pm

      Thank you so much. I have many, many fond memories of all my classes and it’s been a privilege to work with all the young people

  10. Those who can do and those who can’t, teach – you seem to be living proof of this and now you have had a ‘tricky’ year you are abandoning ship to be with your fellow labour lefties at the BBC.

    Total cop out.

  11. Wishing you well in the exciting new career path you have chosen.

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