“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change“ Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, 1818

Spartacus Marlow is a GTCS-registered primary teacher with 18 years’ teaching experience and a degree-level qualification in their chosen subject, who is being supported by their Local Authority to gain registration in an additional sector. “Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change“ Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, 1818

For further information see www.gtcs.org.uk/registration/registration-in-an-additional-subject-sector/

Reader, approximately two and a half years ago I reached agreement with my employer to move from primary school in order to retrain as a secondary teacher of English. Covid meant there were some unavoidable delays but August 2022 saw me installed in one of our local academies in pursuit of this dream.

The question most often asked by teaching colleagues has been, “Why leave the primary sector?” and the honest answer is that I felt I was in need of a great, though not as it turned out sudden, change to reset and spark the joy for teaching which I felt when first qualified and which I perhaps had lost sight of a little, over the intervening years. The love of my subject was also a major driving force in this decision as my enthusiasm for English Literature has spanned a lifetime, never diminishing; and indeed reading and creative writing provided a welcome escape for me during the pandemic.

So with the summer holidays over, my first day in secondary school began with the in-service day. This started with a 90-minute introduction from the Senior Leadership Team on inclusion; the School Improvement Plan, extra-curricular clubs (for pupils and staff!); health and safety and associated risk assessments; updates on ICT; remits; assemblies; Standard Circulars; and the other essential information which needs to be disseminated on the first day back. This was swiftly followed by a “Meet the Headteacher” for all newbies and then an induction for new passwords, badges, fobs and assorted administrative tasks, before a formal English Departmental Meeting to discuss results, classes, courses and the Departmental Improvement Plan. Once the Departmental Meeting was over there was now an opportunity to meet with individual colleagues with whom I was sharing classes to discuss planning and resources.

On a “routine” in-service all this would have been water off a duck’s back to an experienced teacher but new sector, new subject, new school and new colleagues meant I was feeling pretty overwhelmed and I was quickly transported back to my early days in teaching and experiencing the emotional and mental exhaustion, doubts over my abilities to see it through, and perhaps a minor crisis of confidence in the decisions I had made through the course of this very eventful day. Possibly these are the things that from time to time rightly plague any teacher who really cares about both doing their job well and setting high standards for the pupils they teach.

“Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot”
Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1958

At home I had a chance to debrief on this busy and eventful day with family and friends. Having had a chance to consider all the challenges of the day I had just experienced, I now had to consider if I regretted making the decision to move from primary into the secondary sector. Of course the answer was: absolutely not! Colleagues in my new department at secondary school have been, without exception, incredibly friendly, welcoming and supportive and the PT is experienced, approachable, organised and consistently reassuring. Secondary colleagues further afield in different departments and schools have also been encouraging, if not a little surprised; and primary colleagues have wished me well, whilst also urging me to impress upon secondary teachers that the lot of a primary teacher is not an easy one.

Two weeks have now passed since my first day. So, two whole weeks into this adventure what have I learnt? I have learnt the value in asking for and accepting help; I’ve learnt the humility of not knowing everything, and not having all the answers; I’ve learnt that people are indeed kind-hearted and thoughtful and will often go out of their way to assist you; that children everywhere accept you just as you are; that you are always more capable than you think you are; and that each day, whether good, bad or indifferent, teaches you something new.

“I may not know what is coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”
Herman Melville, Moby Dick, 1851

I have no doubt that the coming year in a Scottish Secondary School will be tough, with challenges that I haven’t yet discovered along the way, but I am filled with an excitement for what the year will bring. I approach each new day with a curiosity and quiet zeal that some would never recognise in me and end each day perhaps exhausted but also proud to be one day closer to my goal. For anyone interested in making a similar leap to registration in a different sector, from primary to secondary or vice versa, my advice would be to do your research and then take the plunge. Or, to put in another way:

“Do not fear failure but rather fear not trying.”
Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart, 2016