A teacher who has returned to the classroom after a five-month cycling adventure in Europe is backing a campaign to encourage more people back to the profession.
Andrew Sykes, 46, has gone back into teaching at secondary schools in Yorkshire after cycling 8,000 miles from one end of the continent to the other.
He had just his pushbike, known as Reggie, for company.
After 10 months away from the classroom in total, Andrew returned to teaching modern foreign languages with the help of Worksop-based recruitment specialists Provide Education.
He is now backing their campaign to encourage more teachers back to the chalk face.
Provide Education work with more than 2,000 teachers to help them find supply teaching posts – and sometimes permanent jobs – in hundreds of schools across East Midlands and Yorkshire.
Currently, about five per cent of teachers on their books are those who have come back to the profession after a significant time away, and they are now calling on more teachers who have taken a break to return to the classroom.
Andrew registered with Provide Education on his return from his travels last August and was back in work in time for the start of the autumn term in September.
He said: “What’s great about teaching is that it’s something you can always go back to.
“A bit like riding a bike, you never forget how to do it.
“The team at Provide Education were very friendly and approachable.
“They were very thorough and made the whole process simple and efficient.
“They found me work straight away and because they have contact with so many schools I was able to teach in multiple locations, which was a really useful experience.”
Andrew’s career break took him first to a language school in Spain, where he studied Spanish for a month.
His two-wheeled journey then began from Tarifa, at the southern tip of the country, and took him through France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Sweden before finishing at North Cape, the most northerly point of Norway.
Andrew says his travels have benefited him as a teacher as he has been able to improve his language skills as well as gaining life experience.
He added: “In my opinion the best teachers are ones that take a holistic approach so the experiences gained from taking a break can be really helpful when you go back to the classroom.”
Andrew previously spent 15 years as a teacher in the south of England, before returning to his native Yorkshire after his travels and being helped back into the profession by Provide Education.
Their support package includes help with registration plus training to update them on changes to curriculum, technology, teaching practices and safeguarding.
Crucially, they can also help with re-building confidence through voluntary experience and shorter work opportunities – and offer moral support to get over any first day nerves.
Katie Buckle, a director at Provide Education, commented: “Not only has Andrew improved his language skills during his travels, he is also now able to share his experiences with his students and encourage them to do anything they put their minds to.
“Andrew had a relatively short time away from the classroom, but others may have spent years, or even decades, in another profession.
“It’s understandable that some former teachers considering coming back to the profession may be nervous, but we have a great track record of helping them back to the classroom and supporting them throughout the process.”
Andrew is currently writing a book about his cycle tour across Europe, which will be published later this year.