School dropout retook GCSEs to become English teacher aged 57

School dropout retook GCSEs to become English teacher aged 57 thumbnail

A former lawyer has proved its never too late to go back to school after finally passing her GCSEs at the age of 57.

Sasha Chaudhri, of Wimbledon in south west London, left school aged 16 with no qualifications after failing her O Levels in 1981.

She went on to have a successful career in law, but the Covid-19 lockdown prompted a change of heart.

After ‘no longer feeling fulfilled’ in the industry, she looked to pursue her dream of becoming an English teacher.

But Sasha was shocked when she realised she’d need to take her English and Maths GCSEs, despite having a law degree and a Masters. 

She passed both qualifications in August 2022 but admitted her maths GCSE was ‘one of the hardest things’ she’s ever done.

Chatting to, Sasha shared what made her leave the City behind and how her teacher training through Now Teach is currently going. 

She said: ‘It was the lockdown. A lot of people have gone through transition and change, and started questioning their lives and I just thought, “Well, for the next half a century of my life, do I still want to be in corporate life?”

‘I felt that I was not fulfilled there anymore. As you as you get older, your value as a woman within corporate life gets less and less, and I was becoming unfulfilled as well.’

After spending the past decade working in mediations and investigations within the legal world, she was desperate to try something else. 

Her interest soon turned to the classroom, and she was thinking: ‘Is this something else I really want to do now? Now I’m free to do it.

‘This would be a really good way of me fulfilling what I want to do and also giving something back.’

But things got a little more complicated when, despite having a wealth of higher-level qualifications, she was asked about her GCSEs…

Sasha continued: ‘To my horror, they asked me and said, “Oh, okay, well yes, you can [train as a teacher], but where are your GCSEs?”

‘I have a law degree, but they said, no, you have to have GCSE English and maths, but I didn’t have it.

‘I was not going to let that put me off following my dreams. So, I did it.’

But it was Maths that she particularly struggled with, explaining: ‘If you’re not a maths brain, like I’m not, I just had to put in the hours so I would pass it.

‘I had to do my GCSE in English as well which was a really quite humbling experience. 

‘It showed me that if you’re 14- or 15-years-old and you’re a teenager, going through all of that angst and on top of it, you’ve got to get these marks because Rishi Sunak has said, “Numeracy is really important,” you’ve got such pressures on you! I can really understand how difficult it is.

After cracking on with her studies, she managed to achieve a grade 8 (a distinction) in English and a 4 in Maths last summer.

Sasha addressed some of the difficult conversations within the industry too, with further strike action being planned for mid-March

She says many of her fellow trainees are career changers, but many younger trainees are finding it pretty tough.

‘The younger ones, they’re having those conversations where they’re finding it quite tough, because they’re not much older than the students they’re teaching. 

‘There’s been a lot of criticism about teaching and how it prepares children for life, but I think from a career change from an older perspective, it’s something I really want to do, so I’m gonna go in there with a very different perspective to somebody who’s just starting out in their career – I’m really really enthusiastic about it,’ Sasha added.

She notes she’s coming into the world from a ‘different perspective’ as a career changer, but there’s one thing that definitely doesn’t change however old you are.

‘The workload! I mean, I didn’t realise [how much it would be], it’s not for the faint hearted,’ she concluded. 

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