by Holly Power @returntoteach
I’m Holly, an Assistant Principal, a Science teacher and Joe’s mum.
I sat down next to a Year 13 student for lunch last week. She said ‘Miss, I think I might be a teacher. Is it a good job to be whilst being a mum?’ I replied ‘You’d be an amazing teacher Wafa, but no, it’s not a great job as a mum.’ That conversation inspired me to start ‘Return to Teach’. A tool to match schools that need experienced specialists with teachers who aren’t able to work full time.
As school leaders we work tirelessly to implement interventions, motivate and inspire our students to be their best, but even the most outstanding leaders can’t have an impact on teacherless classrooms. Education is facing a recruitment and retention crisis, 80% of school leaders currently report difficulty in recruiting. My students are so inspirationally resilient, but they need great teachers to succeed. My primary objective is to level the UCAS playing field. We offer incredible supercurricular opportunities and work experience to our students but recently it has become more difficult to provide them with the specialist teachers they deserve. That breaks my heart.
I have watched countless inspirational, experienced teachers devastated as they’ve had to leave the profession after having children. A report by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and think tank ‘Policy Exchange’ says that an estimated 6,000 aged between 30 and 39 left teaching last year. It suggests that only half of teachers who leave in order to look after family will return to the classroom. In my experience this is because they aren’t able to make childcare work alongside early starts, or face the demands of one of the most exhausting jobs there is. Part time and supply posts are just as logistically difficult and can require teachers to teach out of specialism. Many colleagues are tutoring after school and at weekends, which is not ideal as it eats into their family time. Return to Teach aims to find posts in schools for teachers that work around their childcare commitments.
According to the ‘Teachers returning to the profession’ report by the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) in 2014, the top 2 barriers were a lack of recent classroom experience and not being up to date with the curriculum. Return to Teach gives teachers the opportunity to start again slowly, where they feel most comfortable, and develop their pedagogy and confidence in returning to teaching full time when it’s the right time for them.
The NCTL report also suggests that schools cannot accommodate flexible positions. I disagree. Where you would not staff your whole school with flexible workers it can be financially beneficial to offer a few posts, enabling the school to offer a broader curriculum and hence recruit more students. This model works well in Europe. The positions are there but it we need to be more clever about filling them.
Thankfully this conversation is starting to happen. In October Justine Greening announced a government drive to encourage more flexible working in schools.
Speaking at a flexible working in schools summit at Ark All Saints Academy in Camberwell, Ms Greening said the education system needed to improve its flexible working offer to continue to attract high-calibre individuals into teaching and close the gender pay gap.
“It is important that we recognise there are many great teachers who would welcome a more flexible workplace, whether as parents themselves who want more options on how and when to return to the workplace, or for staff later in their careers who may also want to better combine staying longer in the profession with other interests,” she said.
“Progress on more flexible working is great for schools who can keep their valued teachers and great for teachers who can stay in the profession.”
Ms Greening added: “This is already happening in many other sectors – it’s vital we ensure it is happening in our schools, too, so we continue to attract the best and brightest into teaching. And, given this disproportionality affects women, it’s a smart way to help close the gender pay gap.”
If you find yourself aligned with our objectives of retaining excellent teachers through offering more flexible working options please have a look at our website (www.returntoteach.co.uk) or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Holly Power, Founder Return to Teach. @returntoteach #returntoteach