Help is available for career-break teachers who want to return to the classroom

A new survey, commissioned by the TDA, estimates that at least 16,000 teachers who left the classroom in the past five years have tried to return, without success. Over one third are under the age of 40 and of those who are secondary teachers, one-third are qualified to teach core shortage subjects – maths, sciences and modern languages.

Teachers returning to the classroom have always made an important contribution to filling teacher vacancies. However, the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) has seen a declining trend of career break teachers returning to the classroom in the last ten years. Numbers of returners reached a peak of 14,260 in 2001-02 , but only 8,870 returned in 2008 – 2009, while the number of Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) entering the workforce rose over the same period by 25 per cent.

The survey highlights the key barriers for those who have been out of the profession for more than a year as being family commitments, a lack of part-time opportunities and not enough suitable vacancies.

The TDA is working for schools to make the transition back to the classroom as smooth as possible or those teachers who have opted to take a career break. School experience is currently available to anyone who wants to return to teach maths, physics, chemistry and languages. This month, a new programme has also been launched to give teachers who want to return to teach maths and the sciences up-to-date specialist knowledge. But to benefit from the skills and experience that returners have to offer, schools must be prepared to offer more flexible working arrangements.

Chief Executive of the TDA, Stephen Hillier, said:

“So far this has been a good year for the recruitment of trainee teachers, with numbers in physics and chemistry up on last year and universities reporting that quality is up too. However, there remains a pressure to ensure schools have enough good maths, sciences and modern languages teachers.

“We want more schools to benefit from the skills career-break teachers have to offer, particularly as many are qualified to teach shortage subjects. I would encourage schools to identify and spread the good practice that already exists in recruiting and deploying part-timers and job-sharers. Flexible working arrangements could attract the best teachers with the right experience and skills into schools.”

Samantha Davies is a science teacher and took a career break just over a year ago to raise her family. She said:

“Like many, I have aspirations of being a working Mother. I am really eager to return to the classroom and want to get back on the career ladder as soon as possible. I now need to balance my career with supporting my family but flexible working arrangements in my region are extremely thin on the ground. I know of many other teachers, who, like me, have opted to take a career break and are now ready to return to work. We all have many years of experience under our belts.”

Teachers who want to return to the profession can find out more information of available support by visiting the TDA’s website:

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