Most working mums have fantasised about teaching – think of the holidays – and the profession is looking for skilled workers. Could term-time working suit you?
Saira Sawtell ran a successful retail clothing business and had a chain of shops. And then she had children. Her job meant working at weekends and many business trips and she soon realised that that would not fit in with having a young family.
She decided to change direction. Like many working parents she wanted to find a job that fitted around her children but was also intellectually challenging. Teaching seemed to fit the bill.
She bravely opted for secondary teaching and embarked on a part-time PGCE course via distance learning when her first child was just two years old and her second just a baby. This involved online modules and a few long weekend visits to the university.
She says: “Many a time I was up completing assignments online after the 4am feed!”
The hard work paid off, though, and six years on she was given the Training and Development Agency for Schools Award for Outstanding New Teacher of the Year. Saira, who has three children aged 1, 7 and 9, says it wasn’t just the term-time working that attracted her to teaching. She was interested in doing a rewarding job where she was helping develop young minds. She felt that having children herself would help to make her a better teacher and give her a better appreciation of her own children’s education. Plus she was able to work part-time at the start while her children were small. Many other working mothers find teaching an attractive option, although headlines of violence and stress from the recent teachers unions’ conferences make them well aware of some of the potential drawbacks.
In a recent poll conducted by the TDA 91 per cent of mums with children under 16 said a job in education was the best suited to working mums, way ahead of retail work (73%), a job in the health sector (69%), finance (55%), human resources (57%) and sales (60%). Working in the legal profession was seen as one of the worst jobs for working mum with no respondent saying it would suit them.
The TDA poll showed that most working mums want to be challenged in their job and are ambitious. They just need some flexibility in the way they work. Sixty-seven per cent wanted to be challenged and 51% sought career development. Eighty-six per cent wanted flexible working arrangements.
The survey showed many working mums felt their career development was put on hold after having children: only 12% had had opportunities to develop their career and only 33% felt they were treated as an equal.
Graham Holley, chief executive of the TDA, said many women who had trained as teachers were coming back to the profession after having children. “People are voting with their feet to come back to it, after acquiring valuable experiences either at home or in other workplaces,” he said. He added that there are almost 97,000 people working part-time in schools.
Saira Sawtell is one teacher who has no regrets about switching career paths. “Teaching has changed my life,” she says. “I found commercial work very dull and, although financially rewarding, not rewarding for me as a person. I absolutely love teaching teenagers and rarely see the stereotypes we read so much about in the press. I find their passion for life exhilarating and having such a rewarding career has made me a much better mum.”
She adds that teaching also recognised the skills she had developed as a mother: ”Being a mum has also made me a much better teacher – patient and a degree more worldly.” Another bonus is that even though term times can be hard work, her sons know she will be with them every weekend and all 13 weeks of the school holidays.
”Teaching is not the best paid work, but my family’s welfare are worth more in the equation than money and it suits us all very well,” she says.