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Many women switch to teaching after having children, attracted by the prospect of term-time working and a desire to give back. But some are put off by the logistics of retraining and the stresses of the job.
One woman who retrained is Louise Hill and she has no regrets about her move.
Louise is Head of Art at Hastings Hill School in Burbage, Leicestershire [pictured]. “I really enjoy my job. I can do art every day and I get paid the same as a maths teacher. It is great doing something you love every day. I love the kids too. I didn’t think interacting with them would be the most rewarding part of my job, but it is,” she says. “It is rare that children create something that you cannot find something good in.”
Louise switched to teaching in her 40s after having her two children. She had worked as a freelance hosiery designer when her son was born, fitting in her work around her son, and then became a stay at home mum when her daughter came along six years later. Her son had a lot of educational problems so she got to know the education system fairly well. Louise’s mum had also been a teacher so when she was looking to get back to work once her daughter started school she turned to teaching.
She got a job as a learning support assistant at a local school in Leicestershire for a year and enjoyed it. She decided teaching was for her. It seemed the ideal job for a mum like her, given the holidays, even if she knew that term time hours could be long – although she says a mitigating factor is that she can do some of the preparation and marking work from home. She signed up to do a PGCE at a local university and got a bursary as well as a golden hello of £4,000 for staying in the profession past the first year.
The course involved a school placement and so her husband, a solicitor, dropped the children at school while she picked up.
She got her first job in the school she trained at and stayed for a year before moving on to her current school where she has been for around 12 years. It was a country middle school for 11-14 year olds at the time, but has since extended. She says being a parent has helped her as a teacher. “You have more experience of life and are more confident with children. I was in my 40s when I started and children are more likely to take notice of a 40 year old. I think you’re also more organised as a parent. You do need a lot of energy, but as a parent you are used to working when you are tired which I think makes you more resilient,” she says.
She admits the first year is difficult as you have to spend a lot more time on things like lesson plans. Part of her teaching also involves dealing with children with challenging behaviour, but she feels art is a good way of addressing some elements of this.
Her son, who was a teenager at the time she started teaching, would make his own way home while she got sometimes got a taxi to pick up her daughter or paid for someone to collect her. As her daughter grew older she would come to her school and sometimes sit in on the end of after-school art clubs.
Louise admits not having to work out the childcare logistics has made her life easier and allowed her to move to a 7.30am-5pm schedule. However, she adds that colleagues with children can do shorter hours and not volunteer, for instance, for after-school clubs.
She has also been able to apply for promotion as her children have grown up. “There are lots of promotion opportunities in teaching,” she says.
Louise has some advice for parents considering retraining in teaching. She says:
1. As a parent, she states, your patience might often be tested. This experience is extremely helpful in the classroom, says Louise, as the best teachers always keep their cool and have a clear head when dealing with students. “To be a teacher, you need to have a caring nature, a lot of patience, and be adept at answering questions and resolving challenges from students in a calm and collected manner,” she says.
2. For those worried about finances while retraining, Louise says tax-free bursaries and scholarships of up to £32k are available for top graduates who train to teach core academic subjects. If you are a graduate with three of more years’ work experience, you can apply for the employment-based School Direct (salaried) route. You will be employed by a school, earn a salary, and work towards qualified teacher status (QTS) all at the same time. As a parent, you may also be eligible for substantial financial support with your childcare while you train.
3. To those worried that their experience is not relevant to teaching, she says “some of the best teachers entered the profession after pursuing careers in other fields, bringing with them a wealth of experience and expertise to inspire the next generation. There are excellent teachers who’ve transitioned into teaching from many walks of life – the financial sector, scientific research, media and marketing, and IT”.
*For more information, go to www.education.gov.uk/getintoteaching or call the Get into Teaching Line on 0800 389 2500. To attend a Train to Teach event, registration in advance is advised by going to: https://traintoteach.education.gov.uk/sign-up You can also register at the venue on the day. There is also a range of live online interactive events with teachers and experts for aspiring teachers. To find out more about these live, interactive events, and to sign up, click here
Information on available bursaries can be found here.