Schools should consider flexible working for teachers to avoid women quitting the profession after childbirth, says a new report.
In a time of significant teacher shortages, schools across the country are missing out on the skills and talent of thousands of working mothers who are not returning to teaching after childbirth, says the report by think tank Policy Exchange and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).
It says women make up 73% of all teachers and an estimated 6,000 women a year aged between 30 and 39 left teaching. It adds that statistics suggest that, of teachers who leave in order to “look after family”, only about half will return to the classroom.
The report also highlights that of the 35,000 male and female teachers who quit state schools every year, roughly half stay in the education profession in some form. It says this suggests that teachers retain a passion for their subject, but are unable to manage the circumstances of teaching on a daily basis. However, it adds that many ex teachers will also subsequently return to teaching if given the opportunities.
The ASCL says schools need to take primary responsibility for the recruitment and retention of their staff and that all schools should work to maximise the opportunities for their staff to work flexibly, including actively engaging with those who might wish to return to teaching following a period out of the classroom.
Jonathan Simons, Head of Education at Policy Exchange, said: “Schools and the government both need to recognise the need for flexibility, and that flexible working means more than just working part time. In particular, we know that younger graduates tend to want portfolio careers which enable them to come in and out of professions – and teaching is no different. Our education system needs to embrace a new way of working. If it doesn’t, schools are going to continue to struggle to attract and retain the best talent.”