I just left teaching.
I started school when I was three years old. From school, to college, to university, to teacher training, to my first teaching job – I have been in education for thirty-two years. Every September, for thirty-two years, I have started a new term. Every September, for thirty-two years, I have bought a new pencil case and new shoes, groaned at the ‘Back to School’ posters that appear far too quickly in every shop, and steeled myself for the new term ahead.
But not this September. This September looms blank, unknown.
But an easy way to summarise it would be that I found motherhood agonizingly incompatible with teaching.
I have two small children, one with autism, a long commute, no support network to help out – it was too much. It is, I suspect, too much for many young women in the profession who start a family.
When I first got pregnant, I set my TES jobs search up to send me part time teaching jobs, 60% contract, within a 30 mile radius of where I live. That email was set up over four years ago. Guess how many posts have come up in that time?
That’s right. Two. I went for interview for one but didn’t get it (It was the first day back from my first maternity leave and honestly, I wasn’t on my A game).
For four years, I knew my job was too far away. For a large part of that time my contracted hours were higher than I would have liked. My school did try their best to accommodate me but at first they could only offer one day off. I have worked a 60% contract for the last year, and the workload was much better but the very long commute, and my children still needing so much of my time, meant I still needed a break from teaching.
Unfortunately, working part-time in teaching, and especially secondary teaching, is not the norm and the fewer teachers there are working part-time, the harder it is for schools to accommodate those who want to.
Official data, according to the TES, suggests that teaching is beginning to lag behind other professions in supporting part-time working. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) statistics show that 27% of the UK workforce now work part time, while the most recent Department of Education (DfE) school workforce data shows that just 23% of teachers worked part-time in November 2014, down from 24.7% in 2013, predominantly in Primary Education. This is against the backdrop of a recruitment crisis that sees 5,300 vacancies in core Secondary EBacc subjects alone (Guardian, July ’16).
77% of teachers who have left the profession would consider returning to teaching, but only for part-time or job share roles.
I am part of that 77% and in truth I have been searching for a part time job or job share closer to home ever since I had children. If I had found one, I might be buying new shoes and a new pencil case for this September.
The TES is responding to this rising demand for teachers who wish to work part-time by supporting the provision of part-time teaching roles through a number of initiatives, including the creation of a dedicated part-time jobs and news hub, a community forum for finding job share partners, offering discounts for the advertising of part-time roles, and extending a scheme to make part time admin roles free to advertise.
Rob Grimshaw, CEO of TES, said: “Retaining current teachers and successfully tapping into the wealth of lapsed educators in the country is crucial if we want to tackle the shortage in specific areas and subjects. Teachers are demanding more part-time roles and TES has an important part to play in supporting and connecting teachers and schools to make this possible. There is a big untapped pool of talent out there at a time when schools are looking to fill crucial positions ahead of September and the new school year.”
Of course, this is all extremely helpful but I do not think it will be as successful as it might be without a culture change within schools.
Schools need to be braver and open up more positions to job share opportunities. The idea that classes may suffer through teachers sharing, particularly in core subjects, needs to be cast aside. Yes there will be logistical problems to work out, yes it might take a while to make sure everyone knows what they are responsible for – but the benefits outweigh that.
Denise Burrell, Head Teacher of Ridgewell C of E Primary School, has two part-time teachers on a job share. One of the teachers was full time, but couldn’t cope with the workload and a young family. ”I found a good match; they share the role and meet on Wednesday afternoon to plan. Apart from a few teething problems, almost a year down the line, it is working well. I think we get a good deal. We have two enthusiastic, conscientious teachers who are well planned and organised.”
In the end, happy and fulfilled teachers are always a boon for the children they teach.
There are lots of talented teachers out there with young families, and other commitments, who have left the profession. This is part of an issue in wider society in which talented people – particularly working parents – are being lost to their professions because of the inflexibility of the type of work they do. And we all need to demand that it changes because addressing it will benefit everyone.
I am faced with the prospect of getting a part-time job outside education in order to cope with working and the demands of the small people I love. But when they are in school, in a few years, if a 50 – 60% contract were to come up in a nice school that was under half an hour away…
Oh a girl can dream!
Information in this post was taken from – NEW SURVEY SHOWS THAT PART TIME TEACHING ROLES COULD BRING MUCH NEEDED TEACHING TALENT BACK TO THE PROFESSION (TES PRESS RELEASE 1/07/16)
TES surveyed 1,500 past and present TES.com user teachers in England during June 2016 about their experience of teaching and appetite for part time roles.