A new government plan is looking to encourage female teachers who have left the classroom to have children return to their positions.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is backing the plan, which senior ministers hope will increase dropping teacher numbers across the UK.
“Too many women still feel unable to return to work after having a child, and too many parents feel they lack the support to juggle the demands of having a family and their career. I want to ensure there are no limits to what women can achieve so we make the most of the exceptional talent we have in the teaching profession,” said Morgan.
Mothers who would like to return to work after pregnancy will be offered personal coaching and training in order to “smooth the transition” back into the classroom through a job share website. A mentoring scheme will also be included in order to create a team of 1,000 volunteer coaches to develop leadership skills in women, writes Alex Wellman for The Mirror.
Morgan said she would also like for successful teachers to sign a pledge that would offer their time to coach at least one woman and help to develop their career, “giving women the confidence to come back into the classroom.” The training will be offered beginning in August, reports Caroline Davies for The Guardian.
“The issue is, until you help women to senior positions to become role models, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle. Actually what you need is to help women to get to those senior positions. You’ve got to get the people who make the appointments, who draw up the job specification,” she said.
She added that only 37% of headteachers are women, causing the sex to be seriously under-represented in top school leadership roles, specifically at secondary schools.
The Policy Exchange think tank said just last week that schools need to begin to offer flexible working hours and extra benefits in order to put a stop to the “shocking waste of talent” that occurs when women leave the field after maternity leave.
Of the total amount of teachers who left the field in 2013, 27%, or close to 6,000, were women between the ages of 30 and 39.
The website will allow teachers to seek out job share partners, said Morgan. She added that currently close to one in four teachers work part-time compared with about half of women in the workforce across the nation.
However, some argue that what really needs to be changed is the amount of time involved in the average work week for teachers, as many are on the job for over 60 hours each week. Even those who work part time spend additional time grading and working on lesson plans during the night while they are at home. Sinéad Gaffney for TES suggests reducing the number of working hours or class sizes so that they are working no more than nine hours per day.
The Department for Education has not announced when the website will be launched, how much the initiatives will cost, or where the funding for them will come from.