As the UK is facing an acute teachers shortage, the government is taking a new initiative to tackle this issue by launching a job website for female teachers, to help them find work post pregnancy.
“It’s common for female teachers to quit school after giving birth,” says Seema Sriram, 41, a teacher at Heston Primary School in Hounslow. She is one among the few women who returned to teaching after giving birth to twins.
The government will soon start a job sharing website that is meant to encourage female teachers to return to work after their pregnancy. The aim of this website is to solve England’s teaching shortage crisis and simultaneously ensure that female teachers resume their work, after becoming new mothers. Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education, also plans to launch a new programme that will help make the transition from motherhood to teaching much easier.
Approximately 74 per cent of the teachers are women, and primary schools have 85 per cent of female teachers and 62 per cent in secondary schools. Policy Exchange, a think tank, says that female teachers who resigned were aged between 30 to 39.
This would definitely lead to the decrease in the number of female teachers as more than 26 per cent of teachers in primary school and around 33 per cent in secondary schools, fall under that age group as per the data obtained by the Home Office.
The following pie chart depicts the age of female school teachers in primary and secondary schools:
In an attempt to understand the effects of this website on women and their careers, Westminster World asked various women on International Women’s Day, what they think about the government’s initiative. The following video has their opinions.
“Though opinion regarding this issue may vary, this can be considered as a step towards women’s development, equality and growth,” says Sriram. However, convincing teachers to return to work is not a simple task. Approximately, 10 per cent of women are discouraged from returning, states the Equality and Human Rights Commission. It found that the main problem is time flexibility.
School teachers work over 60 hours a week, according to the survey by the Department of Education. “The school timings would make it hard for new mothers to structure their life around the long working hours,” Sriram mentions. To reform this issue, the website will provide a job sharing partner facility as well.
Despite this solution, most women find it hard to go back to work, as they have lost touch with the old pattern of work during their prolonged absence. This obstacle will also be dealt with, as senior teachers will be made by government to sign pledges that they will help a junior female teacher expand her career.
Women’s rights groups believe this will reduce unemployment among new mothers, as 54,000 of them are losing their jobs in Britain every year. “This website is a tool for teachers to find part-time or full-time flexible teaching jobs, which will decrease unemployment. This website should have a positive impact on them, if they are really passionate about teaching,” says Sam Smethers, CEO at Fawcett Society, who spoke to Westminster World.
This is the telephone interview Smethers gave Westminster World:
“Female teachers will find it hard to get promoted once they resume teaching,” Sriram informs. Even Morgan has pointed out that only 37 per cent of school heads are female. To help women secure senior positions about 1,000 career coaches will be assigned to counsel them.
“But there is also the enormous workload that teachers have,” reminds Sriram. The survey also mentioned that 61 per cent of teachers – both male and female, stated that heavy workload constituted to one of the main reasons why they wanted to quit and 57 per cent wanted a better work and life balance. This is another reason why new mothers choose not return to teaching. From 2011 to 2014, the rate of female entrants has seen a diminutive rise from 9.1% to 10.4%, according to the Home Office.
Whether this website will help reduce the teachers’ shortage crisis, cannot be immediately gauged.“The department publishes the number of entrants by gender, however we don’t publish the number of returners by gender. Therefore, we wouldn’t know whether they had returned after a spell of maternity leave,” informs Emma Coltman, Public Communications Officer of the Department of Education to Westminster World.
“The website is the first of its kind to motivate female teachers to go back to the classroom,” states Sriram. “A woman’s career isn’t over after having kids. It’s just a phase,”
Video and audio by – Sanjana Pattabi Raman
Sub – editor – Arthur Renard