1. Pair people with the right school
Taking a job at a school that is responsive to the needs of a returner provides the best possible start. Russell Hobby, CEO of Teach First, says that the organisation’s returner pilot will search its network of schools in order to identify employers that are keen to hire returners and “good at flexible working”. However, it’s also important that returners choose schools that gel with them more generally. When Hannah Cusworth returned to teaching, she took a job at a Central London academy. However, she later realised that while it would have been a good school for her at the start of her career, it wasn’t quite right for her then. “When I went back into teaching, I wish I’d thought a little bit more about the person I was at 28, rather than the person I was at 22 [when I started teaching],” she says. She ended up moving to another school, which was a “little bit quieter, more local to where I lived, and probably the intake was slightly more affluent”.
2. Have a phased transition
An evaluation of the Department for Education’s Return to Teaching pilot scheme, carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research, found that many returners wanted an opportunity to gain practical classroom experience prior to teaching again. However, the NFER said that schools were often reluctant to offer this. A phased transition can help returners to find their feet again. Cusworth joined her school for a few weeks before having a full timetable, and found this invaluable. “I was helping with trips … teaching a tiny bit … and was doing some planning and stuff,” she says. “That was super, super helpful.”
3. Provide a mentor
Mentoring support is important for returner teachers, according to the NFER research. Mentoring was most successful when it was undertaken by a sympathetic and experienced teacher, preferably someone working in the same subject area. A mentor can keep in touch with a returner, providing crucial support and encouragement as the returner gets used to teaching again.