4 tips to help you return to teaching after time away

Teachers leave the profession for lots of reasons, but how easy is it to come back? Here are some tips on re-entering the classroom

Tes Editorial

Welcome back to teaching

Most teachers will know someone who has left the profession. In March last year, there were 251,000 trained teachers who were currently not in service. How many of those could be tempted back into the classroom?

You may have been rising up the ranks in a school with a plan to become a member of the senior leadership team, or perhaps finding your feet in the first few years of teaching, and, for whatever reason, you had to leave. An interruption such as this could leave you unsure about your route back in, lacking in confidence or worried about it going wrong a second time. 

But the process can be made easier. Here’s how. 

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1. Get support

Owing in part to the teacher shortage, there is a lot of support on offer for those looking to return to teaching. If you are a languages, maths or physics teacher, then you can register with Get Into Teaching, and the organisation will arrange one-to-one support and help you to gain school experience to ease you back in.

For all other subjects and phases, there is support from the same organisation, with advice on applying for a bursary while you undertake unpaid work experience, alongside other practical tips.

There is also support out there specifically for returning parents in the form of MTPT (Maternity Teacher Paternity Teacher) project. This group of teachers runs a Twitter account and organises coffee mornings and workshops for teachers who are either on parental leave or taking an extended break from teaching while they raise their family.

The group even has a two-module MTPT project accreditation that can be completed while out of the classroom.

2. Do some reading

While you’ve been out of the classroom, the chances are you haven’t kept up to date with the details of curriculum changes and teaching standards. Reading the Teachers Standards will make you feel more confident before you start filling out application forms. 

After a break, you may have decided you want to return but to a different subject. You might think maths will make you more employable, or that offering another subject might get you a bit of flexibility on the days you want if you’re part-time. If this is the case, have a look at taking a CPD course.

It's also important to make sure you're comfortable speaking about the important pedagogical aspects of your teaching job. Reading up on important topics like what is pedagogyteaching theories, and teaching styles would be a good start.

3. Back yourself

Sometimes after a career break, teachers feel as if they cannot re-enter at the level that they left, fearing that their time out of the classroom has set them back.

However, Emma Sheppard, founder of the Maternity Teacher Paternity Teacher project, feels that this shouldn’t be your first thought. Instead she suggests that you “consider asking for shadowing opportunities at the level you exited to see whether you are still interested in this level of responsibility”.

4. Don’t mind the gap

Rather than fearing the gaps on your work history, Jo Facer, principal of Ark Soane Academy, says this is the time to take the opportunity to tell the tale of who you really are. "Use the personal statement part of your application to tell the story of your career," she says. "It's important to showcase the projects that have had success, along with tangible outcomes - but what marks great candidates out for me is a sense of purpose: why do they do what they do? What drives them?"

Instead of glossing over time out of the classroom, Facer suggests using it as a talking point. "If you've had career breaks or come to teaching as a second career, talk about that - it will all help to paint a picture of the kind of person you are."

But most important of all - Facer says she is impressed by teachers who are able to make a connection between themselves as individuals, and the school they're applying to. "I think an aspect that is often missing is a genuine consideration of what you will bring to the school.

What would make us lucky to have you? This is really hard to write, as walking the line between confidence and arrogance feels almost impossible. Ask a trusted friend, preferably one who is unafraid of making fun of you, to read it [your covering letter] for you, and if they have no snarky comments it's probably just right."

Where do I start?

The first thing to do is set up a search alert on Tes jobs. Then start to look at application forms and job specifications.

Go to the careers advice pages for specific guidance for different roles and top interview tips.

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