How can we solve the recruitment and retention crisis when recruitment targets are being missed for teacher training and international teaching is looking more and more tempting?
There is a group of teachers who might be part of the solution: part-timers.
And I should know: until this September, I was one.
What made me return? It was a mix of wanting to teach more A level, better opportunities for professional development and the fact my department made me feel so supported it became a viable option.
However, this is not to say it has all been plain sailing. And it was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.
I wouldn’t have got through what seemed like the longest term of all time without certain things. So if you are considering making the switch, you need to have these things in place:
1. The support of family
Even if at times they were a little confused by my decision, I had a strong family support network to rely upon.
2. Good childcare arrangements
Many part-time teachers are part-time owing to caring responsibilities. To make this work, you need to be able to afford and to trust your childcare option. I am fortunate enough to be able to pay for good nursery places for both my children, who love it there. Without this, it would be emotionally and logistically difficult to make it work.
3. Understanding middle management
Sometimes my family life comes into conflict with school demands. I’m fortunate that my head of department is understanding of this and is prepared to make adjustments to help me where they can.
4. Supportive senior leadership
This is hugely important. Sometimes, I’m the only one who can pick up my children and this can mean leaving events early. I’ve read online how not all schools are understanding. They should be.
5. A timetable for you
I don’t just operate on a timetable at school. I timetable what day I’m marking each class’s work to help me keep on top of the marking. I also timetable in days out with my family. Not the most spontaneous way of living, but it stops my workload from getting on top of me.
6. A family calendar
Now my son gets lots of party invites, this has become more necessary. This way, everyone knows what’s happening when.
My children thrive on routine. As a result, bedtime is quite simple (I know I’m lucky). The side-effect of this routine is that I have time in the evenings to work (if I need to) or to relax.
8. Finally, and most importantly, ignoring what other people say you ‘should’ do.
I am a better teacher and a better mother from working full time. I work in school before collecting my children from nursery even though I don’t have to stay that later. Those decisions don’t make me a bad person. Making different decisions wouldn’t either. There’s no one way to do this right.
Heidi Drake is an English and RSS teacher at Colchester Royal Grammar School in Essex