Once upon a time, teaching was a job for life. Now, it’s a highly competitive environment where a lack of recent teaching experience means many qualified returning teachers are unable to secure employment.

It’s a huge shock to women who loved their profession but took time off to have and raise a family. Fully intending to return to work once their little ones were safely in the hands of child minders or in school, they then find that their teaching strategies are out of date and, without a recent teaching reference, they are no longer employable.

As an aspiring returning teacher, Maria was in shock when she found she could not easily return to teaching. “I had eight years teaching experience and had applied for numerous jobs and voluntary work but I just couldn’t get an interview, “she explains. “I shout at the television when the Get in to Teaching adverts are on.  I desperately want to and am fully qualified but I am not getting anywhere! It’s frustrating and exhausting!”

It’s a Catch 22.  Without recent teaching experience, how can a mother possibly gain teaching experience?

Thankfully, there are return to teaching courses that mums can access which will meet their individual requirements. None guarantee employment following training but each offer substantial support to enable a committed and determined teacher to successfully return to the profession, whether permanent or temporary, full time or part time.

Firstly, for those not long out of the profession, it is quite straightforward to access online refresher courses offered by supply agencies or the TES institute, and then successfully re-enter employment. However it needs to be noted that the depth of information and the cost varies across organisations and there can be difficulties in accessing a course local to home. In addition, they may not fully meet the returning teacher’s training requirements.

Returning mum Zaynab felt that after an 8 year break, she needed some intensive support. She found that some supply agencies had their own return to teaching programmes but that they were short – a day or few days maximum – and she felt this duration would not have been enough for her to be ready to teach again. “You need time to get your confidence back,” she says. Now after undertaking a 12 week placement at her son’s school, she has secured employment there. “I couldn’t be happier!” she says.

So for those who have been out of the profession for longer than 2 years, or would prefer some experience in a classroom as part of their course to fully familiarise with current practices and regain their confidence, it may be wise to commit to a school based training programme. These programmes are delivered through Universities, the DfE, and some private organisations or charities. Each route involves a placement in school but the duration of the placement varies considerably, from one day, to 3 months or an entire year.

Of course, finding a placement is quite a daunting and difficult experience. Mums are busy enough as it is, without having to find the time to contact schools in their locality in the hope that their communication reaches someone who is keen to not only take them on a voluntary placement but additionally promise a teaching commitment. What’s far more common is that mums get nowhere at all with their efforts and at best, find themselves used as classroom assistants, or readers.

“Schools say I’ve demonstrated my commitment to return to teaching but it still hasn’t got me a teaching job,” says Elizabeth, who spent months contacting schools for a voluntary work placement and working part time as a teaching assistant.

What mums really want is someone to arrange a high quality teaching placement for them, fitting around their commitments including child minding and school runs. They may not be able to afford university fees, or have the time to study or complete lengthy portfolios alongside their placement. They may be limited to only a couple of days a week, with particular start and finish times. And they know that without a placement that exactly meets their bespoke individual professional developmental requirements, they will still be unlikely to obtain a teaching post.

Thankfully there are organisations who will source and secure a placement school which meets the training requirements of returning teachers. These can be found through internet searches for return to teaching courses. Some schools offer their own programmes and it’s particularly worth returning secondary modern foreign languages, maths or physics teachers having a chat with the DfE as their database is national and more accommodating.

Nathalie had taken a nine year break to raise her young family and was looking for a part time return to teaching programme. After searching for a sound return to teaching course, she found a provider who sourced and secured a school for her where she could teach part time.

“The programme went very smoothly and was tailored to my needs, “says Nathalie. “A lot has changed and I had to ask a lot of questions but being based in a school made it easy to get all the information and support I needed.  I am now employed and teaching again!”

Enrolling on a return to teaching course will enable you to refresh and up-skill on curriculum changes, technology in the classroom and new thinking in teaching and learning strategies.  But whichever route you choose, do be proactive about marketing yourself and research employment opportunities in your area to ensure that once you have retrained, there will be work available for you.