Teaching is now not seen as a profession for life, and is often more something that someone drifts in an out of. The name of the UK programme to attract the best graduates Teach First implies that teaching is something those candidates will do for a small amount of time before starting their next career (which in itself is a shame as they take their teaching experience with them, and the Government subsidy is lost to the profession). Some of these people will come back into teaching, but the process for doing so seems to be trapped in the past.

The difficulty arises as more teachers move in and out of teaching during their careers.

It is good practice for schools ask for references before interviews take place. However, the questions asked are not always relevant for people who are not currently teaching; for example, asking how the candidate performs with students. In other cases, it is not possible to give permission for schools to obtain references before an interview as in some jobs this spells the death of a career.

Accessing confidential information

Some stories are horrifying: mine is that one of the top non-selective state schools in the country decided to send me confidential student data at 23:00 before an interview the following day. The fact that I did not possess a DBS criminal check at the time did not seem to worry the school. I’m still unsure what expected me to do with it as my lesson had been planned some time before.

How do practicing teachers find it possible to attend job interviews?

This is a question as many people outside teaching do not realise that it is not possible to take a personal day, or select your holiday when working in a school.

Teachers take their holiday when the school is closed, and are not offered the discretion that some students are in taking holidays during term time (even if they are parents themselves). Only around half of teachers take one or more sick days in a year, and of the remaining 50 percent they often come to work even when they are not fit to do so as even when sick teachers are expected to work (by providing lesson plans, perhaps completing reports or marking even when too sick to come to work).

It turns out that schools will allow you to go, covering the absence internally (with other employed teachers) or by buying in cover at cost. Most of the time a head teacher will give you paid leave to attend an interview at another school; but they don’t have to (I’ve heard rumours that some academies do not pay teachers for interview days).

Schools sometimes give 48 hours’ notice or less for an interview. This can work for someone working a school environment (although it can be inconvenient to a head teacher, or a teacher running exam classes), but how can a parent returning to the profession from raising a child arrange childcare? What about a job where requesting a day’s leave at such notice is unprofessional?

The image that schools project should be important. As teaching is losing many teachers with years of experience there must be an open door to allow these people a way back into the profession. Schools need to do better.