The National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) has launched another pilot to try to encourage qualified teachers back to the classroom – with the biggest financial rewards going to schools employing part-time or “flexible-working” returners.

Last year, schools were offered a “support package” of £1,900 to aid qualified teachers not currently in the classroom to return and teach one of eight “core” subjects. The schools only received the money if the teacher gained employment, either at the school or at another after it had helped to retrain them.

The Department for Education (DfE) has now launched a second pilot, this time offering up to £5,000 and focusing on just two regions and three subjects.

Aimed at the south-east and north-west, £2,500 will be made available for School Direct lead schools, multi-academy trusts and other institutions to retrain maths, physics and languages teachers only. The pilots begin in February and May next year.

The teachers will be given two to four weeks’ training before any offer of employment, according to the DfE’s newly released guidance.

Schools will receive a further £1,500 if the returner teacher is then employed, and those in the south-east will also receive “up to £1,500” for every teacher returned on a part-time or flexible basis.

The guidance document states: “Many returners wish to return on a part-time, flexible or job share basis, and this has shown to be one of the most significant barriers for teachers wishing to return to the profession.”

Sir Andrew Carter, chair of the independent review of initial teacher training, said school leaders needed to stop “devaluing” part-time workers.

“Lots of schools don’t like the idea of part-time work, particularly secondary schools.

“I think part-timers are full-timers on their way. It’s a great way to get back in.”

About 335,000 qualified teachers in England are not currently “in service”, according to the DfE guidance – fewer than the 337,600 in 2013. About 2,370 more qualified teachers came back to the classroom in 2015 than in 2011, according to the guidance.

However, critics say the government should focus on the retention of current staff, rather than those who have already left.

James Noble-Rogers (pictured above), executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), said teacher supply problems would be better solved through “financial incentives and the provision of effective CPD” for those already in the classroom.

Returner teachers can apply to the NCTL website and are evaluated by a “return to teaching adviser”, before being interviewed by a school on the pilot with a view to employing them.

They can also receive “up to £600” for the month-long course, or £150 a week, to cover childcare costs and time taken off work, said the guidance.

Late joiners are also the target of Now Teach, a scheme launched by 57-year-old journalist Lucy Kellaway who will leave her Financial Times job after 31 years to become a maths teacher. In its pilot year the programme will look for people in their forties and fifties who have never previously taught, and help to train them on-the-job.