Schools can get £5k for getting ‘returner teachers’ back into classrooms

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.

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  1. Sir Andrew Carter says, “Lots of schools don’t like the idea of part-time work, particularly secondary schools.”
    Has he ever wondered why?

    As a secondary school timetabler for more than 20 years I know that there are many additional difficulties presented by part-time teachers that you have to deal with. If a class has 3 English lessons per week, the Head of English will quite reasonably want those lessons on different days. If the part time teacher works on Monday Tuesday and Wednesday, you have to make the timetable revolve around the part time teacher or split the class between 2 or more teachers. The more part time teachers you have, the more difficult this problem becomes. Part time teachers do not want to teach a 0.4FTE timetable spread over 5 days.
    As a parent, do you want your child taught in lots of shared classes by teachers who never get to speak to one another about what is happening in the class.
    As a Head of Department with lots of part time teachers you find that you cannot get all your staff to staff meetings to agree what you are delivering. The teacher who works on Mondays will not want to come to a meeting on Wednesdays. So consistency in your department suffers greatly and increases the load on the other staff.

    Most secondary schools will have part time staff. Not least because maternity regulations mean new mothers frequently request returns to work on a part time basis and schools generally do all they can to accommodate such requests.
    Above a certain proportion of part time teaching staff the negative effect on the efficiency of the school is considerable.
    There is not an easy solution to this but I think that Sir Andrew Carter should appreciate these difficulties.

    • Steve Hickman

      I think Mr Smith, you are part of the problem. With good communication and careful planning, part-timers are an incredible asset to any school. I myself have been part-time on and off for 6 years to fit in and around my family responsibilities. I can assuredly say none of my classes has suffered as I have paired myself with a colleague with whom I also jointly plan the lessons. Part-time just requires a bit more thought and planning, but what you get in return is a highly motivated and dedicated workforce. Every part-timer, I know gives over and above their time allocation (as do all teachers). I accept that schools are complex organisms, but your complaint is a case of the tail wagging the dog. There are solutions to the timetable complexities but they should not be the deciding factor. Family-flexible working should not been problematised, it should be celebrated.