Return to Teach: Meet the woman improving flexibility for teachers with children

Holly Power and her son Joe Power Pic: Holly Power

Holly Power was frustrated. Yet another talented teacher she knew left work because they could not juggle childcare and the demands of a full-time teaching job. Power’s disappointment prompted the mother of two, 36, to set up her own recruitment company tailored to the teaching profession nationwide.

Power – who is an assistant principal at Chelsea Academy in south-west London – says the creation of Return to Teach was driven by her own experience of flexible working after the birth of her first child. She negotiated a late start on Mondays and a 0.8 contract, but realised others were not doing this.

Power told Eastlondonlines: “When I returned to work after having my first child, three things were really frustrating me. Firstly, how much schools were having to spend on recruitment agencies and expensive advertising.”

“Secondly, how it was becoming more difficult to recruit experienced teachers, particularly for my A-Level students, and finally, how many of my friends and colleagues who left teaching following having a child as they couldn’t make childcare work around the early starts or didn’t want to be working six-day weeks which can be so common in teaching.”

In light of recent coverage in the media about the growing concern about work-life balance and how more needs to be done to combat a lack of flexibility, long working hours, and more part-time opportunities for employees with children, Return to Teach offers a useful approach to tackling these issues.

According to the Political Economy Research Institute, reducing working hours on a mass scale would not only benefit employees, it would also be good for the environment. If populations spent 10 per cent less time working, carbon footprints would reduce by 14.6 per cent.

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) released a report detailing a rising and unmet demand from secondary teachers to reduce or change their working hours. Following this, the government has said they want to support schools in their efforts to implement flexibility for teachers.

Power was keen to speak about why improving flexibility for teachers with children is important to her in both a personal and professional capacity. With two children herself, Power told Eastlondonlines a story about the impact her business has had for both teachers with children and schools.

Power said: “We matched Sophia Saunders, who was returning to work after having her first child, with Hillhouse primary school. Saunders said being a teacher and returning to work after having a child is hard enough, finding part-time work can be even harder! Return to Teach made the recruitment process fuss-free and easy.”

“For me, the most important thing is ensuring all students have experienced teachers in front of them so they have access to the high-quality education they deserve. Also enabling teachers to stay in the profession they love is very important to me.”

Joanne Wilcox, Headteacher of Hillhouse Primary School, said to Power: “Thank you for helping me find an outstanding member of staff. Would definitely use again.”

Holly Power speaking about networking with The MTPT Project

According to the NFER, teachers experience more stress than other working professionals in the United Kingdom, with an increasing number of teachers wanting to leave the profession. Power’s efforts to combat the pressures of a full-time position for parents who teach through founding and operating Return to Teach is a step in the right direction.

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