At least 16,000 fully trained teachers who want to return to the classroom after a career break are out of work, according to a survey released today.
The vast majority of them are women who have taken a career break to bring up a family, according to the body responsible for teacher training – the Training and Development Agency (TDA).
In addition, one in three are trained to teach core subjects – science, maths and language – which are currently experiencing shortages.
The findings have prompted teacher training experts to urge schools to be more flexible in their recruitment and take on more part-time staff or job sharers.
Stephen Hillier, chief executive of the TDA, said: "We want more schools to benefit from the skills career-break teachers have to offer, particularly as many are qualified to teach shortage subjects.
"I would encourage schools to... spread the good practice that already exists in recruiting and deploying part-timers and job-sharers. Flexible working arrangements could attract the best teachers with the right experience and skills into schools."
Figures show that a decade ago as many as 14,260 teachers who had taken a career break returned to the classroom. This has now fallen to just 8,870.
Meanwhile, the number of newly-qualified teachers employed a year has risen by 25 per cent. Key barriers to employment cited by women anxious to return to the classroom include family commitments, a lack of part-time opportunities and not enough suitable vacancies.
"Headteachers offer a variety of explanations about their increasing preference for the new rather than the experienced," said Mr Hillier. "Some relish the energy and fresh knowledge of new teachers. Others cite financial constraints given the lower salaries of new teachers.
"Others are happy if a teacher will work full-time but would rather not have part-timers or job-sharers.
"Some of our schools are a lot more willing than others to embrace the modern work patterns that are now common in other professions."
Mr Hillier estimated there could also be massive savings on teacher training budgets if schools operated an "open door" policy towards women returners.
It would mean they could cut the number of teacher training places by as much as 25 per cent (the equivalent of 6,000 places).
"Taxpayers are entitled to wonder why we are spending more than we need to on initial training," he added.
"All who care about pupil outcomes should be welcoming talented teachers with open arms."
Samantha Davies, a science teacher who took a career break just over a year ago to raise a family, said: "I am really eager to return to the classroom and want to get back on the career ladder as soon as possible.
"I now need to balance my career with supporting my family, but flexible work arrangements in my region are extremely thin on the ground.
"I know of many other teachers who, like me, have opted to take a career break and are now ready to return to work. We all have many years of experience under our belts."Reuse content