Madelaine Best, PhD researcher at the Institute of Education (IoE), is undertaking research supervised by Dr Karen Jones (IOE) and Professor Grace James (School of Law) that seeks to improve the retention of teachers with young children in the school workforce.

Women aged between 30 and 39 account for 27% of leavers from the teaching profession and are the second biggest group of leavers after retirees (Simons et al, 2016).  Research by the ‘Maternity Teacher Paternity Teacher’ organisation (2021, p7), involving a survey of 498 women aged between 30 and 39 who had left teaching, found that 50% of the women gave reasons connected to motherhood as a factor contributing to their decision to leave. Tensions between the roles of teaching and motherhood occur for many reasons, ranging from the challenges of juggling work and childcare, inflexible hours and because both roles require nurture, self-sacrifice and overwork. Researchers such as Quickfall (2020) go so far as to say that teacher-mothers fit four shifts into a day between their paid daytime work, housework and childcare, overtime and, crucially, family organisational work.

Although research has explored the challenges facing teacher-mothers, to date little attention has been given to what works and what more needs to be done in terms of work-family policy to support teacher-mothers. Madelaine’s research seeks to address this gap. The study began this year with individual interviews with teacher-mothers. Findings from this phase will be used to develop a large scale online survey which will be launched in Phase three of the study, next year. In the meantime, Phase two of the study starts shortly and will involve small group discussions with headteachers to explore topics such as flexible-working within the school sector, work-family policies, including what works well and what works less well, for whom and why. It is hoped that these discussions, which will be anonymised and confidential, will be beneficial to headteachers who take part, as well as generating fresh ideas to support policy development at school level, and data to inform the recommendations of this study.

If you are a Headteacher and you would like to take part in these discussions, please contact Madelaine Best on for more information.