Secret Teacher: now I’m a parent, my school can’t see me as a leader.

The Secret Teacher writes in The Guardian I worked hard to stay in the loop during maternity leave. But coming back part-time has meant I’m left out of decisions and am unable to progress.

I had never knowingly experienced the glass ceiling in teaching, until I had children. I’ve always been career focused and, like many other teachers, teaching was very much a lifestyle choice rather than a job. Before children I had steadily worked my way up to middle leadership, with a view to moving into a senior leadership position over the next few years. But this ground to a halt following two breaks for maternity leave.

When a more senior post came up, it seemed a natural progression from my current position. Professionally, it felt like the right time for a change: before going on maternity leave, I’d been given areas of responsibility on a whole-school level and it had given me a real taste of what it was to make an impact school-wide.

But when I arranged to speak to a member of the leadership team about the role, they seemed surprised that I was even considering it given my current personal position. The conversation finished with some discussion about the role being incompatible with part-time working, which I had started after my first child. It was suggested that for this reason I should wait a few years, when it would be a better time for me to think about the next step.

The thinktank Policy Exchange has called for better flexible working to stop women leaving the profession – noting that one in four teachers who left the profession in recent years were women aged 30-39. In other words, women who are likely to have children.

While there is no indication that this was because of lack of progression, it does highlight that schools may not be creating an inclusive and progressive workplace for women. Jonathan Simons, author of the paper, said: “It is also desperately sad to think that, in a profession which is all about educating the next generation, many of this group have simply concluded that it isn’t compatible with raising their own children.”

Aside from my own experiences and frustrations, it saddens me that the profession I have invested and defended for so many years could be writing off so many potentially talented leaders. I hope, not just for my own sake, that something changes soon to allow for the flexibility needed to nurture and develop talent, regardless of a teacher’s gender and personal situation.

Read more Secret Teacher: now I’m a parent, my school can’t see me as a leader.

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Categories: Employment and Teaching.


  1. Kathryn August

    This article is more evidence that in school leadership ,gender equality seems to be moving in a reverse direction.
    Almost thirty years ago I was appointed to my first headship when I was six months pregnant.
    At the time this was deemed newsworthy.
    Why in 2017 are women still being marginalised?
    It isn’t just Schools either , it’s across education and the male dominance of MAT leadership is further cementing professional inequity.

  2. Busy Mum

    As a parent, I find teachers’ maternity leave can be extremely disruptive for the children. And I am not the only one to think like this! Continuity for children should trump ‘women’s rights’.

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