A think tank has suggested that schools should embrace flexible working as a solution to the teacher shortage crisis in the UK.
The Policy Exchange paper put forward this argument ahead of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) conference last week, where teacher shortages were high on the agenda.
A government spokesperson agreed that too many female teachers were leaving the profession, but with flexible working to accommodate childcare this might not be the case.
Policy Exchange's head of education, Jonathan Simons, points out that of 45,000 to 50,000 teachers joining the state sector each year, "around a third are actually returners".
Mr Simons says official figures suggest more than a quarter of the teachers of working age who left the profession between 2008 and 2012 were women aged 30 to 39 - some 6,000 a year.
"The most obvious conclusion to be drawn here is that this is maternity related," writes Mr Simons.
Of those who quit the labour force completely, perhaps to look after family, only about half return to the classroom, he points out.
An ASCL spokeswoman called the suggestion "eminently sensible". Flexible working could also boost the numbers of female teachers reaching leadership roles. Currently 62 per cent of secondary school teachers are female, but only 36 per cent of headteachers are, said the spokeswoman.
In a statement, the Department for Education said the latest figures showed a rise in numbers of former teachers returning to the profession.
"But we know that a lack of flexible options creates a barrier, in particular for women who take career breaks, and we will soon be encouraging further work to support flexible working for female teachers and to encourage women to return to the classroom."
Posted by Tim Colman