Would-be teachers are dropping out of the profession because of a lack of support for trainees who have young children, a new study has found.
A longitudinal research project examining students’ experiences of higher education shows that mothers are more likely than other students to choose degree courses which lead to a specific career, such as teaching, midwifery or social work.
The report, produced by academics from the University of Warwick, states: “The reality of such jobs is often very different from what was initially expected. There appears to be a lack of early information for student mothers about what these…job choices entail.”
As a result, student mothers often dropped out late into their degree, or during their PGCE year. Most did so because they were struggling to combine the demands of their courses with childcare. In many cases, they were also undertaking paid part-time work while studying.
The student mothers tended not to visit their university’s careers service because they simply did not have the time.
Others finished their degree but subsequently went into a job which did not require a university qualification – for example, becoming a classroom assistant rather than a teacher.
Clare Lyonette, who led the project at Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research, believes that universities should be doing more to accommodate the needs of student mothers. She said this was particularly the case on courses which tended to attract them, such as teaching.
Universities could provide information on campus childcare options, she said. They could also try to tailor the timetable to childcare needs. And lecturers could allow students leeway when there were difficulties at home.
“It’s not that difficult, with a bit of imagination,” Dr Lyonette said. “Student mothers tend to be really hard workers and are determined to get the job done, so will work hard in spite of all the obstacles. This needs to be recognised and supported.”