Ministers want education to have a flexible working culture


The government is keen for the education system to value flexible working opportunities and is to discuss with head teachers ways of implementing such a culture.

As part of the Department for Education’s teacher recruitment and retention strategy, there is a pledge to “start a conversation” with school leaders over how to promote flexibility at all stages of a teaching career.

The DfE wants head teachers to “transform” current approaches, although there is the concern in some quarters that far greater recruitment will be needed to enable such an approach to happen.

The strategy states that it is “more important than ever that teaching is compatible with having children and a family life”, which requires more part-time opportunities.

Why is part-time work needed in education?

This is reflected in the numbers of teachers who work part-time in the UK when compared to the national averages for all employees.

For instance, 28% of women teachers work part-time, as do 8% of men – this compares unfavourably with 40% of women and 12% of men who do so across all sectors.

The government has pledged to help teachers to find job-share partners through a new website and the option is seen as an appealing one, according to a Teacher Tapp survey.

Of nearly 2,500 teachers that were asked if they would work three days a week or less if they could find a job-share partner, 11% said they ‘definitely’ would and another 18% said ‘perhaps’ they would.

To put those figures in perspective though, an additional 22,000 full-time teaching staff or 55,000 teachers in part-time roles would be required if 11% of the current workforce were to reduce their hours.

How can flexible working boost teacher retention?

Jack Worth, school workforce lead at the National Foundation for Educational Research, explained that a “large percentage” of secondary school teachers moved into part-time work when they wanted to give up full-time teaching.

He suggests that it highlights an “unmet demand for part-time opportunities” and that meeting the demand could help to boost retention. 

“A lack of part-time and flexible working opportunities is one of the key barriers facing teachers on career breaks who want to return,” he said.

Stephen Tierney, chair of the Headteachers’ Roundtable, added that reducing the number of additional hours that teachers work could also have a huge impact.