Why schools need to embrace flexible working for teachers


Schools need to find ways of providing greater flexible working opportunities to middle and senior staff, new figures suggest.

Research from the National Foundation for Educational Research shows that one in six secondary school teachers has voiced a desire to work fewer hours in order to have a better work-life balance.

This requires “a more proactive and positive approach to offering part-time and flexible opportunities” according to NFER chief executive Carole Willis, as it enables schools to retain experienced staff.

The NFER has suggested that rigid school timetables and the need for teachers to be in school for lesson planning limit the ability for flexible working.

Around one-fifth of full-time secondary school staff move into part-time roles when they leave the profession, highlighting their desire for flexible approaches to working life.

The report, titled Part-time Teaching and Flexible Working in Secondary Schools, also found that one-third of teachers who want to work reduced hours had put off a request as they believed it would not be approved.

One in 12 teachers told the study they would like to cut their hours by more than one working day a week, while education secretary Damian Hinds has spoken of the need for the sector to have more flexible approaches.

When compared to other industries, education has far fewer options for flexibility, and the minister has said the sector simply “can’t afford” for that to continue.

However, teacher recruitment is required in order to provide more flexible opportunities for existing staff.

Figures from Teacher Tap suggest that 40,000 new teachers would be needed to cover the shortfall if 40% of current teachers who desire flexible working were to cut their hours by just one day a week.

One in ten teachers also voiced concerns in the study around whether working part-time would impact their long-term career progression.

The general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton, added that offering part-time and flexible working is vital to boosting teacher retention.

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