‘Teachers assume heads will turn down flexi requests’

A new report looks at how to encourage schools to become more flexible.

Teaching for working mums


Many secondary school teachers want to reduce their hours, but are not asking for changes because they perceive that they will be turned down, according to a new report which provides practical advice on how schools can enable greater flexible working.

The report from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) says a proactive approach to different working patterns by school leaders is vital if teachers are to have more access to part-time and flexible working. This can include being systematic about asking for annual submissions to change working patterns, checking these with timetables and staffing forecasts and then negotiating further with staff, who also need to be flexible around their requests.

NFER’s report ‘Part-time Teaching and Flexible Working in Secondary Schools’ estimates that around one in six secondary school teachers would like to reduce their hours and around one in 12 would like to reduce their hours by more than a day a week.

Perceptions that school leaders would not support a request for part-time working was a more widespread barrier than the actual incidence of teachers’ requests being turned down, says the report. Just under a third of the teachers (31 per cent) who wanted to work fewer hours and could afford to do so said they had made no formal request for part-time working, suspecting that if they did their senior leaders would not allow them to change. Only 14 per cent of teachers reported having had a request for part-time working rejected.

NFER Chief Executive, Carole Willis, said: “At a time when the number of secondary pupils is forecast to increase by 15 per cent over the next decade, retaining teachers is one of the top challenges faced by schools. NFER’s previous research has highlighted that the profession is losing good teachers due to a lack of flexibility. Taking a more proactive and positive approach to offering part-time and flexible working opportunities could help school leaders to retain the expertise of teachers rather than losing them permanently from the state sector.

“However, the kinds of approaches identified in our report are not a panacea for the challenges facing the teaching workforce. The government needs to continue working with the profession to find ways to make teachers’ workloads more manageable.”

School leaders said that allowing staff to work on a part-time or flexible basis enabled schools to retain good teachers while improving teachers’ wellbeing and energy at work.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We simply must stem the exodus of teachers from the profession, and one way we can do that is to improve opportunities for part-time and flexible working. It won’t solve the crisis on its own, but it will help, and we welcome the positive and supportive contribution of this report. People increasingly expect employers to adapt to changes in their lives and we must rise to that challenge. It is also vital that the government improves teachers’ pay after many years of stagnation, that it funds schools properly, and that it does more to ease the pressure caused by an excessive and morale-sapping accountability system.”


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