Working part time in a senior role

Annie Turnbull talks about her senior part-time role at Teach First.

working families 2019


Employers who have a more agile way of working have tended to adapt best to the uncertainty of Covid and Teach First, which won this year’s Top Employer Award for Family Support, is no exception. One person who has seen the benefits is Annie Turnbull, Head of Fundraising Events and Engagement. She works three and a half days a week in her senior role, but has also benefited from a supportive approach during lockdown.

Annie has two children, aged seven and three. During the most recent lockdown her three year old was in childcare, but her son was at home. Her partner, who also works part time, was unable to work from home. Last year, he was furloughed and could help out more, but this year Annie has had to home-school on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Annie [pictured right] feels very lucky that she has a supportive employer. Her CEO set expectations from the start of the pandemic, acknowledging that children would be in the background of Zoom calls and that there was no need to maintain a professional veneer when that was unsustainable. Regular communications from the senior leadership reinforced this message and the expectation that people home-schooling and working would not be able to do the same volume of work or work of the same quality.

“The attitude was do what you can. You can vary your hours, but there is no expectation that you will do 37.5 hours a week,” says Annie. “Having that from the start is important. I know friends who have been expected to do their full job and homeschool their children. It’s not physically possible.” Senior leaders also role modelled the Covid work life squeeze.

Annie adds that she is also very comfortable about being open about the hours she can work. She notes in her diary that she has home-schooling duties on Mondays and Tuesdays so people know that meetings should be avoided and that any that take place are likely to be interrupted so should be kept brief. “There is a culture of trust and openness,” she says.


Annie has been at Teach First for nearly seven years after leaving an international development charity in 2014 following maternity leave because of the difficulty of combining a lot of international travel with being a new mum. She started on a short-term contract and then moved to another team where she stayed for three years, including her second maternity leave. A year and a half ago she moved again to the fundraising team – a promotion despite the fact she works part time.

The advert for her job was clear that the role could be done on a part-time basis which Annie says made a massive difference to her. Her role involves managing business partnerships and relationships with other charities, building on her previous experience on relationship building, with a new focus on fundraising and more responsibility.

Annie works three and a half days a week – Monday mornings, Tuesday 9.15-5pm and Thursdays and Fridays – when her partner is off – 8am to 6pm. She has seen a big shift at Teach First in the past six years. When she started she worked full time and felt the need to prove herself. In her second role, however, she was able to request flexible working and since then she has adapted her working pattern several times. She had a phased return from maternity leave.

“I really appreciate being able to do the school run or go to the school Christmas play and there is no need to hide that I am going. Some of my friends describe being constantly split between work and home life, but I don’t have this,” says Annie. “I am lucky to have a lovely balance and can focus totally on work because I have a full day with my daughter on Wednesdays. I value that so much. I don’t have that sense of not doing a good job and I am able to be myself and be open about everything.”

In addition, Annie has benefited from Teach First’s parental leave policy and also has experience of needing fertility treatment. Teach First has a policy on baby loss and infertility which allows people going through those experiences additional leave and there is a lot of peer support. She herself has line managed two colleagues who have been affected and says it makes a massive difference that Teach First provides that support.

During Covid she has also seen how easily Teach First has adapted to the pandemic conditions due to its agile working policies and its ability to act fast on employee feedback from regular surveys. That benefits both the organisation and its employees. Annie says: “When you create a flexible environment based on trust people work hard and repay that sense of trust and ownership.”

*Interviews and case studies of all the winners of the Top Employer Awards will be published in a Best Practice Report in early May. Watch this space for more information on how to get a copy.

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