Secondary school leaders are being urged to deal with the ‘unmet demand’ of teachers who wish to work part-time or flexibly, according to a recent report.
The data, which was conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), revealed that one in every six teachers would like to alter their hours – with one in 12 hoping to reduce their hours by more than one day a week.
Speaking with school leaders, the 2019 report discovered specific barriers that appear to be in place when a staff member asks to reduce their hours:
- Ensuring continuity for pupils’ learning (the belief that more than one teacher per subject would disrupt this)
- Constraints on other forms of flexible working (concerns that flexible working would reduce the number of teachers available on site during working hours)
- Communication issues – with staff as well as parents (the difficulty of ensuring teachers are available for events such as parents’ evenings, even on their non-working days)
- Additional costs (some school leaders believed it was more expensive to make flexible working arrangements than employ a single full-time member of staff)
As the number of pupils in secondary school is expected to increase by 15 per cent between 2018 and 2025, the NFER believes the key challenge is to attract returning teachers back into the profession as well as retaining current teachers:
“A lack of part-time and flexible working opportunities is an important factor contributing to some secondary teachers leaving, and preventing others from returning,” the report states.
In agreement with the report, CEO of Return to Teach, Holly Power, also commented:
“If flexible working has meant an experienced teacher is retained, other members of staff (such as new teachers) will benefit from this experience.”
In order to encourage more opportunities of flexible working among secondary teachers, the NFER recommends school leaders take a ‘proactive and systematic’ approach which benefits the teachers – for example, allowing planning of classes to be done from home – while, at the same time, prioritising the pupils’ needs.
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