DfE announces pilot programmes to encourage flexible working in schools

The government has announced new pilot programmes to help support more part-time teaching in schools, in an effort to boost teacher recruitment and retention.

The plans were announced today at the first flexible working in schools summit, and include a pilot to look at ways schools are already successfully working with part-time teachers in order to share best practice.

Speaking at the event in Camberwell in south-east London, the education secretary claimed the government would be working in partnership with unions and organisations from across the education sector to bring in the programmes.

The announcement follows a report from the National Foundation for Educational Research, which argued that better part-time working conditions must be urgently created in secondary schools to try and prevent older teachers leaving the sector in increasing numbers.

Justine Greening said a more flexible workplace would help schools “keep their valued teachers” and help teachers stay in the profession as they become parents or near retirement.

She also claimed that, as difficulties with inflexible working disproportionately affect women, finding a solution would help to close the gender pay gap.

“This is already happening in many other sectors – it’s vital we ensure it is happening in our schools too so we continue to attract the best and brightest into teaching,” she said. “The pledges we have made today show that we are determined to leave no stone unturned to make the best of all of the talent and dedication in the teaching profession.”

Although the timing of the pilot programmes has not yet been announced, the DfE said it would also considering including the need for more part-time or flexible vacancies as part of the proposals for its new teacher vacancy website.

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  1. Why not ask schools which have already tried this. My experience of increasing numbers of part-time secondary teachers beyond about 20% of the teacher workforce in a school has a system destabilising effect. On any one day you have different staff to the following day. Part-time staff have less of a grip on processes and cultural/ethos messages that have to be constantly reinforced. With a small number of part-time staff these problems do not have an over-riding effect on the school and the full-time staff who have to take on more of the responsibility for culture and reinforcement of standards. As the number of part-timers increases you reach a tipping point and the full-time staff become resentful that they are carrying an unfair burden. For example part-time staff who do not work on Mondays are not able to attend the subject meeting so don’t get to take part in policy making or task sharing. In a secondary school, when you have 20 part-timers not attending dept meetings, collegiality starts to disappear and full-timers start to say “why should I do it if x is never here”.
    There will be other experienced teachers who can give more details but they may not wish to speak up in the current PC atmosphere.