Let all teaching job applicants explore 'flexible options', says Hinds

All teaching job adverts should offer applicants the chance to explore flexible working options, the education secretary has said.

Damian Hinds told the Schools and Academies Show at London’s Excel centre today that the teaching profession “can’t afford” to continue to have a lower incidence of flexible working options like job shares or part time roles than society as a whole.

We need a change in thinking to make sure that every time a job is advertised we’re saying ‘ask me about flexible options’

Hinds was at the event to launch his ed tech strategy, which sets out the government’s approach to the use of technology in schools and is backed by £10 million of funding, which was announced in January.

He also reiterated previously-announced plans to appoint a series of “demonstrator schools” to share expertise and said some schools would act as “testbeds” to help develop and pilot new tools. Further details are yet to be announced.

Schools have previously said timetabling made flexible working difficult, and Hinds told delegates he wanted schools to harness the use of technology to improve the situation.

The minister admitted the government needs to “find more ways to help to support people in the requirements that they have in their family lives, caring responsibilities and so on”.

“Part of that is about timetabling, and one of the technology challenges I’ve talked about is specifically about trying to help with flexible timetabling,” he said.

“But actually we also need a change in culture, we need a change in thinking to make sure that every time a job is advertised we’re saying ‘ask me about flexible options’.”

Damian Hinds

At the Bett Show in London in January, the education secretary urged teachers to stop responding to emails outside office hours, and announced that funding of £10 million would be supported by a group of schools and colleges “selected to aid the development, piloting and evaluation of innovative technology”.

Published this week, Hinds’s new ed tech strategy outlines the 10 key “challenges” for education technology. Alongside flexible working and improving parental engagement, ministers want ed tech to reduce teacher administration workload by up to five hours per term and slash time spent on mock essay marking by at least 20 per cent.

New guidance has also been published to help schools update their ICT infrastructure and choose the right broadband.

But the document also signals an acceptance at the DfE that its own digital services “too often fall short of the world-class standards we set for ourselves and the wider technology market”.

James Bowen, director of policy at school leaders’ union NAHT said schools needed to be sure new tech “genuinely makes teachers’ lives easier” before “splashing the cash on shiny new kit”.

“If technology companies are interested in helping to tackle the workload issue through IT, then the first thing they need to do is spend time listening to teachers.”