School leaders need to tackle the barriers stopping middle and senior staff from flexible working, researchers have said, as figures show that about one in six secondary school teachers would like to reduce their hours.
The National Foundation for Educational Research’s (NFER) Part-time Teaching and Flexible Working in Secondary Schools report, released today, found that around one in 12 teachers would like to reduce their hours by more than one day a week.
One-fifth of full-time secondary teachers who leave the profession take up part-time work.
Carole Willis, NFER chief executive, said: “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.”
NFER said the main barriers to flexible working are the “rigidity” of the school timetable and requirements for teachers to be on-site for lesson planning time.
Government should share examples of successful flexible working to address this, the report stated.
Education secretary Damian Hinds has said the teaching profession “can’t afford” to continue to have fewer flexible working options compared to other sectors.
But there are concerns that more part-time opportunities would only add to the teacher shortage.
A Teacher Tapp survey found 40 per cent of teachers would reduce their hours. If those teachers reduced their hours by just one day a week, around 40,000 additional teachers would be needed to cover the shortfall.
Excluding those who said they cannot afford to reduce their hours, NFER found 36 per cent of secondary teachers would like to work part-time – compared to the 19 per cent who currently do so.
But nearly one-third of the teachers who wanted to work fewer hours, and could afford to do so, said they hadn’t made a formal request because they suspected that it wouldn’t be agreed.
One in ten teachers were also concerned about the impact that working part-time would have on their future career progression.
Willis added 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.”
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.”