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Retaining great teachers through flexible working

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Flexible working, Teacher wellbeing

Teacher and pupils at a computer

Matthew Leeming is Headteacher at Kings’ School in Winchester. Flexible working has long been a part of their school’s approach, helping them to retain great teachers by giving staff the ability to better balance their personal and professional lives. He shared with us their approach, the benefits they’ve seen for the staff and school, and the barriers they’ve faced.

Tell us a bit about your school
Kings’ School in Winchester is a large secondary school with 1,650 pupils and 100 teachers, 38 of whom work part-time.

We’ve long been advocates of flexible working, believing it can benefit staff and pupils, and in 2017 pledged to make sure all of our job adverts and promotional material explicitly state posts are open to flexible or part-time working.

Why do your staff choose to go part-time?
The main reason teachers at our school chose to go part-time is to have children. Many also do so because of caring commitments, for example for their relatives. However, we also have many staff that choose this option to pursue other interests or parallel careers, for example running a business or becoming a sports coach.

How have you made it work for your school?
Split-classes – where two or more teachers share a class between them - are the norm across many parts of the school.

This has made it much easier to manage flexible working requests, as the two go hand in hand - accommodating part-time working makes timetabling of split classes significantly easier.

What has the feedback been from staff?
This approach better supports teachers to teach to their strengths, and is the preference of many of our subject leaders. It also increases staff morale, which in turn makes teachers more effective in their roles.

Our current Head of Drama is one of those who works 4 days a week and has found it’s benefitted both her and her pupils. Taking a more flexible approach to her work and timetabling has meant she can split her time more effectively between leading the department, time in the classroom, and putting on extra-curricular activities that could benefit students.

What have the barriers been? And how have you got around them?
As with any school, we’ve found implementing flexible working does have its challenges.

Some roles are inevitably better suited to flexible working than others. For example, pastoral roles can often be more problematic than classroom-based roles. And even with our emphasis on split-classes, timetabling can still be tricky.

However, these problems are not insurmountable. Our teachers understand that they need to be flexible as well to make this work, for example, not everyone can have Fridays or Mondays off, and this helps with timetabling headaches.

And really effective communications is absolutely key to making the arrangements work. Even basic things like making sure staff know which meetings they really do need to attend. And for those they can’t come to, providing them with all the key information they need afterwards.

Find out more about the actions DfE is taking to support flexible working, in our Recruitment & Retention Strategy.

The Education Secretary has also shared his commitment to flexible working, and the action we’re taking, in an op-ed for TES.


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