WomenEd Blogs

How the wider landscape of flexible working has changed

How-the-wider-landscape-of-flexible-working-has-changed

By Lindsay Patience @Mumsyme

As I approach the birth of my third child, it seems a good time to reflect on how things have changed with regard to flexible working in the education sector since I was expecting my first child in 2016.

Before I was pregnant for the first time, I was working full time on the SLT in a large comprehensive school in London. I was the first to arrive in the car park each day, the last to leave, and I worked at home in the evenings and weekends. No one worked flexibly at that school beyond classroom teacher level. One KS Coordinator had been allowed to work four days a week but reluctantly and on a trial basis. 

So, I knew two things:

  • this lifestyle wasn't sustainable for me once I had a child and
  • flexible working wasn't an option for SLT members at that school.

The Broken Clock for Women


I left, while I was pregnant, with no job to go to. I figured it would be fine, I'd find something else. I had loved being a Head of Year and a Head of Department. I'd find a nice middle leadership job that was part time and start the following September when my baby was one.

How wrong I was!

In 2016, when I started looking for a part time leadership job there were none. Zero. Not a single job advertised as part time in the whole of London, let alone in my desired commuting zone. So I looked for part-time vacancies that were 'just' classroom teaching roles.

Still nothing that was commutable.

Uh-oh.

This had not been the plan. I had a baby and no job. I really didn't want to have to apply for full time positions.

I eventually saw a vacancy at a local independent school which I went for and got. But this wasn't what I had wanted. First of all, I trained through Teach First and was committed to their mission of addressing educational disadvantage so after more than ten years in the state sector I hadn't seen myself moving to a private school.

I felt conflicted.

Secondly, I was an experienced middle and senior leader by this stage. I'd managed whole school data, finance, done some timetabling, line managed pastoral and academic areas etc. and I hadn't lost any of that experience but I was now stepping back to a role as a classroom teacher with no additional responsibilities because there was no other option available to me if I wanted to work part time.

The Motherhood Penalty in Full View


So what has changed for me in the past six years? (How is my first baby turning 6!?)

I'm still at that independent school I started at after my maternity leave. As it happened, I loved the school and the job. I was quickly given additional responsibilities and I work flexibly. It has been the perfect job for me during this time with a young and growing family and with our Flexible Teacher Talent project on the side.

But the wider landscape of flexible working has also changed.

There are many more jobs, both teaching and leadership, now advertised as part time or with flexible working. If I were to look at changing roles/school now, I would have options, options that just weren't available back in 2016. Now we are seeing a growing number of examples of flexible working in schools at all levels and in all contexts.

Why has there been this change? Is it:

New ways of working through lockdown?

An intense need to retain and recruit?

More awareness of inclusion and diversity and the gender pay gap?

Catching up (slowly) with other industries?

The DfE's push and investment on flexible working?

The work of organisations like Flexible Teacher Talent, the Maternity Teacher Paternity Teacher Project, WomenEd, the Shared Headship Network and others?

Whatever the reason, it is a change for the better.

It means fewer teachers and school leaders are forced out of the profession due to a lack of flexibility. It helps schools retain excellent staff and it allows women especially to progress. It gives people choices, stopping them feeling trapped in schools/roles because they can't find flex elsewhere or from being forced to do full time or leave.

It also shows the children and young people in our schools that there is another way of working, that you don't have to be full time to be a teacher, and crucially, you don't have to be full time (which often equals male, no commitments) to be in a position of responsibility.

There is still some way to go, but if we see this much change again in the next six years then I'm very hopeful for the future!


Notice from #WomenEd:

We invite you to comment on our blogs; we are always delighted to hear from you. To do so, scroll to the bottom of this page and send in your comment with your name and email.

Thank you!

×
Stay Informed

When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.

New Year, New #WomenEdTech - Finding a Safe Space ...
What #Being10PercentBraver means to me
 

Comments 3

Guest - Emma Sheppard (website) on Wednesday, 30 November 2022 08:44

Love this, Lindsay - so encouraging to reflect on progress.

Love this, Lindsay - so encouraging to reflect on progress.
Guest - Kathryn Taylor on Thursday, 29 December 2022 08:31

Great blog, thanks for sharing.
Still so far to go, though. And not only for childcare flexibility. Flexibility is also needed for academic study, for research opportunities, to participate in teacher training and development (like delivering NPQ courses, etc.). I'm very fortunate that my Head allows a degree of flexibility on an ad hoc basis, but I'd love to see moves towards a more flexible and diversified research/academic career pathway. I already know I'm not going to teach full time up to retirement age, but the risk is on me to be a consultant. Crucially, I don't actually want to leave the classroom, just do a bit less of the teaching side. Presently, too many people feel that they can't diversify and remain in schools. A real shame when schools could benefit from research knowledege and academic skills, and the CPD that theses activities bring to the individual, but also school cultures in general.
I'm doing my EdD now, its fascinating. I hope I can use it to influence change.

Great blog, thanks for sharing. Still so far to go, though. And not only for childcare flexibility. Flexibility is also needed for academic study, for research opportunities, to participate in teacher training and development (like delivering NPQ courses, etc.). I'm very fortunate that my Head allows a degree of flexibility on an ad hoc basis, but I'd love to see moves towards a more flexible and diversified research/academic career pathway. I already know I'm not going to teach full time up to retirement age, but the risk is on me to be a consultant. Crucially, I don't actually want to leave the classroom, just do a bit less of the teaching side. Presently, too many people feel that they can't diversify and remain in schools. A real shame when schools could benefit from research knowledege and academic skills, and the CPD that theses activities bring to the individual, but also school cultures in general. I'm doing my EdD now, its fascinating. I hope I can use it to influence change.
Guest - Lindsay (website) on Wednesday, 11 January 2023 14:13

Absolutely! People want flex for so many different reasons and if we don’t give it to them as employers in the education sector then many will go elsewhere where flexibly has seriously ramped up since lockdown.

In our book Flex Education we talk about how the reasons that people need flexibility can often add to their strength in schools. Flex for study is a great example of this. We have to be more forward thinking as a sector and often it comes down to trusting people. We often see this idea that teachers can’t work from home, can’t be allowed to leave the site when they have PPA etc. often that’s just because leaders lack the confidence to given employees autonomy in where and how they work. The best leaders get the most out of their staff by treating them as human beings and appreciating and embracing that they have uniques circumstances and needs.

Absolutely! People want flex for so many different reasons and if we don’t give it to them as employers in the education sector then many will go elsewhere where flexibly has seriously ramped up since lockdown. In our book Flex Education we talk about how the reasons that people need flexibility can often add to their strength in schools. Flex for study is a great example of this. We have to be more forward thinking as a sector and often it comes down to trusting people. We often see this idea that teachers can’t work from home, can’t be allowed to leave the site when they have PPA etc. often that’s just because leaders lack the confidence to given employees autonomy in where and how they work. The best leaders get the most out of their staff by treating them as human beings and appreciating and embracing that they have uniques circumstances and needs.
Sunday, 29 January 2023

Connect with us

Follow us via Twitter

Follow us on LinkedIn

 

Read Our Privacy Policy

Newsletter Subscription

Search

Can you help spread the word about #WomenEd?

Please share to help us connect with women educators across the globe

We use cookies

We use cookies on our website. Some of them are essential for the operation of the site, while others help us to improve this site and the user experience (tracking cookies). You can decide for yourself whether you want to allow cookies or not. Please note that if you reject them, you may not be able to use all the functionalities of the site.