WomenEd Blogs

The Journey to becoming Flex Friendly


By Caroline Doherty @_C_J_B


Dear Headteacher,

If I were to offer you a simple way to get you a more diverse, skilled, happy and engaged workforce with greater levels of wellbeing, you’d say it sounds far too good to be true!

However, when I chaired a webinar on Flexible Working in partnership with the Department for Education and Teaching Vacancies this is exactly what we heard from our expert panellists happens when schools offer opportunities to work flexibly. You can watch the full recording here


Firstly, let's think about diversity and skills

Vivienne Porritt from WomenEd reminded us that women make up ¾ of the teaching workforce yet remain underrepresented and underpaid at leadership level. We are all aware of the high number of experienced female teachers aged 30-39 leaving a profession they love so they can spend time with their own children. But we should think more widely about people who for whatever reason might want to give less than 5 days a week to a role. Some might be semi-retired, have ill health, are caring for a parent, hold a very demanding volunteer role, are trying to start a business or complete a course of study: the list and the diverse range of ways such people could enrich your staff are limitless. If you think about the job that needs doing and who might be involved in getting it done, rather than always replacing like-for-like, it becomes easier to think creatively. Offering flexible or part-time working options when you recruit new positions will also open you up to talented people looking specifically for those opportunities and could be the difference between getting the absolute best person for the job 4 days a week rather than a less good fit for full time.

Schools can flag their willingness to consider flexible working when they post jobs on the Department for Education’s Teaching Vacancies service. Last year job listings on the site were viewed over 2.5 million times by potential job seekers. Teaching Vacancies is now the largest source of primary teaching jobs listed directly by schools in England. It’s also the second largest for secondary teaching jobs. I recommend all job seeking teachers sign up for job alerts so they are notified when a role that meets their flexible working criteria is listed.


Happy and engaged with increased wellbeing

Asma Maqsood Shah from United Learning told us more about how creating a culture of flexible working at her school had really improved morale and engagement. She explained that, by building in more flexible opportunities to participate, staff were more engaged and offered more discretionary effort when needed. Michael Scott from Newport Girls Grammar School also spoke clearly to the benefits of creating a flexible culture and thinking about how to offer flexibility around particular pinch points in the school year. Schools with a truly flexible culture think collaboratively about how the team can get things done and by providing different times and ways to be involved, people give more how and when they can. Muriel Tersago from Timewise reminded us of the importance of autonomy and choice to our wellbeing and whether it is something as simple as the opportunity to pick their own child up from school, make space for their own exercise and fitness or embark on a PhD. People are more than just their day job and those bits of freedom might be the difference between keeping someone in their job and losing them because they feel their workload is unmanageable.

The Department for Education published the Education Staff Wellbeing Charter in May, it sets out commitments from government, schools and colleges to promote and protect the wellbeing of staff. This includes commitments for organisations to create a supportive culture around flexible working. Working flexibly can be a key means of protecting and enhancing personal wellbeing. The charter has been launched for schools and colleges to sign up to from November.


The catch

You might have read all this and thought that sounds great but what about balancing the timetable, the impact on my budget and the fact I might not be able to say yes to everybody?

It might not all be plain sailing, but these are challenges schools have overcome and they are willing to share their expertise with you. The Department for Education has appointed eight Flexible Working Ambassador Schools with a track record of making it work in practice, to provide support at a local level. You can find out how to contact your local Flexible Working Ambassador School here.

As most businesses move to a more flexible working life, can school really afford to lag behind? In a recent Harvard Business Review survey 59% of knowledge workers wouldn’t work for a company that expected them in the office 5 days a week.

Thankfully there are lots of places you can go to learn about the benefits, practicalities and how to overcome the challenges of flexible working. The Department for Education have published a collection of resources, including non-statutory guidance and case studies.

DfE has also appointed Timewise Flexible Working Consultancy to provide training and practical support to headteacher/MAT leaders, HR professionals/school business professionals, and trustees/governors on a national scale.

Follow the links below to watch recordings of the training webinars.

WomenEd also have a range of great case studies of how to make flexible working work and members of The Key for School Leaders can access ideas here.

Finally, watch our conversation from last week here and don’t forget to list your flexible working roles on Teaching Vacancies

Best of luck with your journey towards becoming flex friendly!


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Monday, 27 March 2023

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