Flexible working practice

As part of our work on equality, diversity and inclusion, ASCL is shining a light on school and college leaders who are working either part-time or flexibly in their leadership roles.
 
We hope that sharing these case studies will encourage more school leaders, governing bodies and trust boards to explore creative approaches to succession planning and recruitment into leadership roles. As you will see, this flexibility benefits the school as well as the individuals concerned and enables a range of talented and committed people to step forward into leadership roles who might otherwise be unable to do so.

What are the different flexible working practices in your workplace?

Part Time | Compressed Hours | PPA | Timetable | Policy | Job share | Recruitment material | Parental Leave

Organisation type: Secondary | Academy

I have worked part-time at Didcot Girls’ since the birth of my first daughter five years ago. Initially working 0.6 and then 0.8, the school has encouraged my leadership aspirations through their inclusive and flexible approach. I was promoted into SLT after the birth of my second daughter and am able to lead in my AHT working four days a week. An open and positive dialogue around reconciling ambition and family commitments has allowed me to balance my responsibilities within an accepting and forward-thinking culture.

Benefits of flexible working practice:

  • Individual: Flexible working has allowed me to pursue my ambitions and interests without feeling like I have compromised other facets of my life. Adaptability and responsiveness around staff needs is excellent for staff wellbeing and nurtures talent from a wider diversity of people.
  • Organisation: A flexible outlook allows organisations to retain and recruit staff for whom an overly restrictive homogenous approach to working hours would be a trigger for leaving the school, profession or deciding against promotion. Retaining a diversity of talent brings with it, additional benefits of staff who feel supported and valued.
  • Pupils: Flexible working helps to retain excellent, experienced staff with extensive subject knowledge, which can only be a benefit for students. It is also crucial for students to see diverse role models, particularly in leadership roles and realise that ambition, talent and wider personal fulfilment are not mutually exclusive.

What are the different flexible working practices in your workplace?

Part Time | Compressed Hours | School Day | PPA | Job share | Recruitment material | Parental Leave     

Organisation type: Primary | Secondary | Independent

The aspect of flexible working about which we are most pleased at St Mary’s School Cambridge is the developing practice of enabling teachers to job share middle management posts, including Head of Year and Head of Department. We now have three such pairs of women working productively together; it is anticipated that there might be two such iterations post two maternity leaves and these might both involve a male/female pairing. As a girls’ school, we proudly support flexible working as role-modelling for our students as future employees who need to be exposed to best practice in the workplace.

Benefits of flexible working practice:

  • Individual: this allows women who have caring responsibilities for children, post-maternity leave, or elderly dependents or who are planning for their retirement to be able to take on responsibility at a manageable level.
  • Organisation: excellent professionals are encouraged and stimulated, knowing their experience and expertise is valued; it supports retention as well as career development. It also supports succession planning where an individual wishes to work towards a phased retirement.
  • Pupils: as a girls’ school, such practice demonstrates possibilities of future employment to young women; excellent teachers are maintained within the school.
Further details

As someone who juggled getting married at the end of my first year of headship, lived apart from my fiancé then husband for four years, with weekend visits between Cambridge and Kent, went through the adoption process in that fourth year ahead of welcoming a five and a half year-old boy into our home as our precious son in late August with no school place secured or immediately available, I know a fair amount about juggling domestic arrangements around professional responsibilities! Now in my 13th year of headship things are calmer and I am committed to supporting others in my community.

As Head of a girls’ school where our popular marketing strapline last year and this has been #YesSheCan!, I hope that I set the tone for the rest of the community. In fact with a remarkable feisty and visionary 17th century founder, Mary Ward, who believed that ‘By God’s grace, women in time to come will do much’, I like to think that pupils at St Mary’s School Cambridge are the living embodiment of that generous vision of equality.

As for the girls, so for the staff. Over the past few years I have deliberately supported female colleagues who have wanted to take on middle management responsibility but because of caring commitments either for children or elderly dependents are not able to commit to more than half of the management responsibility. What we have established therefore are job shares. The first opportunity was for a pastoral post: we have a joint Head of Year 9 job share; both women are magnificent and I am convinced that the girls benefit from two perspectives and two very caring sources of support. Next up was a joint Head of EAL job share: one colleague is on the way to retirement and felt that this would support her personal transition from full to part-time work whilst supporting the school in terms of succession planning so that her co-Head of Department would either be in a position to take on full responsibilities or continue a job share with a different colleague later on. The third job share is for a joint Head of Geography to support two long standing colleagues who have had time out of teaching to bring up children and who have both returned part-time because of ongoing childcare support. They were appointed last year internally for next year when my longest serving colleague retires We are having the luxury of a year-long hand over – succession planning at its best.

I would encourage all heads to be as flexible as possible to support excellent colleagues who are part-time with developing their careers wherever possible. I am sure that in the future, I will be able to assist male colleagues in similar ways on return post-paternity leave and colleagues post-adoption leave. Not only does such flexibility support diversity in the workplace but offers opportunities for the students to see a variety of ways in which employment can be handled within our enriching profession.

What are the different flexible working practices in your workplace?

Part Time | Timetable | Job share

Organisation type: Secondary | Academy

I requested part-time working hours to enable me to maintain an effective work-life balance and spend time pursuing my professional writing. I was delighted that this was granted and it has made an enormous difference. I currently do not work on a Friday, although the day itself may change; this is the best day for me to be absent from school as after-school meetings seldom occur on a Friday so my absence has the least impact. In the past, a flexible timetable has allowed me to protect one of my free hours to collect my child from school.

Benefits of flexible working practice:

  • Individual: As an Assistant Headteacher, I was concerned about working part-time hours and consequently seeming less ‘important’ as a member of SLT. This has never, in practice, been the case. Working 0.8 has allowed me to pursue my professional writing without having to compromise my career.
  • Organisation: My part-time hours enable me to perform well. I often work on my ‘day off’ anyway, but then am able to have a genuine break over weekends; well-rested and organised staff surely benefit any company. I am unlikely to leave the organisation soon, and appreciate the flexibility of the job.
  • Pupils: As above, my pupils benefit from a well-rested and organised teacher. I am contactable when absent from work and the timetable is structured so this has a negligible impact on my students, if any.

What are the different flexible working practices in your workplace?

Co-Headship

Organisation type: Secondary | Academy

We are full-time, co-head teachers with a leadership team of three assistant headteachers. We retain half a deputy head role each in order to make the structure budget neutral compared to a single head with two deputies. One of us is the accounting officer and the other is the returning officer. Other than that, we are both fully and jointly responsible.

Benefits of flexible working practice:

  • Individual: The biggest advantage on a personal level is that we share the emotional burden of headship and all the worries that stay with heads after school hours. We offload to each other and “park” any issues ready to go home to our families. With our different experiences, we are able to develop our own CPD from each other, which a sole head would not necessarily be able to do.
  • Organisation: Our roles are split according to previous areas of experience, eg pastoral or curriculum.  However, on a day-to-day basis, we deal with any issues arising as triaged by our PA based on which one of us is available at any given time. This creates bandwidth and increased accessibility. We share an office to maximise communication and to keep each other in the loop.
  • Pupils: As co-heads we are able to teach, which we love and we both have exam classes which maintains our credibility in the classroom and ensures we never lose sight of what it means to be a teacher. Because there are two of us, we get to know students twice as quickly as a sole head. We also role model what it is to be a working mother at a senior level and how with creativity and flexibility, women can be great leaders.

What are the different flexible working practices in your workplace?

Part Time | Job share

Organisation type: Secondary | Academy Trust   

I have job shared the Head of PE role for approximately eight  years, working two days a week and my job share working three days a week. We have tried various combinations of days over the years to accommodate school and personal needs.

I now job share the Head of PE role but with a change to focusing one day a week on the role having taken on a job share as Head of Year. This role is allocated as 50:50.

My days in school have changed from being two days a week to just under four, working a shorter day on one day of the week to accommodate school drop off and pick up for one of my children.

Benefits of flexible working practice:

  • Individual: Allows return to your job that accommodates a change in circumstance, which ensures opportunities to return or progress prior to the change are maintained and makes a full-time return or progression less daunting. For want of a better way to describe it, you are kept in the loop.
  • Organisation:You get more than a part-time worker! It is very difficult to stick to your allocated part-time hours (in my experience). This often means that you are working for more than your expected time or anticipated additional time in relation to planning, and in particular to emails during the working week… some things can’t be left, especially in a job share role. I personally also find it hard to leave email unchecked on a ‘day off’ because of the volume I would return to and often the need to respond rapidly.
  • Pupils: In my experience and as part of both my job shares, I believe this has provided consistency for pupils in relation to experience and expectations. This does however require a positive working relationship and a knowledge of the person you are working with for this to be complimentary and impactful. I also feel on a personal level some pupils value the time you are investing in them alongside your other commitments.