Part time and flexible working for SLTs

Bretta Townend-Jowitt

Bretta Townend-Jowitt has been in education for over 20 years. Currently a headteacher of a rural one-form entry primary school in West Oxfordshire. A member and advocate for a focus group for The Chartered College; Advocate for the Maternity Teacher Paternity Teacher project; Women Leading in education Coach and a member of the Advisory Board for Teacher toolkit. Passionate about staff health and wellbeing and flexible working.
Twitter handle: @Headspiration


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How can part time and flexible working help wellbeing, recruitment and retention in schools? Do ALL schools embrace the practice? If not, why not? It is the way forward – make 2019-2020 the year your school takes note (and well done if you are already truly on board).

As a headteacher I am always looking at recruitment and retention. There is lots of discussion currently around staff health and well-being, including issues of workload. Many leaders are accused of being tokenistic in their well-being initiatives, so how can we truly ensure we are listening to our staff?

Part time and flexible working is an area I believe many schools needs to improve. There are a number of senior leaders who advocate part time and flexible working and a number of organisations such as @WomenEd and #MTPTproject who regular discuss the issue.

If this is the case why do I say many schools need to improve? Attending the 4th @WomenEd unconference in October 2018 was quite an eye opener, listening to many stories from women in workshops, #Leadmeets and regional networking saying that they had been asked to step down from middle management and leadership positions when requesting to go part time, often after returning from maternity leave. So, why am I so passionate about it? Mainly due to also being one of those women who had to take a step back in her career due to planning a family, this was over 10 years ago and I would have sincerely hoped that times had changed.

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Question for headteachers and CEOs: Do you really believe a part timer cannot hold a senior position?

Look around – there are schools who make this work. For secondary schools it is a matter of robust and creative timetabling. For primary schools it can be a trickier issue, this is where part time and job shares come into their own – do we always think of a job share as 2.5 days each with a swap over Wednesday lunchtime? Does this always have to be the case? I have an example of a year 2 teacher who reduced her hours by one day thereby teaching 0.8 and another member of staff taught 0.2.

This year was a turning point for us in staffing. In 2017-2018 our year 2 teacher went on maternity leave, to cover our part time SENDCo increased days and we appointed a PT teacher to job share, respectively teaching 0.4 and 0.6 each. The teacher returning requested part time- my immediate response was of course- no questions asked. But I hear you say but these are class teachers not SLT.

Here then, is the next part of our journey: also, in the summer of 2018 my AHT was thinking of applying for DHT posts, all good and I’m happy we are able to ‘grow’ people ensuring they’re ready for the next stage in their career. In this case she didn’t truly want to move on, but thought she needed to broaden her experiences away from a school in which she had taught for many years, build a network and better work-life balance. How could I help her? How could I retain an excellent teacher whilst ensuring I took account of well-being and work life balance? The solution? To reduce her working week to 0.75, in doing so she would continue her role as year 6 class teacher, job-sharing with a UPS member of staff, who also requested to reduce hours – not the traditional 2.5 days each as the AHT teaches 3 days week A and 2.5 days week B with her colleague teaching 2 days week A and 2.5 days week B. For the rest of her time she has leadership responsibilities, these are flexible and completed whenever she wants within the remainder of the working week, sometimes from home and sometimes in school. This also provides her with time for herself and / or to pursue other interests or have the opportunity to work in other schools, tutor or provide consultancy.

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You will probably want to ask – but is it working her being part-time as a AHT? My short answer, yes! My KS1/FS lead has stepped up to AHT for 2 days per week – as a senior leadership team we now benefit from more people being able to share the workload and discuss issues, we are a strong team and the two AHTs have clear job descriptions and remits that work for us.

I would therefore urge all HTs and CEOs to consider very carefully the requests from all teachers but particular senior leaders to go part time or have flexible working opportunities.

I would also say to all teachers – be brave, ask for flexibility and part time working in the roles you apply for – it may not mention anything on the advert but you have nothing to lose.

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