The number of teachers seeking part-time posts is on the increase. When juggling the commitments of teaching with the pressures of home and family life, it seems that many educators are looking towards reduced hours as a way of fitting everything in.
Once the domain of those approaching retirement or with young children at home, more and more teachers in the middle of their careers are reducing their hours for family and health reasons, or simply in order to pursue other projects and invest in their own wellbeing.
And so we have witnessed the rise of the job share. Indeed, in some schools, the number of teachers now working part-time may equal or exceed the ratio of full-time staff.
Part-time teachers: ‘I'll never go back to full-time teaching’
Research: 1 in 6 teachers wants to work part-time
Secondary schools: Is job-sharing possible in a secondary?
It may seem like the ideal option for those looking to reduce their time in the classroom, but being part of a jobshare can throw up some significant stumbling blocks of its own. Here are some tips to make sure it works for you and your learners:
1. Communication is king
It may sound obvious, but getting the flow of information sharing right is what your job share will stand or fall on. Too much, and you will expire under an avalanche of tiny detail; too little, and you won’t know what you are walking into. Making sure both you and your jobshare partner are clear about what is relevant and proportionate to share is key. And if you disagree with your partner’s decisions then challenge them on it in a professional way – your partnership will be stronger as a result, even if you have to agree to disagree.
2. Means of communication matter, too
As well as knowing what to share, you are your partner must also agree how best to share it. If you prefer bullet points but your partner likes to talk, you could come unstuck pretty quickly. The midweek handover is crucially important: the person leaving needs to feel like they have passed the baton over cleanly and the person coming in needs to feel ready to run the next leg of the race. Agree on what the handover looks like in advance, including time limits – a 20-minute phone call is often more effective than copious written notes. Be strict with yourselves, though, as 20 minutes can easily turn into two hours if you're not careful.
3. The learners’ experience always comes first
When agreeing who will teach what it can be tempting to simply carve up the curriculum and divvy it out between you. Different subjects, different jotters, and never the twain shall meet. This is a mistake, because it is not what real learning looks like. Of course, you need some way of separating things out, but your learners have got the right to expect a flow to their learning, that what happened on Monday will be linked to what happens on Wednesday. Effective communication and reflective comments on planned teaching within your job share means this can happen – but only if you have seen Monday’s work.
4. Consistent expectations really matter
Be clear about what they are and ensure children can't tell the difference between you and your colleague when it comes to the classroom rules, routines and expectations. Don’t ever undermine your jobshare partner or reverse their decisions in front of children without talking it through first. This lets learners know you speak with one voice when it comes to the classroom environment and prevents a "Well, Miss X lets us, why won’t you?" culture taking grip. When you start playing good cop, bad cop with your class, everybody loses.
Done well, a jobshare should allow you and your partner to enjoy teaching and have a work-life balance that works for you both. Learners should thrive under the care and attention of not one but two effective educators. If you follow the guidance above, your dream team shouldn’t turn into a nightmare.
Susan Ward is depute headteacher at Kingsland Primary School in Peebles, in the Scottish Borders. She tweets @susanward30