Flexible working 'could tackle retention crisis'

A lack of flexibility around working hours is driving many teachers to leave the profession, research shows

Providing flexible working could stop many teachers from leaving the profession, research suggests

Allowing teachers more flexible working hours and making it easier to work part-time could be a key way to solve the retention crisis, according to an education researcher.

A study by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), released yesterday, warned that teacher dropout rates have been rising since 2010, creating “chronic problems” for the sector.

Speaking at the launch event, NFER lead economist Jack Worth said lack of flexibility around working hours was driving many secondary school teachers out of the profession.

“Many secondary teachers who leave teaching for another job switch from full-time to part-time work,” he said.

Teachers 'quitting to take part-time jobs'

“Among secondary teachers who leave for another job, the proportion working part-time rises by 20 percentage points after leaving, which suggests that this unmet demand for part-time work is partly driving some secondary teachers to leave the profession to seek more flexible work.”

The NFER research found that the proportion of teachers moving to part-time hours has been growing across all schools, but particularly in primaries.

In 2016, more than a quarter of primary teachers (26 per cent) worked part-time, compared with 18 per cent of secondary teachers.

Mr Worth said that while shifting large numbers of teachers to part-time hours could create a short-term supply shortage, in the long term it could be a key tool to keep them in the profession.

And he added that the NHS was already using supply agencies to allow nurses to work part-time as part of a way of solving their own staff supply shortages.

The Department for Education is also looking at ways to help more teachers work flexible hours as a way to address the recruitment crisis.

“Keeping such teachers teaching could retain their expertise and reduce the risk of losing them from the profession permanently,” Mr Worth said.

“The secondary-school teacher workforce has a large cohort of teachers approaching their mid-30s, which is when part-time employment peaks, meaning the next few years are a critical time for taking action.”

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