September is a cruel month for parents who are also teachers. They have spent the summer finally giving their own children the same attention they diligently give to a class for the other 11 months of the year.
But then school starts, and all hell breaks loose again.
What working parents really need is a poised ringmaster, a headteacher who realises that the key to an outstanding school is a family-friendly environment where it is recognised that experienced, dedicated and skilled working parents are not “difficult” but instead have the potential to be the star turns.
Here are some simple steps that you, as a headteacher, can take to make life easier for those staff with children:
Is your school truly family-friendly?
Going back to work after experiencing parenthood for the first time is both excruciating and exhilarating. Schools don’t do enough to assist in that process. For example, a phased return, rather than being dropped straight back in at the deep end, can make it a smoother transition for all.
Are your working parents content? Have you even thought to ask them? You have a pastoral duty to your staff, so if you don’t know how well they are coping with balancing childcare and work, how can you fulfil that obligation to protect their wellbeing?
Think about how you could help. Be creative: something as simple as a well-timed planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) period can make a world of difference.
Yes, job shares and flexible hours can be a nightmare to timetable and, done badly, can impact on children negatively.
But offering flexible working is a powerful tool in retaining teachers who are parents. In a job share you can get two minds of experience for the price of one, two working parent-teachers who can cover each other in a whole range of situations. Put the right two people together and there are benefits for all.
Could a conference call replace a journey into school to make life a little easier? Trust technology and trust your staff to be committed to doing the best they can, whether on or off the school premises.
Andrea Hazle is a teacher at Hart Plain Junior School in Hampshire
This is an edited version of a feature in the 9 September issue of TES. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. The magazine is available in all good newsagents.