Teachers could be assisted into jobshares with a matchmaking-style service in a move aimed to stem experienced staff deserting the profession, the education secretary has said.
Damian Hinds said flexible working should be encouraged and likened one proposal to find a partner to split a role with as a "jobshare match.com”.
The news came as a researcher warned that a bulge of teachers approaching their mid-30s meant that improving part-time working opportunities was “critical” part of tackling the teacher shortage crisis
Speaking ahead of the launch of a teacher recruitment and retention strategy on Monday, which also aims to cut workload, Mr Hinds is hoping to thwart what a recent report condemned as a "chronic" issue with staff retention.
While acknowledging there is no single reason for the issue, he said he believes part of it is cultural, with a lower proportion of teachers working part-time than the rest of the population.
"I want us to be thinking about it throughout the system,” he told the Guardian. “If people (are) talking about their careers and whether they are able to stay, or when maternity comes along, it's really important that everyone is doing as much as they can to facilitate flexibility."
He continued: "What we are keen to do is to find a way for people who don't have a background together to find a partner to apply for a job with, hence the match.com terminology.
“There’s a lower proportion of both men and women in teaching working part-time than the equivalent proportion in the economy as a whole.
“For women, it’s 28 per cent in teaching v 40 per cent in the economy as a whole. Why is it? There isn’t a single definitive answer, but I’m confident part of it is cultural.”
Mr Hinds said that when he had suggested in a speech that schools offered more jobsharing, some school leaders had laughed because of the complicated timetabling involved.
“At the end of the session, the woman who guided me out of the room said: ‘Have you ever noticed how they were all men on that table who were laughing? It’s always men; women leaders in schools find a way to make the timetabling work,’” he said.
On workload, Mr Hinds said: “Part of my job is making sure that everybody else knows how hard teachers work.”
He wanted parents “not to never email a school or a teacher, because that can be important, but to exercise some restraint, knowing that there many other things that teachers have to do”.
Data from an NAHT heads' union survey suggests that 77 per cent of its school leaders found recruitment a struggle last year.
Some 75 per cent said a better work-life balance would ease the issue.
A report published by the National Foundation for Educational Research suggested the number of teachers leaving the profession has been increasing over the past decade.
Josh Hillman, education director at the Nuffield Foundation, which funded the research, said it confirmed "that there are chronic problems in the recruitment and retention of teachers".