According to the 2017 Schools Workforce Census, 23.7 per cent of all teachers in England work part-time.
In a profession dominated by women, it is easy to believe the stereotypical assumption that all of these teachers are women, probably mothers.
It’s true that 26.4 per cent of female teachers work flexibly, but it’s also worth noting that 8.6 per cent of male teachers also choose to work part-time hours.
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In an informal social media survey, 234 male respondents explained their motivation for choosing such working hours:
- 47 per cent reduced their hours to look after their children.
- 33 per cent took part-time hours for the sake of their own wellbeing.
- 13 per cent went part-time to pursue entrepreneurial projects.
- 7 per cent work flexibly around study and academic commitments.
Respondents giving more detail spoke of the intricacies of finances: at times, reducing working hours resulted in more manageable childcare costs, or higher-earning partners meant that it made more sense for the father to drop down to fewer days.
Supporting a spouse’s career progression also motivated some men to work part-time, highlighting the overlapping and complex joint decisions often required of working parents.
Shared parental leave
This was true for James Ashmore, a school improvement adviser for South Pennine Academies in Huddersfield. He took shared parental leave with all three of his children when he was a director of English for the trust, but stepped out of teaching altogether after his second.
After his first two children, his wife Louise returned to her deputy head position at a large secondary school. The option of working part-time hours enabled him to return to the profession while also spending time with his family.
Now that his children are a bit older, this flexible working has also allowed him and his wife to realise a lifelong dream of opening an independent bookshop in their local village.
Adrian Bethune, a primary teacher in Hertfordshire, started working three days a week when his wife returned to work (also part-time) following the birth of their first child.
“We’re making the most of being together as a family when our children are young,” he says. “We’ve got less money, but we’re much less stressed and happier as a result.”
Risk and reward
But experiences aren’t always rosy.
Colin Grimes, a primary teacher and computing and PE lead in Northumberland, found that there were few jobs in his local authority when he needed to complete his NQT year.
He applied for a jobshare position with a colleague nearing retirement, originally working 0.6.
He admits that at first it felt “like a risk” and is still conscious of the knock to his pension, but enjoys the flexibility that it affords.
“I can use my day off in the week as I want to – if I choose to work all day on Tuesday, I can do nothing on the weekend. As a governor of our village school, it gives me time to do school visits during the day. But mostly, it’s great to catch up on sleep.”
As Colin looks for continued career progression, however, he is turning to full-time options outside of his local area to provide him with a greater variety of opportunity.
Given that only a small proportion of male teachers work part-time, they could be seen as a bit of a novelty within the staff body.
Reactions from colleagues, however, explains Bethune, are similar to female experiences – for better and for worse.
“Most of my colleagues are completely accepting,” he says. “Many say they’d love to do the same.
"Others, though, repeatedly make the same ‘here’s Mr Part Time’ comments. I remind them that teaching is easy compared to looking after a toddler. I come to school to have a rest.”
Emma Sheppard is founder of the MaternityTeacher/PaternityTeacher Project and a lead practitioner for English