'I want teaching staff to have more life, not less'

Is it any wonder the profession has a recruitment and retention crisis if we're not willing to meet the needs of our staff, asks Steve Lancashire

Sir Steve Lancashire

Family at the beach

Oh, where to begin with Sir Andrew Carter’s inflammatory comments about teachers who want to work part time

Pity the man who has revealed that he feels staff act immorally if they take a full-time role and subsequently want to work part time. Pity the man who believes that some people have “too much life”. Pity the man who thinks we ought not be “prissy” about having these conversations. 

But pity all the more staff that work in schools where these views are held. 

The views of a dinosaur

It is shameful that these views have been made in a public forum. It’s reprehensible enough to think them, but the complete lack of judgement shown by giving voice to them is another thing altogether. 

To castigate the profession for wanting to have a more flexible approach to working – and then pointing the finger at supposed deceptive behaviour – is what is immoral and wholly wrong. These are the views of a dinosaur and have no place in our profession.

Is it any wonder that we have a crisis in recruitment and retention if these blundering views still exist? How are we ever to re-engage the swathes of teachers who have taken time away from the profession to be mums (and, increasingly, dads) if there is no prospect of a role for them that recognises their family commitments? 

I want teaching staff to have more life. Not less. I want them to feel valued as people who have real lives and real challenges, and real interests outside their work. 

Just because teaching is a vocation does not mean we have to sacrifice everything on its altar. We may have done this in the past, but we certainly cannot continue to do so in the future. It saddens and angers me that someone – and someone who advises the government – holds and voices these views.

Being namby-pamby

At REAch2, we embrace wellbeing and flexible working. We have co-headships and shared leadership roles, we have wellbeing mentoring, we have duvet days, and we are closing properly over Christmas so that all staff have an extra four paid days of holiday to spend with their families. 

No doubt these would all be sneered at by some as being namby-pamby, but we are proud to take this approach. It works: our staff are happier, they feel valued and they want to come to work as a result. They are not having to make trade-offs all the time. Instead, they can feel like real humans being rather than just part of a machine, where the computer all too often says “no”.

What’s so very unimpressive about Andrew Carter’s comments is that not only are they deeply offensive to the teaching profession, but they also reveal a person way off the mark with children too – not one pupil in all of our 60 schools would be “confused” by having two teachers. It just beggars belief. 

Happily, by the looks of the response on Twitter, Sir Andrew would seem to be in the minority in his views. But it’s important that we stamp on this type of comment as soon as it is uttered. Our profession is too precious and too important to cheapen it in this way. 

Sir Steve Lancashire is CEO, REAch2 academy trust. He tweets @stevereach2

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