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Married to the job

Patrick and Sarah Fielding have become the first husband and wife in Britain to share a headship. Roger Bushby reports

"Had a good day at the office dear?" isn't just small talk for Patrick and Sarah Fielding.

Quite the opposite: it is vital each knows what the other is up to, because they are believed to be the first married couple in Britain to hold a job-share headship in a maintained school.

The pair - both in their mid-30s, - are now in their second week at the helm of the 420-pupil Mayflower primary school in Leicester. They are getting used to the juggling act of keeping a civilised home life while holding exactly the same post.

Their first week was spent in school together, but now each spends five days a fortnight - one three-day and one two-day week - in school.

On top of all this, they share the responsibility of looking after Eleanor, four, and Hannah, two.

Patrick and Sarah married last summer, and have been together ever since meeting at Lancaster University in 1984.

Job-sharing is not new to them. They have come to Mayflower after spending nearly four years sharing a deputy headship at Greenwood junior school, in Nottingham.

Sarah said: "That was an experience that worked out so well for us, that we decided to go for a shared headship. We knew that we wanted to spend as much time as possible with our children, but also stay in top management, so this was a logical, if unusual step to take."

At Mayflower, the couple were interviewed individually for the headship. "You've got to be able to present yourself as a capable head in your own right," said Patrick. It could have happened that the job could have been offered to one of us and not the other. In fact we were each asked if we would take the headship if it was not on a job-shring basis. We said no."

"We know that we do a better job together than we would individually, because we have developed a more balanced approach to everything."

Now they have the job, their new routine has already been established. "When whoever has been at school arrives home in the early evening, the first thing on the agenda before de-briefing is the meal," said Patrick.

Sarah added: "The trouble is that cooking is not a strong point for either of us. Although Patrick's pretty good at the ironing, and he plays a mean piano - which comes in useful at school. I also find that, when I am doing the shopping, I am probably the only woman in the supermarket wondering what my husband's doing at work."

Around an hour is spent each evening discussing the day's events at school. "We have obviously had disagreements," said Patrick. "But in the end we have learnt that you do what is best for the school.

"A marital arrangement is a bit like a professional arrangement. You debate it and hopefully reach a balanced conclusion and try and talk things out.

"We don't have defined areas when it comes to the headship, because that just wouldn't work. Togetherness does work for us - in every way."

Double vision, Friday magazine, 12-13


* Jobsharing accounts for around 4 per cent of all jobs, according to a DFEE study last year.

* A study in 1996 found 2 per cent of teachers had jobshares.

* Top management jobshares are rare: Sue Monk, chief executive of pressure group Parents at Work and Sarah Jackson have shared the post for the past four years.

* Another high-profile jobshare is the editorship of BBC Radio 4's World Tonight current affairs programme which has been shared by Prue Keeley and Jenni Russell since 1998.

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