Eight schools and academy trusts in England have won contracts from the Department for Education to promote flexible working to schools in their regions in order to “help to recruit, retain and motivate teachers”.
The Flexible Working Ambassador Schools (FWAS) will provide advice and support to schools; for example, in creating timetables and developing policies to cater for teachers who wish to work part-time.
The £480,000 programme is part of the DfE’s Recruitment and Retention Strategy, launched in 2019, in which it pledged its commitment to support headteachers to adapt to changing workforce demands.
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Tes columnist and author Emma Turner, who is CPD lead for one of the ambassador trusts – the Discovery Schools Academy Trust in Leicestershire – said the DfE’s own figures showed that only around 26 per cent of female teachers worked part-time, compared with 42 per cent of women in the workforce nationally.
And for men, only around 8.6 per cent of male teachers work part-time compared with 13 per cent of men in the workforce nationally.
Promoting flexible working for teachers
But she said the Covid pandemic had taught schools that they could do things differently, including flexible working.
She said: “There are a lot of widely held misconceptions about flexible working only being the traditional job share role or for certain levels of responsibility.
“The FWAS schools will be expected to provide training across their regions as to what flex could look like and to promote a broader way of looking at its potential, as well as sharing best practice.
“Each named school also gets support from the FWAS project lead to analyse exactly how they could increase or improve their flexible working models and provision.”
Each of the eight schools (listed below) is aligned to a regional schools commissioner region, and each will support another five named schools with all aspects of flexible working from operational support, such as policy writing, contracts and recruitment processes, through to support for spreading the word of what flexible working entails.
Ms Turner added: "In addition to this, FWAS schools will provide ad-hoc support to individual schools or teachers who may have queries about an individual set of circumstances.”
The DfE said in its contract summary: “Flexible working policies can help to recruit, retain and motivate teachers and can play a central role in helping schools to deploy their staff effectively and efficiently.
"However, there are a number of practical challenges to address (eg, managing staffing arrangements, timetabling and developing coherent whole-school policies and approaches).
"In the 2019 Recruitment and Retention Strategy, we committed to support headteachers to adapt to changing demands by helping to transform approaches to flexible working in schools. As part of that commitment, we are introducing Flexible Working Ambassador Schools (FWAS). FWAS will support schools to offer more flexible working opportunities, which, in turn, can improve retention rates.”
The schools and trusts are:
- Charles Dickens Primary School, south-east London
- Upton Court Grammar School, Berkshire
- Malmesbury School, Wiltshire
- Impington Village College, Cambridgeshire
- Bishop Hogarth Catholic Education Trust, Durham
- Greater Manchester Learning Trust, Manchester
- Discovery Schools Academy Trust, Leicestershire
- Newport Girls' High School Academy Trust, Shropshire