Teachers: don’t ask for part time until you get the job

By delaying the request, you give both yourself and the school more options, says Emma Sheppard

Emma Sheppard

Flexible working: Why teachers need be able to go part-time

You might think flexible working is getting easier in schools. Grassroots organisations like WomenEd and the Shared Headship Network have campaigned to bust the negative myths around flexible working in schools, recruitment platforms are providing practical solutions for schools keen to engage with a flexible timetable, and the Department for Education named flexible and part-time opportunities as a key recruitment and retention strategy in its 2019 report.

Anecdotally, however, we are still hearing of teachers who are simply not applying for dream jobs because they are advertised as full time.

Even though 1,317 jobs are currently advertised as part time on Tes Jobs (at the time of writing), these might not be within your subject remit or geographical location, and with only six leadership positions (again at the time of writing), they might not be at the level that matches your experience.


Want more information on jobs? Check out the Tes careers advice hub

Maternity and paternity rights: a quick round-up of the legal advice


The problem is: teachers tend to be a fairly well-mannered bunch. We understand that people are busy, and we don’t like wasting anyone’s time.

We fixate on transparency and making the right impression and so well-intentioned teachers are constantly shooting themselves in the foot by raising the possibility of part-time hours during a school visit, in a call to HR before even applying for the role, by including their request for flexible working in their application or by asking about part-time options at the interview stage.  

The result: the nice person finishes last and no part-time working is offered.

Delay the request

Advice, therefore, from Flexible Teacher Talent and Return to Teach, who specialise in supporting schools and teachers to find flexible working solutions, is simple: apply for the full-time role and request flexible or part-time working when you are offered the job.

This might immediately feel dishonest, but anyone involved in the recruitment process knows that decisions around hiring are not made until all shortlisted applicants have been interviewed and considered.  

In many cases, schools will have a number of candidates in mind for the job, and will simply move onto the next person on the list if the first is no longer available.  

Take a chance

In those cases where schools do not have the luxury of choice, the one teacher available for the job is in a fantastic position to begin negotiations.

The worst that can happen is that after the interview is over and the request has been made, and the match does not or cannot work, schools are left pondering flexible working offers as an effective recruitment strategy for the future, and teachers have gained a revamped personal statement and valuable interview experience for the next round of applications.

Emma Sheppard is founder of The MaternityTeacher/PaternityTeacher (MTPT) Project and a lead practitioner for English

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