They may not share the daytime TV sofa - but they share everything else, says Andrew Mourant
When career couples start talking shop at home, one or other usually soon grows bored. But for maths teachers Russell and Julia Cole, their way of life depends on knowing just what the other has been up to.
For nearly four years they have job-shared at Corsham comprehensive, Wiltshire, one week on, one week off. Each Sunday afternoon they have a handover session, so whoever is taking over is fully briefed about the seven classes they will be facing.
Russell, 36, who used to work full time and Julia, 37, who did part-time, have a manageable mortgage and are content to live on one salary. But more important than luxuries is that both can play a central role in raising three-year-old Lucy.
"I didn't want Russell to miss out on that," says Julia. "We had a great childminder but it still didn't feel right handing Lucy over."
They began thinking about job-sharing after reading about a job-share couple in a primary school. But when Russell cast around on the internet and elsewhere looking for role models, he drew a blank.
So Russell and Julia devised their own system. Above all, it had to ensure that everything would run smoothly.
"We went to the head and he was very enthusiastic. But as it hadn't been done before he had to sell it to the governors," said Julia.
Unlike a job-share between strangers, Russell and Julia can ring each other during the day and drip-feed information through the week. Sunday afternoon handovers are kept short. "We thought if anything was going to go wrong, it would be when we transferred," Julia says. "But it hasn't."
They say the arrangement benefits the school as well as themselves.
"I can be there from 7am to 5.30pm. They get their money's worth out of us - we do a good job," says Russell.
Their classes span Years 7-11 plus Year 12 GCSE retakes. They pack a lot into the day so, apart from reports and coursework, they don't take work home with them.
Mike Holgate, assistant head at Corsham, said: "We like to support requests for flexible working and this works well - it's almost the same as one person doing the job."
Russell now has a new perspective on the demands of domesticity. Julia believes the combined understanding of all they do at school and around the home has brought them closer together.
This is a lifestyle choice the Coles intend sticking to, regardless of what the future holds - which might well be more children. They are considering having another child and would also like to become foster parents.
Workhome balance is of paramount importance. Both enjoy going to the gym.
Russell spends some of the morning in his home studio "doing music" while Julia finds time for personal and spiritual development.
"We're more effective, we don't get ground down," said Russell. "We would never go back to full time"
MAKE JOB-SHARING WORK
Find the right person - if not your spouse, then someone you have worked well with before.
Choose a supportive school.
Think it all through, and put together a good proposal.
Make sure you have one kind of administration system - you have to think of yourselves as one teacher.
Write things down on lesson plans and keep all lessons on file. For the person taking over it is "almost like coming back after the Christmas break".