Why shouldn't a man job share?;School management

15th October 1999 at 01:00
Paul Lamarra ran into unexpected objections when he decided to spend more time with his children. But he does not regret his decision

Modern society places many demands on us. Not least of these is parenthood. Recently I decided to try to address that challenge and opt for job-share. Not very radical, I hear you say. I do not think so either, but many do because I am male.

It is a financially risky decision, but at the same time there is an element of pragmatism. Recent tax changes and the cost of travel and childcare mean that there is negligible difference in our disposable income.

If financial considerations were the sole motivation, we would have taken the decision years ago and joined the ranks of the double income no kids brigade. The crucial thing, at the end of the day, is a desire to nurture and enjoy my own children before they come to regard me as the human cash dispenser and nothing else. It seems to me nonsensical to devote so much of my salary to having them looked after, with all the inherent hassle.

My wife is also a teacher and already job-shares. Now she will do one half of the week and I will do the other. There will be no early morning rushes. And no scouring the town for that replacement childminder when they decide to take their holidays at an inconvenient time - or when children with certain ailments are banned.

I am now deaf to the arguments that it is against the interests of the smooth running of classes and department, and that somehow the local authority's drive to raise achievement will be adversely affected. There are more than enough resourceful, flexible and competent teachers out there to fill the gap.

"What about your pension?" Yes, it may be wiser to wait to experience the pleasures until grandchildren come along. But life is unpredictable and why wish your life away waiting for retirement and ultimately death? Live for today, instead of eking out a living today so as I can eke out a living in retirement. There has to be a balance.

"Not a professional decision" - "Your job defines you" - "It's just this kind of inconsistency that headteachers abhor" - these are just a few of the comments. Well, there may be a price to pay but personnel changes and memories are ultimately short.

I approached my headteacher with trepidation, but thankfully I was given understanding and encouragement. I left his office with a relieved spring in my step.

I am grateful to my colleagues for highlighting the pitfalls that can be overlooked in a state of euphoria.

And I am also grateful to those who encouraged me to have the courage of my conviction and go for it. They also left me with the indelible impression of their regret for missed opportunities.

Yes I am committed to my job. Yes, I am more committed to my family - they are after all the reason I turn up in the first place. What I cannot whole-heartedly subscribe to is that corporate loyalty is paramount and idiosyncrasies should be suppressed.

We live in a society that strives to promote equality. Is this a privilege for women only? I am surprised at those who answer "Yes". I would hope that this arrangement would be embraced no matter the sex of the applicant, and that it was assumed that it was being entered into for the best possible reasons.

Paul Lamarra is now a part-time mathematics teacher at Taylor High School, North Lanarkshire

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