'We mustn't treat part-timers as second-class citizens'

Part-time teachers help to hold schools together, argues Colin Harris. So why do they get such a raw deal?

Colin Harris

Part-time teachers are often frazzled and underappreciated

There is no doubt that the rise in the number of part-time teachers has papered over many cracks with regard to the recruitment and retention issues facing the teaching profession.

Part-time teachers keep the system together, and yet, the deal they get in return is surprisingly bad. Far too many managers feel they are doing part-timers a favour, and treat them accordingly.

Background: More than a quarter of heads refuse part-time requests

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

Quick read: 1 in 6 teachers want to work part-time

Many part-timers are parents, and will have to juggle getting their own kids ready for school, and dropping them off at nursery or with grandparents, before they even enter the school gates.

They are often the butt of other teachers’ jokes (“you have it easy”) while feeling frazzled, frustrated and in need of a coffee – or something stronger. And all this is before the school day has actually started.

Mental anguish

We do need a far more positive view of part-timers’ role. Our primary school workforce now comprises 27 per cent part-timers, and the secondary sector’s proportion of part-timers has increased to 19 per cent

These are staff who, from necessity, have accepted a pay cut, as well as an awareness that future promotion opportunities may be compromised. And yet they still work almost full-time hours: they are expected to do their full quota of duties, and turn up for all parents’ evenings and CPD sessions, even on days when they are not due in school. 

The mental anguish associated with the part-timer’s role can also be high. There seems to be a compelling feeling among part-time parent-teachers that they are doing justice neither to the role of teacher nor the role of parent.

Not second-class citizens

Problems for part-time teachers hide around every corner, both at school and at home. What to do when their own children are ill? What about attending their own children’s parents’ evenings, or sports days, or Christmas events? What to do when Ofsted calls on one of their days off, or when their jobshare partner is poorly? And, of course, how to balance workload when it is too high?

Part-time teachers are often resilient and thick-skinned through necessity rather than choice. However, they do need to be treated better by management. They must not and should not be made to feel they are inferior to other teachers. 

They are not second-class citizens, and shouldn't be treated as such. The profession would be in a far worse place without them. 

Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were 'outstanding' across all categories

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