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Why carers have to jobshare

It is almost impossible to be both a mother and a full-time teacher. Helen Ward reports.

TEACHER JO Bass is one of four jobsharers in a village primary school with only four classes.

Mrs Bass, of Manuden primary, near Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, said:

"My 11 and 15-year-old sons are sporty. They were taking up a lot of my time, which I wanted to give them, but they needed me between 5pm and 9pm.

"I ended up working from 9pm until midnight every night. I never had a chance to do anything I wanted to do."

Mrs Bass is one of a burgeoning number of part-time teachers.

Government statistics show between 1997 and 2002, the increase in part-timers was five times that of full-timers. The rise is specially noticeable in primaries where the number of full-time staff has fallen.

Mrs Bass now teaches the mixed reception and Year 1 class on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday although she often pops into school on Thursday as well.

She also co-ordinates key stage 1, science and design and technology. "I juggle my time," she said. "I don't mind coming in on Thursday and doing a bit then, if it means I can get home by 5pm on the days I work."

The 100-pupil school has two classes in each key stage. Year 2 is taken by a full-time teacher. The mixed Year 34 class is also taken by job-sharing teachers while the Year 56 class has a full-time teacher.

Mrs Bass said:"I feel more relaxed and I enjoy teaching more," she said. "I think with so many people leaving the profession this is something schools can do to encourage people to stay."

Mrs Bass and her jobshare partner Alison Warbrick meet on Wednesday afternoons to hand over work. They also spend time on Thursday or Friday planning literacy and numeracy lessons.

Jobshares are being seen as a good way to retain experienced staff. Three of the jobsharers at Manuden would have quit if they had not been offered a part-time deal.

Linda Talbot, headteacher, said: "It is a shame that as a profession we are getting to the stage where people have to make that sort of decision. But it can be very good for the school and children in terms of expertise.

There are more people to share the load."

Employment experts say the number of part-time teachers is likely to rise further from April when new laws come in forcing employers to consider applications for flexible working from employees with children aged under six or disabled children aged under 18.

Recruitment and consultancy service Flexecutive, which specialises in part-time work, has a jobshare register for teachers and works with 13 education authorities.

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