Making job-sharing work

Written by: Caroline Cafferty | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

How can flexible working conditions, such as job-shares, improve the recruitment and retention of teachers? Caroline Cafferty speaks to headteacher Angela Pagett to get her perspective on job-sharing in a primary school setting

Henley Green Primary School in Coventry has taken a positive stance on flexible working – offering staff the opportunity to work reduced or part-time hours. The approach has led to more amicable relations between staff and the school, as well as greater retention of teachers.

Headteacher Angela Pagett explained: “At our school there are several staff members who have job-share arrangements or work in a part-time or more flexible manner. Some of these arrangements are in response to family commitments, others are career or lifestyle choices.

“Staff who have returned from maternity leave and have requested reduced or part-time hours have largely been granted these arrangements. We have allowed flexible working conditions for main scale teachers, upper pay scale (UPS) teachers, teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) teachers and even assistant headteachers, and we currently have one job-share in place.

“The job-share role is split evenly, with the school’s two UPS teachers working three days per week to fulfil one full-time teaching position. One teacher has a young family and the other has made a career choice to reduce her hours for a better work/life balance.

“Their days overlap on Wednesdays and this is when they undertake their afternoon planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) session. Their class is taught by a PE teacher and the assistant headteacher while they do this. This crossover time is critical to the success of the partnership – for the quality of teaching, the assessment of the pupils and shared knowledge of the children, especially regarding safeguarding of pupils.”

Ms Pagett highlights communication between the two job-share teachers as the most crucial element in job-share success – most of which occurs via secure school email or the school’s secure online child protection management system.

She continued: “Alongside the shared planning time for detailed discussion about the week ahead, our communication systems ensure the smooth-running of the class.

“Part-time or flexible hours and job-shares work well when there are clear systems of communication in place (such as an agreed protocol for emails) and when colleagues are open-minded and able to work alongside each other sharing the same vision and ethos.”

Professional development sessions are also held at the school midweek and are attended by full-time, part-time and job-share teachers alike: “Our weekly professional development sessions are vital in maintaining a high quality of teaching across the school and ensuring consistency and accountability. In these sessions, we discuss topics such as marking, new initiatives in English and maths and curriculum changes.”

All key meetings, such as those around pupil progress and support during assessments, are timetabled in line with job-sharers’ working hours by the school’s senior leadership team.

Ms Pagett added: “Staff are also able to, and are often happy to, submit a casual hours timesheet and attend school on their non-contractual hours for professional development, educational visits, school events and parents’ evenings. There is no expectation that staff undertake this, but it is helpful when they can. Part-time staff are also required to attend teacher training days on a pro-rata basis.”

Ms Pagett credits the school’s provision of flexible working conditions, which allow for better work/life balance, with improving staff retention and “increasing goodwill on both sides”.

She explained: “Part-time hours support family commitments, where the ethos of the school and the leave of absence policy will allow for flexible arrangements, as far as is operationally possible.

“I believe our school’s approach to more flexible working conditions has led to greater staff retention – our school is fully staffed for the second year running.

“Part-time teachers manage their work/life balance and workload well and are usually able to attend important school events. Offering flexible working helps in the retention of staff and promotes work/life balance, leading to goodwill across the school.”
From a parent and pupil perspective, Ms Pagett notes that transparency with parents about the job-share is essential and staff absence arrangements should be approached carefully, to ensure minimal disruption to pupils.

She added: “When creating job-share and flexible work arrangements in a school setting, leadership should be mindful of what these arrangements look like from a pupil’s point of view – for example how many members of staff will they be taught by in a typical week? What about in a week of staff absence or management release time?

“Such arrangements should be approached with care, particularly when teaching younger pupils, to make sure disruption is as low as possible.”

  • Caroline Cafferty is operations director at justteachers, a supplier of teachers, nursery nurses and support staff into schools.

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