Part-time Teaching and Flexible Working in Secondary Schools

Caroline Sharp, Robert Smith, Jack Worth, Jens Van den Brande

14 June 2019

Ensuring there are enough high-quality teachers in England’s schools is crucial for delivering a first-class education for young people. Attracting and retaining enough secondary teachers is a key challenge facing school leaders today. Providing more opportunities for part-time and flexible working may provide part of the answer.

This NFER research investigated the demand for part-time and flexible working, the barriers for secondary school leaders and how these can be overcome. It comprised an analysis of national data, survey questions and interviews with school leaders. Key findings are:

Key Findings

  • Part-time and flexible working is strongly influenced by the extent to which senior leaders take a proactive approach to encouraging different working patterns. This can include being systematic about asking for annual submissions to change working patterns, checking these with timetables and staffing forecasts, and then negotiating further with staff, who also need to be flexible around their requests. 
  • Around one in six secondary school teachers would like to reduce their hours and could afford to do so. While it is unlikely that all of these teachers would actually reduce their hours if given the opportunity, the finding is consistent with NFER’s previous research that illustrated a significant number of teachers who leave the state sector, do so to take up part-time positions elsewhere.
  • The main barriers for school leaders are: ensuring continuity for pupils and timetabling; the constraints on flexible working patterns other than part-time working; communication issues; and the additional costs involved.
  • The main benefits are: increased teacher retention and recruitment; improved staff wellbeing; ability to retain specialist expertise and curriculum breadth; and an opportunity to reduce staff costs (by reducing the total number of teaching hours required).