It might shock you to hear that we don’t have a teacher shortage in the UK. Thousands of teachers across the country are looking for work right now; they want to teach part time.
Save for some personalised SEN provisions, teaching and learning in schools is typically split into discrete subjects on different days so fundamentally lends itself well to being partitioned and taught by different people.
So why is it that UK schools struggle to offer job shares?
Job shares that don’t work
“Job shares are awful”, many school heads have told me. Their reasons fall broadly into a few common categories.
- Lack of continuity for vulnerable children in primary – some children need the same adult present all week
- The children progress less over the year
- Difficulty passing books between teachers if they are taking them home to mark
- No handover time between the two teachers about behaviour etc.
- Imbalance of planning and assessment responsibilities between two teachers
- Each job share teacher only working their paid hours and not the additional 20 – 30 hours needed per class ‘to make teaching work’
- Shorter time with children per week resulting in more time needed to get to know learners at the start of the academic year, and thus some nuances being missed.
- Additional pressure on the year group leader to ‘catch up’ the absent teacher on the missed staff meetings, PPA meetings and INSET learning.
- Additional pressure on leadership and back office functions as the overall staff headcount potentially doubles.
And it’s true. All of these factors contribute to job shares being really hard work. But does it actually negatively impact the learning?
The NUT guidance on job shares says: “There is no evidence that splitting responsibility for classes in any way affects pupils’ education. OFSTED concluded in a 1994 research report that the quality of work of part-time teachers, including job sharers, was “significantly above the national average”. In its reports on individual schools OFSTED has commented favourably on the benefits of job share arrangements, including the quality of educational provision and the good progress made by pupils taught by job sharers. In addition, employment tribunals have rejected any assumption that job sharing has an adverse effect on education.”
What’s your view on job sharing? Answer the survey here
Job shares that do work
Some job shares work very well. Some schools have prioritised the cost of an extra afternoon of PPA time in order to allow a crossover between the class teachers which has opened them up to much more experienced -but part time- teachers, saving them money in the long term nurturing an NQT-heavy workforce. Some schools are able to allow that PPA off-site.
It’s also time to end the culture of expecting 20 – 30 hours to make teaching work. Ending this alone could make teaching a reasonable profession again for many teachers who can only commit to a ‘part-time’ (40 hours a week!) version. Nottingham schools are by far and away leading the sector with their ‘Fair Workload’ charter which puts a daily 2-hour limit on the amount of time teachers spend working (marking, planning etc) outside of teaching hours.
How about radically altering the way your curriculum is delivered, so that, even in primary, subjects can be taught discretely? Even if maths must be taught at 9am every day, some schools successfully deliver one field of maths, e.g. geometry 3 days a week and arithmetic on the other days. Some schools even use different books.
How to offer a part time version of teaching is an issue we need to get a handle on. As an industry, we rely on women (84% of teachers in primary schools and 62.5% in secondary schools) and typically of childbearing age, so we absolutely need to offer a career path that allows us to keep hold of these highly-experienced professionals at different stages of their lives. This year, 30% of people joining the teaching workforce are returners.
What could your school do to change what teaching has to offer?
Stand by for a new website from the government - 'Find your jobshare' as announced in the 2019 Recruitment and Retention Strategy.
This is your opportunity to be heard. Open to teachers and school leaders alike, please share your ideas and experience here
About the author
Katie Newell BA(Hons) PGCE is an ex-primary school teacher, Head of Maths, Head of Year five and languages specialist. Katie qualified in Psychology at Liverpool then specialised in Primary Languages for her PGCE at Reading. Katie feels passionately that teachers are the unsung heroes of society; that opening minds to creative timetabling could revolutionise keeping women in teaching, and that a total change to pupil feedback is the key to solving the work life balance issue for the best job in the world.