Wanted- Part Time Teachers: How flexible working could retain talent and ease the recruitment crisis.

Teacher's leaving gifts

I just left teaching.

I started school when I was three years old. From school, to college, to university, to teacher training, to my first teaching job – I have been in education for thirty-two years. Every September, for thirty-two years, I have started a new term. Every September, for thirty-two years, I have bought a new pencil case and new shoes, groaned at the ‘Back to School’ posters that appear far too quickly in every shop, and steeled myself for the new term ahead.

But not this September. This September looms blank, unknown.

The reasons I left teaching were complex and manifold. You can read about them in my blog posts ‘Teaching: a family unfriendly profession’ and “Teaching: a break up letter.”

But an easy way to summarise it would be that I found motherhood agonizingly incompatible with teaching.

I have two small children, one with autism, a long commute, no support network to help out – it was too much. It is, I suspect, too much for many young women in the profession who start a family.

When I first got pregnant, I set my TES jobs search up to send me part time teaching jobs, 60% contract, within a 30 mile radius of where I live. That email was set up over four years ago. Guess how many posts have come up in that time?


That’s right. Two. I went for interview for one but didn’t get it (It was the first day back from my first maternity leave and honestly, I wasn’t on my A game).

For four years, I knew my job was too far away. For a large part of that time my contracted hours were higher than I would have liked. My school did try their best to accommodate me but at first they could only offer one day off. I have worked a 60% contract for the last year, and the workload was much better but the very long commute, and my children still needing so much of my time, meant I still needed a break from teaching.

Unfortunately, working part-time in teaching, and especially secondary teaching, is not the norm and the fewer teachers there are working part-time, the harder it is for schools to accommodate those who want to.

Official data, according to the TES, suggests that teaching is beginning to lag behind other professions in supporting part-time working. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) statistics show that 27% of the UK workforce now work part time, while the most recent Department of Education (DfE) school workforce data shows that just 23% of teachers worked part-time in November 2014, down from 24.7% in 2013, predominantly in Primary Education. This is against the backdrop of a recruitment crisis that sees 5,300 vacancies in core Secondary EBacc subjects alone (Guardian, July ’16).

77% of teachers who have left the profession would consider returning to teaching, but only for part-time or job share roles.

I am part of that 77% and in truth I have been searching for a part time job or job share closer to home ever since I had children. If I had found one, I might be buying new shoes and a new pencil case for this September.

The TES is responding to this rising demand for teachers who wish to work part-time by supporting the provision of part-time teaching roles through a number of initiatives, including the creation of a dedicated part-time jobs and news hub, a community forum for finding job share partners, offering discounts for the advertising of part-time roles, and extending a scheme to make part time admin roles free to advertise.

Rob Grimshaw, CEO of TES, said: “Retaining current teachers and successfully tapping into the wealth of lapsed educators in the country is crucial if we want to tackle the shortage in specific areas and subjects. Teachers are demanding more part-time roles and TES has an important part to play in supporting and connecting teachers and schools to make this possible. There is a big untapped pool of talent out there at a time when schools are looking to fill crucial positions ahead of September and the new school year.”

Of course, this is all extremely helpful but I do not think it will be as successful as it might be without a culture change within schools.

Schools need to be braver and open up more positions to job share opportunities. The idea that classes may suffer through teachers sharing, particularly in core subjects, needs to be cast aside. Yes there will be logistical problems to work out, yes it might take a while to make sure everyone knows what they are responsible for – but the benefits outweigh that.

Denise Burrell, Head Teacher of Ridgewell C of E Primary School, has two part-time teachers on a job share. One of the teachers was full time, but couldn’t cope with the workload and a young family. ”I found a good match; they share the role and meet on Wednesday afternoon to plan. Apart from a few teething problems, almost a year down the line, it is working well. I think we get a good deal. We have two enthusiastic, conscientious teachers who are well planned and organised.”

In the end, happy and fulfilled teachers are always a boon for the children they teach.

There are lots of talented teachers out there with young families, and other commitments, who have left the profession. This is part of an issue in wider society in which talented people – particularly working parents – are being lost to their professions because of the inflexibility of the type of work they do. And we all need to demand that it changes because addressing it will benefit everyone.

I am faced with the prospect of getting a part-time job outside education in order to cope with working and the demands of the small people I love. But when they are in school, in a few years, if a 50 – 60% contract were to come up in a nice school that was under half an hour away…

Oh a girl can dream!



TES surveyed 1,500 past and present TES.com user teachers in England during June 2016 about their experience of teaching and appetite for part time roles.

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71 thoughts on “Wanted- Part Time Teachers: How flexible working could retain talent and ease the recruitment crisis.

  1. I can really relate to this. I gave up a position of responsibility after my first maternity leave in order to return part-time. It was the best thing I have done in teaching – and like you I went straight into teaching after university, so it is all I have ever known. Full time teaching is exhausting. Throw in a couple of kids and you either sacrifice time with family or burn yourself out. Part-time teaching isn’t necessarily easy, but it is more manageable.
    However, as a part-time teacher I am made to feel like I am a nuisance. I have had comments about how we part-timers “mess up” timetables or how we are missing a vital meeting because it’s not a day that we work.
    With the teaching crisis, I agreed schools do need to look at employing more part-time staff, but they need to change their attitudes towards them too!

    1. Thanks so much for commenting. There is a definite sense that a lot of people would prefer everyone to work full time – everything is geared up to that. Both my pastoral and department meetings were on non work days and I missed so much, even with trying to keep up with emails. If part time work were more available and easier I am sure people like me would come back! Thanks again 🙂

  2. I can relate on a different level. Part time work is something that just wasn’t available to me living out in Dubai. Luckily we were ok on my husbands salary so we were able to make the choice that I would stay at home but I would have loved a job share to work, in part it’s how my blog was born. The more options there are available the more quality you are going to attract.

  3. Hi Danielle,
    I sympathise completely with you. Teaching is an amazing profession – the children make it so. However, it is incredibly draining and my hat goes off to all teachers, especially those that somehow manage to fit in mummyhood with the demands of the job. I know I am fortunate; after having my son I have been able to return to work for just one day a week, though I wonder if I would have been allowed to do so had I not dropped to part time (0.44) just before becoming pregnant. (A coincidence perhaps??) Working one day a week has allowed me to explore other interests (I’ve since become a wedding blogger), be ‘present’ when playing with my son and still stay in touch with classroom life. It’s taken some time to find a good balance and I’m thankful that my school and husband have been super supportive. They both win in the end because I’m a much happier teacher and happier wife thanks to flexible working. I really hope that other schools (and husbands) are able to be open to flexible working too. Good luck with your dream – fingers crossed it comes true for you.

  4. I relate so much to this post… I am so lucky as my school agreed straight away for me to come back part-time. I will start in January with a shared timetable. Even if I know I am lucky (as you said a lot of schools can’t accommodate mummies to come back to a part-time job), I am actually not looking forward to it. I know myself and the perfectionist I am. I fear that I will end up working on my days off (let’s be honest, all teachers do, so please let’s stop the stigma where we have too much holiday!) and feel guilty not to spend enough time with my son. I think it’s doable with one child but I have seen many colleagues struggling with 2 or more kids and be efficient at work…Two gave up this year and the more I think about it, the more I see myself doing the same if I decide to have more kids. I do feel that it is unfair and yet teachers are seen sometimes as lazy people with an easy job and a lot of time off. Not the reality… #KCACOLS

  5. My best friend is a secondary teacher and after realised full time was too much managed to negotiate a four day contract. She is so much happier now. She’s not a parent but I don’t see why they can’t be more flexible with everyone. I was denied my flexible working application so after seven years of being a professional me, managing a team, writing reports and meeting deadlines, this September I will be flying free as well. It’s a scary move into the unknown but I know we will be fine. x #KCACOLS

  6. I think it’s amazingly shortsighted of all employers to not support job shares and part time working. It makes absolutely no sense after investing in staff across all sectors, and training people to just lose all that talent. It’s heartbreaking. I left my job 18 months ago to go freelance as my company couldn’t support a part time position, but not everyone is lucky enough to have a profession where they can do that. I have many teacher friends and they have mainly had to give up, or have overcome massive difficulties to get a job share. Congratulations on making such a big decision and I hope it all goes well for you x #KCACOLS

  7. Such an interesting read – I had no idea schools were reluctant to take on job shares (especially at secondary level) so I can see the frustration this must leave so many mum-teachers with. I hope you find something because it would be such a shame for your skills to go to waste! #KCACOLS

  8. I thin all employers need to be offer more flexible working . It’s a shame if you want to return to work but can’t find the right fit. I hope it works out for you and you enjoy your September this year #kcacols

  9. 77% that is a lot and that stat really says a lot. I think teaching as a profession and nursing are facing a dangerously rocky future and I can’t blame anyone who chooses to leave the profession. My husband’s cousin has just left teaching, I think it was a heart wrenching decision. She is now a foster carer and wished she left sooner. Some of the stories I have heard from her about for instance, not being able to pick up her sick daughter from childcare as she was stuck in a compulsory staff meeting and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I couldn’t personally do it. I wish you all the best in your future endeavours. 🙂 #KCACOLS

  10. Daughter of a retired teacher, considered re-training to be a teacher due to how I perceived the role “slotting in” with family life but I have been so put off recently. It shouldn’t be the way, I really do hope it gets easier for you. #KCACOLS

  11. Teachers are, without a doubt, some of the most unsung heroes in the world. After all that teachers do for the future, I would think that this request isn’t unreasonable- at all. I really hope you find something so you can start a new term this September! #KCACOLS

  12. I am sorry to hear you were unable to find a part time teaching position. I am not sure they even do that here in Canada. I hope you enjoy your time with your children, thank you for educating me on this situation. #KCACOLS

  13. Hello,
    I am a teacher too. I went back on a 60% contract for just over a year after my second maternity leave, and found that manageable. The governors agreed to accommodate me, knowing I would come back full time eventually, but I don’t think they would have agreed to me staying at 60% forever (I would have loved that). This blissful arrangement has come to an end, s it’s back to full time for me in September – wish me luck!
    I agree with what you have said about skilled people being lost to the workforce and to the children/students. It is a shame that with so many reasons to leave the profession these days they can’t be more flexible.
    Good luck with your new routine – I hope it brings you happiness.
    x Alice

  14. My daughter has had two sets of teachers over the past 2 years who do a job share. One teachers Monday through to Wednesday lunchtime and the other the remainder of the week. I wasn’t sure it would work but it has been amazing. It has meant her teachers have been able to have loads of time with their own children. It should be done more for sure. #kcacols

  15. I totally agree with you – there should be a part time option for teachers. In fact, it is quite common over here where I am. We have had quite a few part time/job sharing teachers here for all our children and I have not had a single issue with this. I am sure the teachers and students will always have initial teething problems in the beginning – getting used to different teachers in the classroom for different days but everyone settles in pretty quickly. It is now a part of our way of life here. I am surprised that there are so few options over for you. Hope it changes as it is a change that can and will benefit everyone. #KCACOLS

  16. I’m not a teacher but I can relate. I won’t be able to do my job part time but I can’t feasibly work full time now I’m a mum. There should definitely be more part time work available. Childcare is so expensive that for a lot of people it isn’t even worth working full time just to pay for someone else to look after your child x

  17. You know that I can relate to this. I made the very agonising and difficult decision to walk away from teaching. I don’t regret it to this day. I now have whole weekends with the girls, instead of having to spend at least half of it marking and then the other half feeling guilty that I should be working. I agree with you in that something needs to change. Flexibility needs to be introduced so that it is possible to be a good mum and teacher. Schools need to feel confident in allowing staff to go part-time. I really hope something changes soon. In the meantime I am taking the girlst to the beach and making up for all of those family weekend trips that I missed #KCACOLS

  18. Hi Danielle,
    I hadn’t realised how awful the stats were on part-time teacher positions…We have a job share at our youngest daughter’s school which works really well. Another thing I was surprised about at our school is how far some teachers travel to get to work each day.

    Teaching has been on my mind so much lately. (I’ve linked up my ‘Thank you : An ode to teachers’ post which you might like to read!)

    It’s something I know I could never do but I am so thankful and inspired by those who can and do teach. It is such a loss to education and the profession when talented teachers aren’t given more flexible work patterns. I do hope that it will change.

    In the meantime, teachings loss is blogging’s gain and you are doing an awesome job here. I still can’t believe you’ve only been doing it for a bit…I nominated you for the mumsnet campaigner as some of your posts about teaching and about autism really stuck in my mind. #KCACOLS

  19. I left teaching after having Arthur for similar reasons. I worked in Reception – where the paperwork and workload per child is a phenomenal amount and honestly, I would work every evening, and 1.5 days on a weekend aswell as pulling his hours of 7am-5/6pm at school every day too. Even then it wasn’t enough time to do the job to the standard that every child really did deserve, plus every year my staff numbers went down until some days I was on my own with 32 children in “free flow” indoor and out and it felt more like crowd control than teaching. Part time wasn’t an option and to some degree I do understand that for early years with the continuity in observations needed. I didn’t realise how much it took over my life until I left and honestly, I’m not sure yet if or when I will go back. #kcacols

  20. I agree with you – there should be more choice available to be able to job share or work part-time – whether this is in the teaching profession or not. #KCACOLS

  21. I can totally relate to your post. I’m not a teacher, I’m a midwife and I’m trying to reduce my hours from 39 to 34.5 a week and I’m still not sure they will let me as they are short staffed. They will be more short staffed of I leave bit they just don’t seem to see the big picture. I think the onus is on employers to be more supportive of working parents. Thanks for sharing your experience #KCACOLS

  22. I totally agree that the teaching is not a family friendly profession, in fact in my experience it isn’t a friendly profession in anyway shape or form. My Husband left teaching last year to become a Paramedic. He was on the senior leadership team at one of the largest schools in our county. He was over worked and drastically underpaid, holidays were never holidays and his stress levels were through the roof. Since leaving he is a completely different person and I can honestly say that he would never return to teaching.


  23. I can really relate to your family and work situation… I’m lucky I’ve got reduced hours at work which I’m so happy about. I think there should be flexibility of work regardless of the type of job/profession you’re in. #KCACOLS

  24. I work in a school, and have been surprised at how many teachers are asking to go part time now. While I understand their needs, working with Autistic children, it does make a difference to them. (As I’m sure you know). They need the patterns and structure, so part time teachers are good if the stability is good for the school too. I guess the more that go part time, the easier job share would be, therefore giving stability to the classes too.
    Amanda. #kcacols

  25. It’s terrible that in a job where you educate other people’s children your own have to play second fiddle. I am also a teacher and would love to go part time. I’m unable to partly for financial reasons but also because my school would need to appoint a job share operson and getting someone permanent for this can be very difficult, sometimes resulting in various short term supply teachers taking the extra days. This is not beneficial to the children or any of the teachers involved. Good Luck in finding your ideal job, I hope it comes one day! #KCACOLS

  26. This is the reason I left my position within a private childcare setting, life can be difficult at times can’t it? You’ve got some really good statistics and hopefully with the demand that’s rising for this kind of position, it will soon become more ‘normal’ and more opportunities be offered to lovely wonderful people like yourself. I wish you all the best with your journey and hope you one get back into teaching in a position that is perfect for you #KCACOLS

  27. This is a really interesting, if somewhat depressing read. Teaching is in a crisis. Too much paperwork, not enough flexibility. They are losing some of the best people, who are driven out through frustration of an unworkable system rather than not wanting to teach. I’m glad that you’ve highlighted the issues. Best of luck with any new ventures – I am sure you will be a success, but it is at another loss to the teaching industry. Alison x #KCACOLS

  28. I work in a secondary school which has a higher than average number of P/T staff, so these figures really surprised me. I had always thought that if I wanted to go part time, it would be fairly easy to do so, but it seems that this is not the case. I think flexible working is something that needs to become more commonplace in most sectors to be honest. #KCACOLS

  29. It’s ridiculous that part-time or flexible work isn’t easier to come by for teachers – as in other professions I’m sure – especially when you think how many great teachers must be forced to leave the profession because of it. My daughter has had two years in primary school with teachers working as a job share arrangement, and it worked extremely well. I really hope you find a part-time position that helps you to continue to be a teacher and be a mum. #KCACOLS

  30. Hi, thanks! this was a really interesting post. It is staggering that there are not more part or flexible working opportunities in teaching. The lack of flexible working opportunities caused my friend, a brilliant geography teacher, to give up teaching last year. It is a real shame. Pen x #KCACOLS

  31. I think returning to work in any capacity is tough – there definitely should be more opportunities for part time working in all professions. Great post #KCACOLS

  32. Teaching is such a full-on profession, to me it makes a lot of sense for schools to be open to job shares, because they’ll get 2 teachers who aren’t stretched to their limits and therefore will be able to give a much better learning experience to their pupils. I hope something comes up for you that works for your family. x #KCACOLS

  33. I think a lot of jobs/employers discourage part time workers. Its very difficult as a parent to fit it all in. I’m vert lucky & had an accommodating employer. I do 20 hours a week & term time. However I’m now a bit trapped as i dislike the job but the terms & conditions are amazing. Hope you find something suitable in the future. #kcacols lifeinthemumslane

  34. Never really thought about it but seems like a very tough situation. Maybe when your children are old enough you can teach them and kill two birds with one stuff. Good luck #KCACOLS

  35. It’s a real shame that the teaching profession is losing good teachers through this issue. Although to be honest I suspect that a lot of professions are equally inflexible which penalises women in particular. I am lucky that I work for a local authority in a role that works part-time…although I do get ribbed for being a “part-timer”, always being off etc. And I’ve recently succumbed to pressure to go up to 4 days a week from 3. Being a working mum is a very hard balance to achieve…

  36. I had a very (very) short career in education before realising it wasn’t for me and I know it definitely wouldn’t have worked now I have a young daughter.
    I have managed to negotiate flexible, four-day working in two jobs since returning from maternity leave but I think the whole system is twisted. It seems that it is up to the employee to prove that they can keep up with a full-time workload in part-time hours rather than fully embracing flexible working. Employers that grant flexible/ part-time working aren’t ‘doing us a favour’ but it certainly feels like we should just shut-up and be grateful a lot of the time. It is beyond frustrating – we were the best people for the job before we had children and still are afterwards but that often gets forgotten along the way! #KCACOLS

  37. Really interesting as I decided I wanted to train to be a teacher about 8yrs ago. I started off as a teaching assistant but by the time I had done that for nearly 5yrs, I was put off teaching as a profession! We decided to have Mia 3yrs ago and I’m lucky enough to not have to work. My plan was to train up once Mia goes to school next year but I don’t think I will do my teacher training now. Its not a job I think is worth the time you put in, salary, or lack of support outside of the school you work in and that’s a shame!


  38. I think employers in general need to do more to embrace flexible working time and to support parents. luckily my employer does. i know a lot of friends who are or were teachers and it is just too much. #KCACOLS

  39. A fantastic article. I completely agree with everything you say. I am a peripatetic music teacher so I am lucky that I could quite easily drop from full to part time after having my baby (it is just learning to say ‘no’ to work that I find hard as it builds up before you know it). But I would never be able to do it full-time with a family. I really think schools need to address this promptly before the profession starts to seriously suffer. I hope you find your ideal job eventually! Enjoy your family time in the meantime 🙂 X #KCACOLS

  40. I completely agree with this! I have friends who are teachers that really struggle now they have kids! I can’t understand why any job, especially one as specialised as teaching doesn’t want to keep its very trained staff! Crazy!! This should change! Angers me that women are so discriminated against!!! Argh!!!

  41. It is law that all employers consider requests for part time work from mothers (or is it even parents now?). If more people requested part time working in teaching (and assuming it was granted), the other half of their jobs would have to be filled with other part time roles. So vacancies would be created, as long as employers agreed to the request in the first place – which they should, as a precedent has been set in other schools in the country. Hopefully if more people are brave enough, like you, to ask in the first place, and to fight for it, things will change. I’m just sorry it didn’t work out for you, as it seems a great loss to the teaching profession. #KCACOLS

    1. Unfortunately it doesn’t often work like that in schools as they can refuse on grounds that they can’t work out the timetable for the children- which is often the case. They don’t have to hire a new person. And that is the issue. It’s not really that people get refused in their current schools so much (though this happens a lot for the above reasons) but the fact that schools only advertise full time roles (because that is easier). I eventually got part time in a school I had worked at for years (but they didn’t advertise my other hours, they shared them out amongst other staff) but there is absolutely no part time work near me!

  42. Hi Danielle, your post is so very true, I know teachers who have found it hard going back after children, as the school has wanted them to work full-time. It’s definitely an area that needs to be improved to keep the best teachers teaching. I hope that get to enjoy the start of September 🙂 Thanks for being a fab guest co-host. Claire x #KCACOLS

  43. This was a really interesting read. I have a couple of friends who were teachers before having a family, and are struggling now to see how they can go back into teaching with their family commitments. Part-time teaching makes a lot of sense. #KCACOLS

  44. I am so sorry that its been so hard to find part time work. The ever elusive part time job is like the highly grail but in teaching I can imagine its a hundred times harder. I hope you’re ok with your decision and just remember to keep your skills up to date #KCACOLS

  45. I “Hung” up my red pen 10 months ago. Sometimes I have days where I want to go back and other days I think “never again”.. My first realisation that my time in the class was up, was when I couldn’t find the time/space to pump. After that I felt like I brought all my teaching rules into my home.. That made me feel super guilty. Right now I’m just enjoying my new role. Maybe someday when my kids are older I might just dive back into it. Can you imagine what teaching will be like in 10 years time 🙂 #KCACOLS

  46. Teachers are the ones who shape our children into the adults we hope they be. They are just as important as mom and dad. Best of luck to you. #KCACOLS

  47. I hate to hear it when careers are just unwilling to work with parents. There are SO many families in this world, and yet so many employers pretty much want you to live like your job is the only thing that matters in this world. It actually really surprises me that the teaching profession is so tough to work with as a mom. You’d think they would understand it the most. When they start setting limits like that, they begin to lose their amazing, passionate teachers (like you!), and ultimately the kids begin to suffer. It’s really sad, actually. #KCACOLS

  48. I did not know there were so little part time teachers jobs. Surely part time teachers would be more refreshed and therefore better equiped to teach our children. It’s nonsense isn’t it? good luck xx

  49. I’m sorry to hear all of this. Where I live in the US life is hard for teachers in many ways. The pay is never very good and the job very demanding. I can definitely understand why you would want to take some time off. Especially to spend time with your family. Good luck with it all!#KCACOLS

  50. Very interesting. I didn’t realise this was such a big issue for teachers. During year 3/4 my daughter had 2 teachers who split the week and it still works for them now. I hope you managed to find something that works for you #kcacols

  51. It’s crazy because a lot of people would think that teaching would be the perfect profession to get into as a parent because of term times but you don’t realise how much work a teacher brings home and all the behind the scene prep that’s required. I have a friend who is a teacher in a primary school who is always bringing work home. They really need to start accommodating working parents. Good luck x #KCACOLS

  52. Very interesting. My mum did teach part time back when we were young & I had a few teachers who were on job shares, but now you mention it, that was all primary. I can’t think of any part time secondary teachers I ever had or knew. #KCACOLS

  53. It makes me sad and frustrated to realise that great teachers – people who really make a positive difference to kids’ futures – are pretty much being forced out of the profession due to lack of flexibility of working hours. There need to be changes in the system. Overworked and over stressed teachers are unlikely to bring out the best in their students. #KCACOLS

  54. You would think that in this day in age there would be more flexibility not only in teaching but in all industries. It’s not new news that people have families and/or other commitments. It’s a shame that people are being forced out of their professions. I had to leave the fashion industry and be come a train driver lol. You just have to do what works for your family. Thanks for sharing your story! #KCACOLS

  55. It’s really a shame that teaching is so inflexible considering how flexible kids are. Good luck to you, maybe you’ll get lucky and find that job. Maybe you’ll just be happier now. #kcacols

  56. Excellent post. Good that there are some willing to try and hopefully that will provide reassurance to others not only is it feasible but that it’s beneficial to all parties.


  57. Hi! I am a primary school teacher currently on maternity leave and due to go back in November. My school have a really high staff turnover, and so they are quite flexible with working hours as they want to retain staff. I am lucky to be able to return 2 days a week after maternity leave. There is no way I could do that job full time with two little ones. Hats off to those who do! Xx

  58. What an interesting read; at my daughter’s old school it was the opposite – every single class bar one (it was a one form entry school) was taught by two part time teachers! I guess it depends on the flexibility of the head teacher?

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