Tell us about the flexible working arrangements you have in place at your school:
I currently work 3 days a week from Monday to Wednesday and plan to increase that to 4 days a week once my son is 2and can attend the 2 year old nursery at Charles Dickens. I followed the same pattern when I returned to work after having my daughter, who is now in Reception.
How are flexible working requests managed?
In both cases, I have had an informal conversation with my Headteacher before going on parental leave. I have then had a more formal conversation around 6 months after having children, which has been followed by email confirmation. I have always opted to work Monday-Wednesday as I like to be in class at the start of the week and feel that for the children in my class it is better to have the same teacher over consistent days. Both Headteachers at Charles Dickens have always been incredibly supportive of my decisions and I have never felt that I was being steered in any direction!
What are the benefits to you?
I can continue to work and pursue careers I love, as well as spend precious time with my children before they are of a formal school age. The reality for me is that not working was not an option, as a family we require both incomes, however, with child care costs being so incredibly high, it was important to find a balance. I feel extremely fortunate to really love my job and have felt a renewed energy and enthusiasm since returning to work in January. I have been able to take on new roles and responsibilities despite being part-time and do not feel that having children has stunted my career. Of course, there is always a juggle and the occasional missed bedtime or feeling that I have not managed to complete all ongoing tasks at work means that it can at times be stressful, but overall, I am able to strike an excellent work/life balance.
What are the benefits for the school?
When I went on parental leave for the first time, I had been working at the school for 5 years. I also trained as a teacher there, so the school had invested a lot into my career. By supporting people's requests to work flexibly, they can both retain staff and maintain a happy workforce.
What are the challenges for the school?
Maintaining clear and inclusive lines of communication is a challenge – it can be tricky to ensure that everyone receives messages at the same time when people work on different days. Communication between partner teachers can also be a challenge. The working day can be extremely hectic but it is vital that there is a crossover between teachers that allows a clear handover for the week.
How have your flexible working needs changed throughout your career?
When my daughter started in the onsite nursery I increased my working days to 4. I then decreased back to 3 when I returned after having my son. I plan to return to 4 days a week once I can start.
Advice for others considering flexible working requests:
I would urge anyone considering a flexible working request to go for it! However, it is important to be realistic. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to finding a work life balance that suits you and your family and although working flexibly has huge benefits, it does also come with stresses that can take time to figure out. Once you have found the rhythm that is right for you, you won’t look back!