Case Studies

Lara Hughes, Deputy Headteacher - Frank Wise, Special School. 'How flex can work throughout your career'

Tell us about your background

I have been working at Frank Wise School for seventeen years, having first taught abroad and then in mainstream education. I first joined as a full-time teacher in the primary part of the school. After having children, I made an informal request to work part-time and was offered a role as a job share class teacher for two days a week. The following year, I worked as a PPA cover teacher for two days a week and over time, I gradually increased my hours to work four days a week.


My school then encouraged me to apply for the assistant head teacher role and I did it on the basis that it would be part-time. This arrangement continued when I became deputy head teacher. My four days are divided into one day of teaching and three days of leadership, during which I am also completing a senior leader apprenticeship programme with a Master’s degree in school-based leadership and management. In my leadership role, I oversee Safeguarding, CPD, as well as monitoring standards across the school. I also lead on Language and Communication.

The leadership course has been devised in such a way that much of the evidence required can be sourced from the work that I do. If there are specific and new areas that I do not currently do or have not yet had the experience of, I work with the head teacher to find opportunities to explore them, as this will only broaden and develop my leadership within the school.


What are the personal benefits for you in working flexibly?

Being able to manage my time flexibly means that I have been able to take the decision to do further study, something that I had been hoping to do for some time. I didn’t take the opportunity to do a Masters straight after university and after having a family, both the cost and time needed to study prevented me from doing so. I have chosen to do the course as part of my own personal development and I find the academic challenge really interesting.I have the full support of the senior leadership team who ensure that I have time allocated to study at school, as this is a requirement of the course.

Working part-time means that I have a better work-life balance. Having a non-working day means I can take my youngest child to school and be there for pick up. In terms of studying, it also allows me to catch up on reading and o reflect on what I have learned.

I am able to change my leadership days within the week, and do so occasionally, which can work to the benefit of both me and the school. If the school need me to attend a meeting, offer training or indeed be in school that other members of the SLT can be off-site on my notional day off, then I can try to re-organise my week to accommodate that. There may also be times when it would be helpful to me to have a different non-working day in the week that I can meet a family commitment or need, so the flexibility works both ways.

What are the impacts and challenges of working flexibly on your school?

Given that my role is not shared with another member of staff I don’t need to spend time preparing a handover. However, I do need to be organised and disciplined to ensure it can work, in terms of the face-to-face time I am available to staff.


As DSL, to ensure that our arrangement doesn’t have a detrimental effect on safeguarding, as an SLT, we are all trained as designated Safeguarding Officers and so each of us can pick up any issue that arises on any day. We do each have allocated cases, but if that person is on-site and the event needs dealing with immediately, then any of us can do it.


Through doing the leadership course, I have been able to bring new ideas to the school. One example is the new communication system that I developed to enable pupils who use symbols as their primary form of communication to comment more widely on their work. I dedicated time to visit other schools using the approach, attended training and created an action plan for its introduction to the school, including a pilot study.


My head teacher has been really supportive of me doing the leadership course, as it’s helped to improve our practices in school: “As a school, we have always had a deeply intellectual relationship with what we do. Being able to support people to complete further study is an investment in that relationship. The ideas that come from further study have a collective impact, helping to strengthen our shared understanding of how we can improve our practice and in turn improve our pupils' outcomes”.


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