Tell us about your background
Before I had my son, I was considering leaving teaching because I wasn’t sure how I would be able to manage to work at school alongside being a parent. Being able to work flexibly has allowed me to do both. It has worked really well for me, and for the school.
I have been a teacher for nine years, and up until two years ago I was an early years class teacher. After having my first child, I went on maternity leave and when I returned to work the school were really supportive. The school wanted to introduce more targeted support to pupils, so they offered me the opportunity to be an intervention teacher. I did this for one day a week, gradually increasing to three days a week. This allowed me to ease back into work and to spend time with my son. After another member of staff went on maternity leave, I was then offered a post as head of early years and increased my hours to work four days a week. I am now working five days a week as the nursery class teacher.
Making flexible working request
Six months after having my son, I decided I wanted to discuss returning to work part-time. I made a statutory request for flexible working, which I shared with my head teacher. We had a discussion about it before and after I put in the application. I was open about my preferences, and my head teacher was really supportive about me returning to work part-time.
The transition back into work
Whilst I was on maternity leave, the school arranged some ‘keep in touch’ days, so that I could attend staff training, keep in touch with my colleagues and keep up to date on what was going on in school. The dates I went into the school were based on my availability, which helped me to arrange childcare for my son. I went back to work after nine months, starting off working one day a week. I was able to ease back into work and also spend time with my son. The gradual transition from one to three days gave me time to sort out my childcare arrangements and meant that I could get my head around the new role.
What are the personal benefits and challenges for you in working flexibly?
As I transitioned back into my role, working part-time meant that I had a great work-life balance, which was really important to me after having my son. It meant I could keep on top of things at school and at home. I really enjoyed being at work too, and I was much happier knowing that I had a balance between my home and work life.
Sometimes, I did miss out on things happening in school because I wasn’t there every day of the week, but I made sure to keep in touch with colleagues and to catch up on anything that I might have missed.
What are the impact and challenges of working flexibly on your school?
There were some occasions when other colleagues had to cover for me whilst I wasn’t there, for example, an urgent meeting with a parent. We tried to manage things so that it didn’t happen too often, but my colleagues were really supportive in helping out where things had to be dealt with on the day. I would get a handover email from whichever member of staff covered for me to explain what had happened. This gave me peace of mind that anything urgent could be dealt with without me there. I would also catch up with the head teacher briefly on my first working day of the week to find out about anything I might have missed. I had to be flexible too. If training an important meeting fell on one of my non-working days, I would swap it for another day in that week so that I could attend.
Both of my roles whilst I was working part-time weren’t class-based, which meant that the school had an extra pair of hands to help with things like cover (when a class teacher was sick), or to attend a school trip. It also meant I could help Year One pupils in their transition from Reception and give more time to children who needed extra support with interventions. I ran a phonics intervention group with some Year One pupils. I worked with these children daily, and it had a really positive impact on their progression.
What advice would you have for others considering flexible working?
I would say, go for it. It is important that you are flexible too. You need to make sure your role fits your needs and the needs of the school but you can work together to find a solution that works for everyone.