Justine Greening has announced new pilot programmes to look at ways of supporting and employing teachers flexibly, and enhancing coaching schemes for women working in education.
The education secretary and minister for women and equalities announced the plans at a summit aiming to help recruit and retain teachers and to tackle the gender pay gap by encouraging alternative ways of working.
The summit comes days after Prime Minister Theresa May called on companies to improve workplace equality by advertising jobs as flexible unless there are solid business reasons not to.
Greening said: “Teachers are at the heart of our plans to offer all children a world class education. It is important that we recognise there are many great teachers who would welcome a more flexible workplace, whether as parents themselves who want more options on how and when to return to the workplace, or for staff later in their careers who may also want to better combine staying longer in the profession with other interests.
“Progress on more flexible working is great for schools who can keep their valued teachers and great for teachers who can stay in the profession.”
The Government will work in partnership with unions and leading organisations from across the education sector to promote flexible working. Plans announced include:
- a pilot programme to look at how schools are already bolstering the careers of part-time teachers, so best practice recruitment can be shared;
- a pilot to strengthen the Women Leading in Education coaching offer, so women can continue to get the professional development support they need; and
- update existing guidance on flexible working, to help make it easier for schools to know what works.
The Government is tackling the issue of flexible working as part of its wider plan to ensure schools can recruit and retain the teachers they need.
Flexible working can particularly support female employees in the workplace and help to tackle the gender pay gap, which is 18.4% nationally and stands at 4.8% for secondary school staff and 1.9% for primary school and nursery staff.
Dame Alison Peacock, chief executive of the Chartered College of Teaching, said: “It’s great to see the Department for Education consulting with the profession about flexible working. I would like to use this opportunity to think about how we can take a much more open and flexible view on teaching careers as a whole.
“We need to be more responsive to the needs of teachers throughout their working lives. At the moment we see teaching careers in a binary way, where you make a lifelong commitment to the profession and are ‘in’ or ‘out’.”
The flexible working pilots join other initiatives in Government including new legislation, announced in the Queen’s Speech in June, to allow armed forces personnel to work part-time for short periods of time, as long as operational effectiveness of the military is maintained.
The plans are part of a range of measures that the Ministry of Defence is currently undertaking to improve service conditions for everyone, including attracting and retaining more women in the military.
The armed forces are currently working towards a target of having 15% of the military being made up of women by 2020.