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Back to school: our new project supporting teachers to work flexibly

Would more teachers train, and stay, if flex was an option? Our new, year-long Innovation Unit project will see us working with three multi-academy trusts to research, design and test flexible teaching roles.

By Emma Stewart, CEO, Timewise

flexible teaching roles

It’s no secret that the teaching profession, is struggling to recruit and retain the teachers it needs. Pre-Covid-19 data indicated that targets for the required number of secondary school trainees had been missed for the last seven years, and that 33% of state school NQTs leave within five years.  And although the pandemic appears to have triggered a spike in graduate teacher training applications, it’s not yet clear whether this will last – or be enough to bridge the gap.

It’s hard to make teaching more flexible – but not impossible

While it isn’t the only factor behind the teaching brain drain, the lack of flexible teaching roles compared to other sectors is likely to play a part. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that some teachers leave the profession because they can’t access flexible working; and that many secondary school teachers who do leave reduce their hours when they do so.

In fairness, it’s true that teaching roles are not easy to make flexible; there are a range of barriers, such as timetabling, budget constraints and the student-facing nature of the role, which are all complex to overcome. However, we believe that no sector is un-flexable; we specifically set up our Innovation Unit to tackle these hard-to-fix sectors, and show what can be done.

Our new project will pilot flexible teaching roles in real-time

So, on that basis, and following on from our 2019 report on building flexibility into schools, we are launching a new action research project for the teaching sector. Working in partnership with three large multi-academy Trusts (MATs) and supported by education specialists Talent Architects, we’ll start by exploring the barriers in more depth, as well as building on the insights that these schools gained during Covid-19, and seeing what positive experiences can be taken forward. We’ll then use our learnings to design flexible roles that work around or overcome these barriers, and pilot them within schools.

The project, which is being supported by Barclays Life Skills and Browne Jacobson LLP, will last a year; we’ll post updates about what we’re learning along the way, as well as a full final report. In the meantime, if you’d like some initial inspiration, take a look at our case study of a school with a hugely successful track record in this area, Huntington School in York, where more than half of teachers work part-time.

Right now, though, schools like Huntington are in the minority, and they are having to work it out for themselves. It’s our hope that this project will deliver a clear roadmap for schools for designing and delivering flexible teaching roles, so that wherever they are, whatever their size, they can attract and keep teachers by offering the flexibility they need and want.

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