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Mind the Gap….flexible working in schools

The deadline looms for organisations with more than 250 employees to publish their Gender Pay Gap and for some of those that have published early we have seen sparks fly as it shines a spotlight on gender inequality in the workplace such as the high profile resignation of Carrie Gracie, the BBCs international editor.

Gender Pay gap reporting is a bit of a blunt tool but I support its purpose which is to force organisations to take seriously the progress of women in the workplace. Gender pay gap reporting should not be confused with equal pay; it is not about two individuals receiving unequal pay for the same job. It is the overall average pay of women and men in your organisation and the difference between the two.    In many businesses we see the same story that leads to a gap, fewer women in leadership positions due to the lack of flexible working opportunities at the top and the career penalty of taking time out to have children.

And what a waste this is for business, the economy and the women themselves. Just look at the McKinsey research that shows that gender diverse executive teams outperform those lacking diversity by 15%.  And of course increasingly men are demanding flexibility as we see a cultural revolution in the home and family.

We will soon see schools and Education groups publish their Gender Pay gaps and this will no doubt highlight similar issues in our sector.  Reporting so far indicates a mean gender pay gap of 14.4% in the Education sector.  There is much debate now on the role of flexible working in the sector to address this with a high profile DfE campaign launch just a few weeks ago. We know that women are underrepresented at Headship level particularly in the secondary school sector

There is no question that creating a flexible working culture in our world is tough; children need a teacher in the classroom teaching them at certain times of the day.  However, it is also clear that in our sector the business case is crystal clear.  We have an overwhelming female workforce with almost 3 out of 4 teachers female. We face a huge retention problem of female teachers in their 30s, and we are facing the biggest teacher supply crisis of a generation as applications for teacher training plunge by a third at a time of rising pupil numbers

Add to this the rising number of millennials teaching which is over 40% according to the DfE.   Surveys of graduates often emphasis that the ability to work flexibly is high on their list of demands.  On the flip side, with fewer younger people training to teach holding on to older experienced teachers will also be crucial and studies show that enabling part time working allows teachers to work later in life and still perform strongly for pupil outcomes.

Progressive schools that understand the need to attract and develop talent understand this and find ways to manage the challenges that flexible working brings as they see the many benefits.   My 6 year old son is taught by two job share teachers; he is receiving a very good education by both and I have not heard a single parental complaint.  I know highly successful Headteachers who have worked a 4 day week and delivered outstanding schools.   There are also many examples of less formal flexible working support such as enabling staff to occasionally work from home and allowing late start or early finish times for special occasions.

Recent research published by the DfE demonstrates that schools that advertise teaching roles as open to flexible working see applications for those jobs increase.    And yet very few teaching vacancies are advertised as such.

If you are a school leader take heed…..the supply of teachers out there to teach at your school is dwindling fast.  Are you creating a progressive workplace meeting the needs and demands of a diverse workforce?

I really hope so as the education of the children in your care depends on it.

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