Flexible Working – Part 2


by Emma Sheppard       @maternityCPD

One of the biggest barriers to accommodating flexible working requests is understanding how to timetable either full time flexible, or part time hours.  This is especially the case at secondary level where the Rubik’s cube of subjects, TLRs, duties, number of staff and free periods are slightly more complicated than at primary level.  For this reason, this blog focuses on solutions for secondary schools, rather than primary.

Below are a few ideas collated from The MTPT Project and WomenEd communities about what Vivienne Porritt has termed ‘genius timetabling’, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.  Please feel free to comment with additional tricks to help upskill timetablers in these creative approaches, or check out Chris Cooper’s more detailed notes.

Splitting Classes

This is often considered to have a negative impact on student outcomes, resulting in inconsistently and disorganisation, but many secondary schools find themselves resorting to split classes even with full time teams.  With some clever thinking, though, this approach can actually benefit departments and students.  For example, with one given class that needs to be split to accommodate part requests:

  • One teacher teaches the Physics units, one the Chemistry, one the Biology
  • One teacher teaches the English Language skills, one the English Literature
  • One teacher teaches theory units in PE/ DT, one teaches practical

In this way, teachers become experts in one particular area, and can disseminate this to other members of the department; students benefit from compartmentalising these different strands of your subject and learning from these in-school experts.

Blocked Timetables

 In some cases, year groups are blocked studying subjects at the same time – Year 8 all have Maths at the same time, for example.  A simple way of reducing a teacher’s hours to part time, can be avoiding a whole year group on their timetable – an approach often favoured in the USA.  This could give a teacher the morning, afternoon or whole day off that they have requested.

“Under-Hours” Staff

 Especially in cases of KS4 or KS5 take up, some staff may find that they simply do not have sufficient hours on their timetable.  Whilst few PE staff may enjoy picking up the odd Business lesson here and there, and even where subjects seem similar, asking a Sociology teacher to take on Psychology lessons can lead to increased work load for this member of staff.

This is where knowing your staff base comes in incredibly handy: what are their degrees actually in?  Where are they looking to develop aspects of their practice prevalent in other subjects?  What are their passions or extra-curricular interests?

As an English teacher, for example, I have loved teaching KS3 Drama lessons: not only does it reduce the marking and planning load I am used to, I have also been able to develop my subject knowledge around stagecraft and drama so important to teaching Shakespeare, KS4 play texts, speaking and listening and poetry.

What might be key here is forward planning to offer second subjects as opportunities for ‘under-hours’ staff, so that everyone is happy to take on something that could otherwise be considered an unwelcome extra.


TAs are an underused treasure in secondary schools.  Often, some are at the beginning or end of their teaching journeys and have specific specialisms themselves from previous careers or university.  In schools lower ability sets are smaller than others, why not empower your TAs to lead on one or two classes a week to enable part time requests from teachers?

This is incredibly valuable experience for TAs looking to begin teaching qualifications in the future; a retention measure with a group that can often suffer from high turnover in secondary schools, and a fantastic opportunity to benefit from the wisdom and subject knowledge of TAs who have greater capacity than you have previously realised.

Again, the key here is to offer this approach as an opportunity to ensure you are not asking TAs to do something that they feel they are not employed to do.

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