<img alt="" src="https://secure.smart-business-intuition.com/262380.png" style="display:none;">
Skip navigation


Embracing flexible working in schools

Date published: Date modified: 2024-07-10

In the ever-evolving landscape of education, adaptability is key. The Department for Education's recent guidance on flexible working in schools recognises the diverse needs of educators and staff. With a focus on promoting work-life balance and enhancing employee well-being, this guidance moves towards a more flexible and inclusive approach within educational institutions.

Starting from 6 April 2024, employees can request flexible working from their first day of employment, make two requests per year, and no longer have to detail the request's impact on the company.

The new non-statutory guidance has been produced to:

  • Help employers develop and implement flexible working policies
  • Support employees who want to request flexible working

It draws on the latest evidence on flexible working as well as good practice.

Schools, academies, and multi-academy trusts are encouraged to adopt a flexible working policy which responds to the needs of the staff, and the employer, to address the challenges to flexible working in their school. Employers could consider embedding strategic, whole-school approaches to flexible working, with contributions from all parties.

This guidance includes:

  • An updated definition of flexible working and a broader range of arrangements
  • Information on the process for requesting flexible working
  • Key considerations for leaders
  • Potential challenges to implementing and requesting flexible working

Benefits of flexible working

All employers have a legal duty to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their staff. This includes minimising the risk of stress-related illness. A clear flexible working policy can form an important part of this duty, especially when integrated with broader staff wellbeing policies.

As detailed in ‘Exploring flexible working practice in schools: interim report, 2019’, schools report the following benefits from implementing flexible working:

  • Retaining experienced staff
  • Recruiting from a broader pool of teachers
  • Promoting wellbeing
  • Improving work-life balance

Offering flexible working arrangements can help to ensure that teaching suits employees at different stages of their lives, such as those:

  • With caring responsibilities
  • Planning a phased retirement
  • Returning from a career break
  • Combining work in a school with professional development or work in their field of study

What is flexible working?

Under UK legislation, flexible working is defined as any arrangement that differs from the traditional 9-5 working pattern.

Flexible working can be defined as ‘arrangements which allow employees to vary the amount, timing, or location of their work’.

Some forms of flexible working may be more suitable for particular roles in schools than others. Employees making a request should consider which forms of flexible working are best suited to their role, as individual circumstances vary. Employees can have more than one type of flexible working arrangement in place. Arrangements may be altered as an individual’s circumstances change.

In general, flexible working includes:

  • Part-time working – reduced hours, job share, or phased retirement
  • Varied hours – staggered hours, compressed hours, or annual hours
  • In-year flexibility – personal or family days, lieu time, or home/remote working

Flexible working ambassador multi-academy trusts and schools (FWMAS)

Flexible working ambassador multi-academy trusts and schools (FWAMS) offer advice and practical support to school leaders to improve flexible working in their schools.

Flexible working support can help with:

  • Designing a flexible working policy
  • Flexible hiring
  • Overcoming common challenges such as:
    • Timetabling
    • Budgeting

Settings that can access FWAMS

Bespoke support is available to:

  • MATs
  • Mainstream primary schools
  • Mainstream secondary schools
  • Special schools
  • Alternative provision settings and pupil referral units
  • High disadvantage schools (where high proportions of pupils are eligible for the deprivation pupil premium)

Click here to find out more about FWMAS and how to contact them.

The Department for Education's guidance on flexible working represents a significant step forward in reimagining the future of education. By embracing flexibility, schools have the opportunity to create more supportive and inclusive work environments, where educators can thrive professionally while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. As we navigate the complexities of modern education, flexibility emerges as a cornerstone principle for building resilient and sustainable school communities.

Visit the full guidance for more information, including statutory and non-statutory requests.

Download our Flexible Working & Carers Leave Explained session recording

By SAAF Education
SAAF Education 340 110

7 March 2024



Subscribe to our blog

Be first to receive the latest news and updates from SAAF Education