Primary teacher and MTPT Project blogger, Lucy Braidley (@Lucy_Braidley) responds to the August #MTPTchat by sharing her experience of a phased return after parental leave, and offering her top tips to other teachers interested in similar arrangements.

It wasn’t until the August  #MTPTchat  on family friendly school cultures that I realised my return to work after my last maternity leave was somewhat unusual and something that might be interesting to others.

My phased return to full time work was not the product of a master plan but rather the result of some fortunate circumstances. Firstly, during my maternity leave, my class was covered by a job share.  Recruitment mid-year in our small rural school for a fixed term contract was always going to be difficult so the school was as flexible as possible when it came to finding a suitable cover arrangement.

One part of the share had retired from class teaching but came back to help the school out and the other was returning to work after a gap to look after her own children. Both were experienced and very able teachers who provided excellent cover, which was a great relief and neither had any restrictions on how long or short a period they could cover.

When it came to planning my return to work I knew that I wanted to be full time eventually but felt that it would be less of a shock for my family if I did that gradually. I took a deep breath and went in to discuss this with the leadership at the time. I knew one part of the job share would be happy to carry on for a little longer so I proposed returning earlier than the full year off but temporarily in a part time capacity and thankfully the governors and SLT both supported the idea. I worked part time for 1.5 terms and then went full time for the summer term and beyond

The set up gave me a bit of breathing space, time to get back into the swing of things without being overwhelmed and precious extra time at home. It was the result of a very specific set of circumstances, but it worked brilliantly for me and I hope sharing my experience might sparks some ideas about creative options return to work.

Top tips

  • Don’t be scared to ask for what you want and propose something out of the ordinary, but plan your approach – be open to different ideas and be clear about how the school will benefit overall.
  • I recommend making sure agreed plans are carefully laid out in writing and contact your union if you need extra advice or are unsure about your rights.
  • Don’t go into a job share blind, make sure you can work well with your job share colleague and that have similar ideas and levels of commitment. It can be very frustrating to be doing the lion’s share of the work, to feel pressure to do more than you can, or to find yourself in frequent lengthy debates in order to reach decisions (especially if you’re used to the autonomy of full time class teaching).

If you would like free coaching regarding your flexible return to teaching, register with Flexible Teaching, experts in jobshares, flexible working and part time hours in the education system.