Why it has never been ‘wrong and immoral’ to ask for flexible hours – by Sam Draper

Why it has never been ‘wrong and immoral’ to ask for flexible hours?

Unless you’re in education, you might not have heard of Sir Andrew Carter. And even if you are in education, you might not have heard of him. He was a government advisor on education, and he is currently the head of an educational trust. So what does that matter to you on MFF? Well, yesterday, speaking at a Teacher Training and Recruitment Conference, Sir Andrew suggested that it was ‘wrong and immoral’ for full time teachers to ask for flexibility or part-time hours.

In fact, as TES reported, he said “If somebody wants a part-time job, it’s wrong and immoral of them to take a full-time job and expect the organisation to [make] it into a part-time activity.” A loathsome comment directed at teachers, but says a lot about what many employers feel about flexible working. My question is that why do we still have these views about flexible working? And how damaging that might be to anyone considering asking for a different working arrangement because of becoming parents?

In one narrow-minded remark, he has guaranteed that a whole swathe of male teachers will reconsider thoughts of shared parental leave for fear of missing a promotion, or letting people down. And that does not even consider how this will compound the anxiety amongst female teachers either considering becoming parents, or trying to balance work and parenting and their career ambitions. These views outrage me as a teacher, as a father, and as someone who wants to advocate for more flexibility in working arrangements to take the accepted burden of parenting away from women and share it amongst men, and by default, attempting to rectify the gender pay gap. It is an individual’s choice how they wish to look after their children and conduct their maternity or paternity leave, but I’m not sure we have any space for these archaic and misogynistic views.

If I take a deep breath, I do understand the desire to reflect a more consistent and secure attitude to contracts of employment, and maybe that is what Sir Andrew really wanted to suggest, However, the circumstances around teacher recruitment demand flexibility to retain high quality staff and support options around the most common demand for flexibility – parental leave. And the lack of consideration of how these comments reflect on the predominantly female profession of teaching, and more personally, those teachers who work for him.

Teaching is a profession in which mothers and fathers spend their professional lives caring and nurturing other people’s children. But Sir Andrew’s attitude suggests that all teachers should martyr themselves to their vocation rather than attempt to be good professionals and openly try to create a work / life balance that benefits both their employer and their families. Flexible working is not limited just to parents, but it is definitely a large proportion of the adult workforce who would be limited by this viewpoint.

This level of judgemental and frankly old-fashioned patriarchy doesn’t reflect the teaching profession in a good light, and does nothing to encourage the profession to develop and improve the well being and career prospects of both men and women within it. Education depends on the men and women in the classroom, and the need for flexible working is integral to providing a high standard education for our children. Adults need to be able to choose how best to conduct their careers and parenting roles without any fear of this nonsense from someone who claims to have an influence over recruitment and training. Its not just a teacher thing, its most definitely a work / life balance thing.

Original article – https://www.tes.com/news/wrong-and-immoral-teachers-seek-reduced-hours

Written by Sam Draper

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