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“Our flexible working policy has demonstrably aided attracting and retaining high-calibre staff”

Aylesbury UTC Principal Joe Dunckley speaks to The Blueprint about the school’s innovative new flexible working policy, which allows staff to work from for home one day a week to complete non-teaching tasks.

Please can you outline your flexible working policy.

Aylesbury UTC is making a bold stride forward in teacher well-being with the launch of a ground-breaking flexible working scheme. Recognising the demanding nature of the teaching profession, the UTC is empowering its educators with the opportunity to dedicate one day a week to lesson planning, marking, and other administrative tasks from the comfort of their own homes. This initiative, driven by the Merchant Taylor’s Oxfordshire Academy Trust’s unwavering commitment to educational excellence, is designed to create a more harmonious work-life balance for teachers, ultimately fostering a more engaged and effective staff.

Why did you introduce a flexible working policy?

The core motivation behind the flexible working scheme lies in its potential to alleviate stress and enhance teacher productivity. By dedicating a designated day to essential yet time-consuming tasks at home, educators are granted valuable time for personal commitments. This translates to a well-rested and more engaged staff, which research suggests can directly benefit student outcomes. Studies reveal a positive correlation between happy and well-rested teachers and improved student achievement. A reduction in stress levels paves the way for more engaged and effective classroom interactions, ultimately leading to a more positive learning environment for students.

The flexible working program extends its reach beyond immediate stress reduction and personal time management. The potential for enhanced collaboration outside of traditional school hours is a significant advantage. With flexible schedules, teachers are afforded the opportunity to connect and collaborate with colleagues in a way that may not be feasible within the confines of the traditional school day. This fosters the sharing of best practices and fosters the development of even stronger lesson plans and teaching strategies.

Furthermore, the scheme embraces diversity and inclusion within the teaching profession. Flexible working arrangements can open doors for talented individuals with childcare responsibilities, those pursuing further education, or those facing limitations with traditional work schedules. This fosters a more diverse and inclusive teaching staff, which in turn benefits students from a wider range of backgrounds by providing a richer learning experience that reflects the world around them.

When was this policy introduced?

This program was announced in March 2024 and begins for all full-time teachers in September 2024.

How has it been received by staff?

Aylesbury UTC staff are excited about the new proposal. A recent staff survey showed that they felt supported and that leaders put their wellbeing at the centre of all they do. Furthermore, the new proposal has helped the UTC to attract high-quality staff for next academic year.

How has the policy been working so far? Have you found any positive or negative consequences?
While the program is still in its early stages, Aylesbury UTC has already witnessed positive results. The initiative has demonstrably aided in attracting and retaining high-calibre staff, filling positions that previously presented significant hiring challenges. Existing staff have also shown a higher level of dedication to the UTC, with staff turnover rates declining.

As with any new policy, careful consideration is paramount. Aylesbury UTC is committed to addressing potential challenges such as maintaining strong communication channels and a vibrant school culture even with a more geographically dispersed workforce. By proactively addressing these challenges, Aylesbury UTC is poised to become a national leader in teacher well-being, ultimately creating a dynamic and rewarding learning environment for both educators and students alike.