Understanding the factors that support the recruitment and retention of teachers – review of flexible working approaches

Jennie Harland, Eleanor Bradley, Jack Worth

01 November 2023

Research report on the EEF website

This research, conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and commissioned by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), explored the nature, prevalence, and impact of teachers’ flexible working in schools. The study was conducted between April to September 2023 and involved: a rapid evidence review; analysis of teacher job adverts, School Workforce Census data, and flexible working policies; and interviews with leads from organisations and programmes supporting flexible working in schools.

Key Findings

  • The nature of teacher flexible working in schools in England predominantly involves part-time working, and in a minority of cases teachers work flexibly in other ways, including phased retirement, flexible hours, personal days, and remote working during non-teaching time.
  • Around a fifth to almost a third of teachers in schools in England work part-time. Flexible working is more common among primary teachers than secondary, and more so among females than males. Flexible working appears to be less common in schools serving more disadvantaged communities. Around a quarter of schools mention flexible working in teacher recruitment adverts.
  • Although there is a lack of evidence that robustly measures the impact of teachers’ flexible working, there is considerable perceptual evidence that it supports teachers’ job satisfaction, motivation, and expertise, and can lead ultimately to enhanced recruitment, retention and workforce stability. This suggests this is a promising area for further investigation and investment.
  • Flexible working in schools can be challenging to organise, though there is evidence that it can be successfully implemented where there is leadership support, fair and transparent processes, and effective timetable management.